Adventures of King Robert the Bruce

William Topaz McGonagall 1825 – 1902 (Greyfriars Parish, Edinburgh)



King Robert the Bruce's deadly enemy, John of Lorn,
Joined the English with eight hundred Highlanders one morn,
All strong, hardy, and active fearless mountaineers,
But Bruce's men attacked them with swords and spears.

And while they were engaged, a new enemy burst upon them,
Like a torrent of water rushing down a rocky glen:
It was John of Lorn and his Highlanders that came upon them,
So the tide of battle was too much for them to stem.

And with savage yells they made the valley ring,
Then made a long circuit, and stole in behind the King,
Whirling their broadswords and Lochaber axes left and right;
And the enemy being thrice their number, they relinquished the fight

Then to a certain house Bruce quickly hied,
And sitting by the door the housewife he spied;
And she asked him who he was, and he said, A wanderer,
Then she said, All wanderers are welcome here, kind sir.

Then the King said, Good dame, tell me the reason why,
How you respect all wanderers that chance to pass by,
And for whose sake you bear such favour to homeless men?
Then she said, King Robert the Bruce, if you want to ken,

The lawful King of this country, whom I hope to see;
Then the Bruce said, My good woman, your King stands before thee;
And she said, Ah! Sire, where are your men gone?
Then the King told her that he's come alone.

Then she said, Ah, my lawful King, this must not be,
For I have two stout sons, and they shall follow thee,
And fight to the death for your Majesty,
Aye, in faith, my good King, by land or sea.

Then she brought her sons before the King, and thus did say,
Now swear, my sons, to be true to your King without dismay;
Then they knelt and cried, Mother, we'll do as you desire,
We willingly will fight on behalf of our noble sire.

Who has been hunted like a felon by night and by day,
By foul plotters devising to take his life away;
But God will protect him in the midst of the strife,
And, mother dear, we'll fight for him during life.

Then the King said, Noble lads, it's you shall follow me,
And ye shall be near me by land or sea,
And for your loyalty towards me your mother I'll reward;
When all on a sudden the tramping of horses was heard.

Then the King heard voices he knew full well,
But what had fetched his friends there he couldn't tell;
'Twas Edward his brother and Lord Douglas, with one hundred and fifty men,
That had travelled far, to find their King, o'er mountain and glen.

And when they met they conversed on the events of the day,
Then the King unto them quickly did say,
If we knew where the enemy were, we would work them skaith;
Then Lord James said, I'll lead you where they are, by my faith.

Then they marched on the enemy just as the morning broke,
To a farm-house where they were lodged, and, with one bold stroke,
They, the Scots, rushed in and killed two-thirds of them dead;
And such was the life, alas! King Robert the Bruce led!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 25, 2023

2:47 min read
112

Quick analysis:

Scheme AABB CACC DDEE EXFF GGAA HHAA HHHH IIFF IIJJ HHXX KKAA IILL MMNN
Closest metre Iambic hexameter
Characters 2,844
Words 548
Stanzas 13
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

William Topaz McGonagall

William Topaz McGonagall (March 1825 – 29 September 1902) was an Irish weaver, poet and actor who lived in Scotland. He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of, or concern for, his peers' opinions of his work. He wrote about 200 poems, including "The Tay Bridge Disaster" and "The Famous Tay Whale", which are widely regarded as some of the worst in English literature. Groups throughout Scotland engaged him to make recitations from his work, and contemporary descriptions of these performances indicate that many listeners were appreciating McGonagall's skill as a comic music hall character. Collections of his verse remain popular, with several volumes available today. McGonagall has been lampooned as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he was deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme. McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings are considered to generate in his work. Scholars argue that his inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language. His work is in a long tradition of narrative ballads and verse written and published about great events and tragedies, and widely circulated among the local population as handbills. In an age before radio and television, their voice was one way of communicating important news to an avid public. more…

All William Topaz McGonagall poems | William Topaz McGonagall Books

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