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An All-Night Sea Fight

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

Ye sons of Mars, come list to me,
And I will relate to ye
A great and heroic naval fight,
Which will fill your hearts with delight.

The fight was between the French Frigate "Pique" and the British Frigate "Blanche,"
But the British crew were bold and staunch;
And the battle was fought in West Indian waters in the year of 1795,
And for to gain the victory the French did nobly strive.

And on the morning of the 4th of January while cruising off Gadulope,
The look-out man from the foretop loudly spoke,
And cried, "Sail ahoy!" "Where away ?"
"On the lee bow, close in shore, sir," was answered without delay.

Then Captain Faulkner cried, "Clear the decks!"
And the French vessel with his eyeglass he inspects;
And he told his men to hoist the British flag,
And "prepare my heroes to pull down that French rag."

Then the "Blanche" made sail and bore away
In the direction of the "Pique" without delay;
And Captain Fauikner cried, "Now, my lads, bear down on him,
And make ready quickly and begin."

It was about midnight when the Frenchman hove in sight,
And could be seen distinctly in the starlight;
And for an hour and a half they fired away
Broadsides into each other without dismay.

And with tne rapid flashes the Heavens were aflame,
As each volley from the roaring cannons came;
And the incessant roll of musketry was awful to hear,
As it broke over the silent sea and smote upon the ear.

The French vessel had nearly 400 men,
Her decks were literally crowded from stem to stern;
And the musketeers kept up a fierce fire on the " Blanche,"
But still the "Blanche" on them did advance.

And the "Blanche's" crew without dismay
Fired a broadside into the "Pique" without delay,
Which raked her fore and aft, and knocked her to smash,
And the mizzen mast fell overboard with a terrible crash.

Then the Frenohmen rushed forward to board the "Blanche,"
But in doing so they had a very poor chance,
For the British Tars in courage didn't lack,
Because thrice in succession on their own deck they were driven back.

Then "Brave, my lads!" Captain Faulkner loudly cries,
"Lash her bowsprit to our capstan, she's our prize";
And he seized some ropes to lash round his foe,
But a musket ball pierced his heart and laid him low.

Then a yell of rage burst from the noble crew,
And near to his fallen body they drew;
And tears for his loss fell fast on the deck,
Their grief was so great their tears they conldn 't check.

The crew was very sorry for their captain's downfall,
But the sight didn't their brave hearts appall;
Because they fastened the ropes to the "Pique" at the capstan,
And the "Pique" was dragged after the "Blanche," the sight was grand.

Yet the crew of the "Pique" maintained the fight,
Oh! most courageously they fought in the dead of night;
And for two hours they kept up firing without dismay,
But it was a sacrifice of human life, they had to give way.

And about five o'clock in the morning the French cried for quarter,
Because on board there had been a great slaughter;
Their Captain Consail was mortally wounded in the fight
Along with many officers and men; oh! it was a heartrending sight
To see the wounded and dead weltering in their gore
After the cannonading had ceased and the fighting was o'er.

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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 All-Night Sea Fight" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41778/an-all-night-sea-fight>.

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