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Jack o' the Cudgel

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

Part I

'Twas in the famous town of Windsor, on a fine summer morn,
Where the sign of Windsor Castle did a tavern adorn;
And there sat several soldiers drinking together,
Resolved to make merry in spite of wind or weather.

And old Simon the landlord was at the head of the table,
Cutting slices of beef as quick as he was able;
And one of the soldiers was of rather superior rank,
And on his dress trinkets of gold and silver together did clank.

He was a free companion, but surly and hard,
And a soldier of fortune, and was named Croquard;
And he had all the appearance of his martial calling,
But on this particular morning he was rudely bawling.

So the other soldiers laughed, for their spirits felt gay,
And they applauded his jokes, and let him have his own way,
Because he could command as desperate a gang of men as any in the world,
So many a joke and slur at the soldiers he hurled.

And the mirth increased as the day wore on,
And Croquard didn't seem the least woe-begone;
But, as he was trolling out a very merry song,
A wandering minstrel sat down beside him, and thought it no wrong.

By my troth, shouted Croquard, Come here, minstrel,
And give us a stave of love or war, which is my will:
But the minstrel didn'-t appear to comply with this request,
And he tried to withdraw, as he thought it was best.

Ho ! didst thou hear me, varlet? then Croquard did cry:
Oh! gentle sir, replied the minstrel, I cannot with your wish comply;
Believe me, I sing best to the ladies at the court,
And, in doing so, find it more profitable sport.

What, varlet! cried Croquard, Dost thou refuse me?
By heaven, proud cur, you shall see
And feel the weight of my hand before you are much older:
Then he instantly sprang up, and seized the minstrel by the shoulder.

Then the youth began to tremble, and seemed terrified to death,
And appeared ready to faint for the want of breath;
While Croquard shook him roughly, just like an ugly whelp,
And he looked from one to another, imploring help

At this moment a youth observed what was going on,
And he cried out to Croquard, Inhuman monster, begone!
Leave the minstrel, thou pig-headed giant, or I'll make you repent,
For thou must know my name is Jack, and I hail from Kent.

Then Croquard relaxed his hold of the minstrel boy,
Which caused the minstrel's heart to leap with joy;
As Jack placed himself before Croquard the giant,
And stood on his guard with a stout oak cudgel defiant.

Then the fist of the giant descended in a crack,
But Jack dealt Croquard a heavy blow upon the back
With his cudgel, so that the giant's hand fell powerless down by his side,
And he cursed and roared with pain, and did Jack deride.

Then the giant tried to draw his sword for to fight,
But Jack danced around him like a young sprite,
And struck him a blow with his cudgel upon the back of the head,
And from the effects of the blow he was nearly killed dead.

Then down sank the carcase of the giant to the ground,
While the soldiers about Jack did quickly gather round;
And Jack cried, Ha! lie thou there overgrown brute,
And defiantly he spurned Croquard's body with his foot.

There, lad, cried Vintner Simon, thou hast shown English spirit to-day,
By chastising yon overbearing giant in a very proper way;
So come, my lad, and drink a flagon of my very best sack,
For you handled your cudgel well, and no courage did lack.

Then no sooner had our hero finished his goblet of sack,
He cried, Go and fetch the minstrel back;
For the giant by this time had fled far away,
Therefore the minstrel's tender heart need not throb with dismay.

Then the minstrel was brought back without delay,
Which made Jack's heart feel light and gay,
And the minstrel thanked Jack for saving him on that eventful day,
So the soldiers drank to Jack's health, and then went away.

And when King Edward III. heard what Jack had done,
He sent for Jack o' the Cudgel, the noble Saxon,
And he made him his page, and Jack uttered not a word,
But he unwillingly gave up the cudgel for the honour of the sword.

Part II

After the battle of Calais, King Edward returns to fair England,
And he invited his nobles to a banquet most grand,
That the like hadn't been in England for many a day;
And many of the guests invited had come from far away.

The large hall of Windsor Castle was ablaze with light,
And there sat King Edward and his Queen, a most beautiful sight-
To see them seated upon two thrones of burnished gold;
And near the King sat Jack o' th
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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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