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The Battle of Glencoe

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

Twas in the month of October, and in the year of 1899,
Which the Boers will remember for a very long time,
Because by the British Army they received a crushing blow;
And were driven from Smith's Hill at the Battle of Glencoe.

The Boers' plan of the battle was devised with great skill,
And about 7000 men of them were camped on Smith's Hill;
And at half-past five the battle began,
And the Boers behaved bravely to a man.

At twenty minutes to six two of the British batteries opened fire,
And early in the fight some of the Boers began to retire;
And in half an hour the Boers' artillery had ceased to fire,
And from the crest of the hill they began to retire.

And General Symons with his staff was watching every detail,
The brave hero whose courage in the battle didn't fail;
Because he ordered the King's Royal Rifles and the Dublin Fusiliers,
To advance in skirmishing order, which they did with three cheers.

Then they boldly advanced in very grand style,
And encouraged by their leaders all the while;
And their marching in skirmishing order was beautiful to see,
As they advanced boldly to attack the enemy.

For over an hour the advance continued without dismay,
Until they had to take a breath by the way;
They felt so fatigued climbing up Smith's Hill,
But, nevertheless, the brave heroes did it with a will.

Then they prepared to attack the enemy,
And with wild battle-cries they attacked them vigorously;
And with one determined rush they ascended the hill,
And drove the Boers from their position sore against their will.

But, alas, General Symons received a mortal wound,
Which caused his soldiers' sorrow to be profound;
But still they fought on manfully without any dread;
But, alas, brave General Symons now is dead.

Oh! It was a most inspiring and a magnificent sight,
To see the Hussars spurring their steeds with all their might;
And charging the Boers with their lances of steel,
Which hurled them from their saddles and made them reel.

The battle raged for six hours and more,
While British cannon Smith's Hill up tore;
Still the Boers fought manfully, without dismay,
But in a short time they had to give way.

For the Gordon Highlanders soon put an end to the fight,
Oh! it was a most gorgeous and thrilling sight,
To see them with their bagpipes playing, and one ringing cheer,
And from Smith's Hill they soon did the Boers clear.

And at the charge of the bayonet they made them fly,
While their leaders cried, "Forward, my lads, do or die",
And the Boers' blood copiously they did spill,
And the Boers were forced to fly from Smith's Hill.

And in conclusion I hope and pray
The British will be successful when from home far away;
And long may the Gordons be able to conquer the foe,
At home or abroad, wherever they go.

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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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    "The Battle of Glencoe" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 14 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41862/the-battle-of-glencoe>.

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