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Annie Marshall the Foundling

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

Annie Marshall was a foundling, and lived in Downderry,
And was trained up by a coast-guardsman, kind-hearted and merry
And he loved Annie Marshall as dear as his life,
And he resolved to make her his own loving wife.

The night was tempestuous, most terrific, and pitch dark,
When Matthew Pengelly rescued Annie Marshall from an ill-fated barque,
But her parents were engulfed in the briny deep,
Which caused poor Annie at times to sigh and weep.

One day Matthew asked Annie if she would be his wife,
And Annie replied, I never thought of it in all my life;
Yes, my wife, Annie, replied Matthew, hold hard a bit,
Remember, Annie, I've watched you grow up, and consider you most fit.

Poor Annie did not speak, she remained quite mute,
And with agitation she trembled from head to foot,
The poor girl was in a dilemma, she knew not what to say,
And owing to Matthew training her, she couldn't say him nay.

Oh! Matthew, I'm afraid I would not make you a good wife,
And in that respect there would be too much strife,
And the thought thereof, believe me, makes me feel ill,
Because I'm unfit to be thy wife, Matthew, faltered the poor girl.

Time will prove that, dear Annie, but why are you so calm?
Then Annie put her hand shyly into Matthew's brown palm
Just then the flashing lightning played upon Annie's face,
And the loud thunder drowned Matthew's words as Annie left the place.

But Matthew looked after her as she went home straightway,
And his old heart felt light and gay,
As he looked forward for his coming marriage day,
Because he knew that Annie Marshall couldn't say him nay.

Then the sky drew dark, and the sea lashed itself into foam,
But he heeded it not as he sat there alone,
Till the sound of a gun came booming o'er the sea,
Then Matthew had to attend to his duty immediately.

A ship, he muttered, Lord, help them! and coming right in by the sound,
And in a few minutes she will run aground.
And the vessel was dashed against the rocks with her helpless crew,
Then in hot haste for assistance Matthew instantly flew.

Then Matthew returned with a few men all willing to lend their aid,
But amongst them all Matthew seemed the least afraid;
Then an old man cried, Save my boy, for his mother's sake,
Oh! Matthew, try and save him, or my heart will break!

I will, Heaven helping me, Matthew said solemnly,
Come, bear a hand, mates, and lower me over the cliff quietly;
Then Matthew was lowered with ropes into what seemed a watery grave,
At the risk of his own life, old Jonathan Bately's son to save.

So Matthew Pengelly saved Jonathan Bately's son,
And the old man thanked God and Matthew for what he had done,
And the mother's heart was full of gratitude and joy,
For the restoration of her darling boy.

So Matthew resolved to marry Annie Marshall,
But first he'd go to sea whatever did befall,
To earn a few pounds to make the marriage more grand,
So he joined a whaling vessel and went to Greenland

And while Matthew was away at Greenland,
David Bately wanted to marry Annie Marshall right off hand,
But Annie refused to marry David Bately,
So in anger David Bately went another voyage to sea.

A few nights after David Bately had gone to sea,
Annie's thoughts reverted to Matthew Pengelly,
And as she sat in the Downderry station watching the boiling waves below,
The wind blew a terrific gale, which filled her heart with woe.

And as she sat there the big waves did loudly roar,
When a man cried, Help! help! there's a corpse washed ashore;
Then Annie rushed madly to the little beach,
And when she saw the corpse she gave a loud screech

So there is but little more to tell of this sad history,
Only that Annie Marshall mourned long for Matthew Pengelly,
Who had floated home to be buried amongst his own kin,
But, alas! the rest of the crew were buried in the sea, save him.

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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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    "Annie Marshall the Foundling" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 17 Apr. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41783/annie-marshall-the-foundling>.

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