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An Adventure in the Life of King James V of Scotland

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

On one occasion King James the Fifth of Scotland, when alone, in disguise,
Near by the Bridge of Cramond met with rather a disagreeable surprise.
He was attacked by five gipsy men without uttering a word,
But he manfully defended himself with his sword.

There chanced to be a poor man threshing corn in a barn near by,
Who came out on hearing the noise so high;
And seeing one man defending himself so gallantly,
That he attacked the gipsies with his flail, and made them flee.

Then he took the King into the barn,
Saying, "I hope, sir, you've met with no great harm;
And for five men to attack you, it's a disgrace;
But stay, I'll fetch a towel and water to wash your face."

And when the King washed the blood off his face and hands,
"Now, sir, I wish to know who you are," the King demands.
"My name, sir, is John Howieson, a bondsman on the farm of Braehead."
"Oh, well," replied the King, "your company I need not dread."

"And perhaps you'll accompany me a little way towards Edinburgh,
Because at present I'm not free from sorrow.
And if you have any particular wish to have gratified,
Let me know it, and it shall not be denied."

Then honest John said, thinking it no harm,
"Sir, I would like to be the owner of Braehead farm;
But by letting me know who you are it would give my mind relief."
Then King James he answered that he was the Gudeman of Ballingeich.

"And if you'll meet me at the palace on next Sunday,
Believe me, for your manful assistance, I'll you repay.
Nay, honest John, don't think of you I'm making sport,
I pledge my word at least you shall see the royal court."

So on the next Sunday John put on his best clothes,
And appeared at the palace gate as~you may suppose.
And he inquired for the Gudeman of Ballingeich;
And when he gained admittance his heart was freed from grief.

For John soon found his friend the Gudeman,
And the King took John by the han',
Then conducted John from one apartment to another,
Just as kindly as if he'd been his own brother.

Then the King asked John if he'd like to see His Majesty.
"Oh, yes," replied John, "His Majesty I would really like to see."
And John looked earnestly into the King's face,
And said, "How am I to know His Grace?"

"Oh, John, you needn't be the least annoyed about that,
For all heads will be uncovered: the King will wear his hat."
Then he conducted John into a large hall,
Which was filled by the nobility, crown officers, and all.

Then said John to the King, when he looked round the room,
"Sir, I hope I will see the King very soon."
Because to see the King, John rather dreaded,
At last he said to the King, "'Tis you! the rest are bare-headed."

Then the King said, "John, I give you Braehead farm as it stands,
On condition you provide a towel and basin of water to wash my hands,
If ever I chance to come your way.
Then John said, "Thanks to your Majesty, I'll willingly obey."

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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    "An Adventure in the Life of King James V of Scotland" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41777/an-adventure-in-the-life-of-king-james-v-of-scotland>.

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