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Beautiful Village of Penicuik

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

The village of Penicuik, with its neighbouring spinning mills,
Is most lovely to see, and the Pentland Hills;
And though of a barren appearance and some parts steep,
They are covered with fine pasture and sustain flocks of sheep.

There, tourists while there should take a good look,
By viewing the surrounding beauties of Penicuik;
About three miles south-west is the romantic locality
Of Newhall, which is most fascinating and charming to see.

Then about half a mile above Newhall the River Esk is seen,
Which sparkles like crystal in the sun's sheen;
And on the Esk there's a forking ridge forming a linn
Betwixt two birch trees, which makes a noisy din.

And on a rocky protuberance close by is Mary Stuart's bower
Where Scotland's ill-starred Queen spent many an hour,
Which is composed of turf and a nice round seat
Commanding a full view of the linn- the sight is quite a treat.

Then there's Habbie's Howe, where the beauties of summer grow,
Which cannot be excelled in Scotland for pastoral show;
Tis one of the most beautiful landscapes in fair Scotland,
For the scenery there is most charming and grand.

Then ye tourists to the village of Penicuik haste away,
And there spend the lovely summer day
By climbing the heathy, barren Pentland Hills,
And drink the pure water from their crystal rills.

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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…

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