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Lost in the Prairie

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

In one of fhe States of America, some years ago,
There suddenly came on a violent storm of snow,
Which was nearly the death of a party of workmen,
Who had finished their day's work - nine or ten of them.

The distance was nearly twenty miles to their camp,
And with the thick falling snow their clothes felt damp,
As they set out for their camp, which was in a large grove,
And to reach it, manfully against the storm they strove.

The wind blew very hard, and the snow was falling fast,
Still, they plodded on, but felt a little downcast,
And the snow fell so fast they could scarcely see,
And they began to think they were lost on the wild prairie.

And they suddenly noticed marks of footsteps in the snow,
Which they found were their own tracks, as onward they did go,
Then they knew they were lost on the great prairie,
And what could they do in such a fearful extremity?

Then their hearts began to sink with woe,
In dread of having to pass the night in the snow,
And they cried, "Oh, God help us to find our way,
Or else we are lost on the lonely prairie."

And while they stood shivering with the cold,
One of the party a particular horse did behold,
Which was known by the name of Old Jack,
So to take off his bridle they were not slack.

When the horse was let free he threw up his head and tail,
Which seemed to say, "Follow ms, and ye will not fail.
So come on, boys, and follow me,
And I'll guide ye home safely."

And they cried, " Old Jack can show us the way,
So let's follow his tracks without dismay";
And with the falling snow they were chilled to the bone,
But the horse seemed to say, "I'll show ye home."

And at last they gave a shout of delight
When they saw their camp fire burning bright,
Which was to them a cheerful sight,
And they caressed Old Jack for guiding them home that night.

And they felt thankful to God for their safety,
And they danced around Old Jack with their hearts full of glee,
And Old Jack became a favourite from that day,
Because he saved them from being lost on the wild prairie.

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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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    "Lost in the Prairie" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 12 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41840/lost-in-the-prairie>.

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