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The Battle of Alma

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

'Twas on the heights of Alma the battle began.
But the Russians turned and fled every man;
Because Sir Colin Campbell's Highland Brigade put them to flight,
At the charge of the bayonet, which soon ended the fight.

Sir Colin Campbell he did loudly cry,
Let the Highlanders go forward, they will win or die,
We'll hae nane but Hieland bonnets here,
So forward, my lads, and give one ringing cheer.

Then boldly and quickly they crossed the river,
But not one amongst them with fear did shiver,
And ascended the height, forming quietly on the crest,
While each man seemed anxious to do his best.

The battle was fought by twenty against one,
But the gallant British troops resolved to die to a man,
While the shot was mowing them down and making ugly gaps,
And shells shrieking and whistling and making fearful cracks.

On the heights of Alma it was a critical time,
And to see the Highland Brigade it was really sublime,
To hear the officers shouting to their men,
On lads, I'll show you the way to fight them.

Close up! Close up! Stand firm, my boys,
Now be steady, men, steady and think of our joys;
If we only conquer the Russians this day,
Our fame will be handed down to posterity for ever and aye.

Still forward! Forward! My lads was the cry,
And from the redoubt make them fly;
And at length the Russians had to give way,
And fled from the redoubt in wild dismay.

Still the fate of the battle hung in the balance,
But Sir Colin knew he had still a chance,
But one weak officer in fear loudly shouted,
Let the Guards fall back, or they'll be totally routed.

Then Sir Colin Campbell did make reply,
'Tis better, Sir, that every man of the Guards should die,
And to be found dead on this bloody field,
Than to have it said they fled and were forced to yield.

Then the Coldstreams on the highlanders' right
Now advanced to engage the enemy in the fight,
But then they halted, unable to go forward,
Because the Russians did their progress retard.

But now came the turning point of the battle,
While the Russian guns loudly did rattle;
Then Sir Colin turned to the plumed Highland array,
And in stirring tones to them did say--

Be steady, keep silence, my lads, don't be afraid,
And make me proud of my Highland Brigade;
Then followed the command, sharp and clear,
While the war notes of the 42d bagpipes smote the ear.

The soldiers, though young, were cool and steady,
And to face the enemy they were ever ready,
And still as the bare-kneed line unwavering came on
It caused the Russians to shake and look woebegone.

And now as the din of the fight grew greater,
Fear filled the hearts of the Russian giants in stature,
Because the kilted heroes they fought so well
That they thought they had come from the regions of hell.

Oh! it was a most beautiful and magnificent display
To see the Highland Brigade in their tartan array,
And their tall bending plumes in a long line,
The scene was inspiring and really sublime.

Then, terror-stricken by this terrible advancing line,
The Russians broke down and began to whine,
And they turned round and fled with a moaning cry,
Because they were undone and had to fly.

Then the crisis was past and the victory won,
Which caused Sir Colin Campbell to cry, Well done,
And, raising his hand, gave the signal to cheer,
Which was responded to by hurrahs, loud and clear.

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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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    "The Battle of Alma" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 12 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41854/the-battle-of-alma>.

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