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Grif, of the Bloody Hand

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

In an immense wood in the south of Kent,
There lived a band of robbers which caused the people discontent;
And the place they infested was called the Weald,
Where they robbed wayside travellers and left them dead on the field.

Their leader was called Grif, of the Bloody Hand,
And so well skilled in sword practice there's few could him withstand;
And sometimes they robbed villages when nothing else could be gained,
In the year of 1336, when King Edward the III. reigned.

The dress the robbers wore was deep coloured black,
And in courage and evil deeds they didn't lack;
And Grif. Of the Bloody Hand, called them his devils,
Because they were ever ready to perform all kinds of ills.

'Twas towards the close of a very stormy day,
A stranger walked through the wood in search of Grif, without dismay;
And as the daylight faded he quickened his pace and ran,
Never suspecting that in his rear he was followed by a man.

And as the man to the stranger drew near,
He demanded in a gruff voice, what seek you here;
And when the stranger saw him he trembled with fear,
Because upon his head he wore a steel helmet, and in his hand he bore a spear.

What seek you here repeated the dark habited man,
Come, sir, speak out, and answer me if you can;
Are you then one of the devils demanded the stranger faintly,
That I am said the man, now what matters that to thee.

Then repeated the stranger, sir, you have put me to a stand,
But if I guess aright, you are Grif, of the Bloody Hand;
That I am replied Grif, and to confess it I'm not afraid,
Oh! Well then I require your service and you'll be well paid.

But first I must know thy name, I, that's the point,
Then you shall have the help of my band conjoint;
Before any of my men on your mission goes,
Well then replied the stranger call me Martin Dubois.

Well sir, come tell me what you want as quick as you can,
Well then replied Dubois do you know one Halbert Evesham
That dwells in the little village of Brenchley,
Who has a foster child called Violet Evesham of rare beauty.

And you seek my aid to carry her off,
Ha! Ha! A love affair, nay do not think I scoff;
For you shall enjoy her sir before this time to-morrow,
If that will satisfy you, or help to drown your sorrow.

And now sir what is your terms with me,
Before I carry off Violet Evesham from the village of Brenchley;
Well Grif, one thousand marks shall be the pay,
'Tis agreed then cried Grif, and you shall enjoy her without delay.

Then the bargains struck, uttered Grif, how many men will you require,
Come sir, speak, you can have all of my band if you desire;
Oh, thanks sir, replied Dubois, I consider four men will do,
That's to say sir, if the four men's courage be true.

And to-morrow sir send the men to Brenchley without delay,
And remember one thousand marks will be the pay;
And the plan I propose is to carry her to the wood,
And I will be there to receive her, the plan is good.

And on the next morning Grif, of the bloody Hand,
Told off four of his best men and gave them strict command;
To carry off Violet Evesham from the village of Brenchley,
And to go about it fearlessly and to make no delay.

And when ye have captured her carry her to the wood,
Now remember men I wish my injunctions to be understood;
All right, captain, we'll do as we've been told,
And carry her off all right for the sake of the gold.

So on the next morning before the villagers were out of bed,
The four robbers marched into the village of Brenchley without any dread;
And boldly entered Violet Evesham's house and carried her, away,
While loudly the beautiful girl shrieked in dismay.

But when her old father missed her through the village he ran,
And roused the villagers to a man;
And a great number of them gathered, and Wat Tyler at their head,
And all armed to the teeth, and towards the wood they quickly sped.

And once within the wood Wat Tyler cried, where is Violet Evesham,
Then Grif, of the Bloody Hand cried, what ails the man;
My dear sir I assure you that Violet Evesham is not here.
Therefore good people I advise ye to retire from here.

No! I'll not back cried Wat Tyler, until I rescue Violet Evesham,
Therefore liar, and devil, defend thyself if you can;
Ay replied Grif, that I will thou braggart loon,
And with my sword you silly boy prepare to meet thy doom.

Then they rained their blows on each other as thick as hail,
Until at last Grif's strength began to fail;
Then Wat leaped upon him and threw him to the ground,
Then his men fled into the woo
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:19 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic heptameter
Characters 4,412
Words 853
Stanzas 20
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 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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