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The Battle of Gujrat

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

'Twas in the year of 1849, and on the 20th of February,
Lord Gough met and attacked Shere Sing right manfully.
The Sikh Army numbered 40,000 in strength,
And showing a front about two miles length.

It was a glorious morning, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky;
And the larks were singing merrily in the heavens high;
And 'twas about nine o'clock in the morning the battle was begun,
But at the end of three hours the Sikhs were forced to run.

Lord Gough's force was a mixture of European and native infantry,
And well supported with artillery and cavalry;
But the British Army in numbers weren't so strong,
Yet, fearlessly and steadily, they marched along.

Shere Sing, the King, had taken up a position near the town,
And as he gazed upon the British Army he did frown;
But Lord Gough ordered the troops to commence the battle,
With sixty big guns that loudly did rattle.

The Sikhs were posted on courses of deep water,
But the British in a short time soon did them scatter.
Whilst the British cannonading loudly hums,
And in the distance were heard the enemy's drums.

The the Sikhs began to fight with their artillery,
But their firing didn't work very effectively;
Then the British lines advanced on them right steadily,
Which was a most inspiring sight to see.

Then the order was given to move forward to attack,
And again-- and again-- through fear the enemy drew back.
Then Penny's brigade, with a ringing cheer, advanced briskly,
And charged with their bayonets very heriocally.

Then the Sikhs caught the bayonets with their left hand,
And rushed in with their swords, the scene was heroic and grand.
Whilst they slashed and cut with great dexterity,
But the British charge was irresistable, they had to flee.

And with 150 men they cleared the village of every living thing,
And with British cheers the village did ring;
And the villagers in amazement and terror fled,
Because the streets and their houses were strewn with their dead.

The chief attack was made on the enemy's right
By Colin Campbell's brigade-- a most magnificent sight.
Though they were exposed to a very galling fire,
But at last the Sikhs were forced to retire.

And in their flight everything was left behind,
And the poor Sikhs were of all comfort bereft,
Because their swords, cannon, drums, and waggons were left behind,
Therefore little pleasure could they find.

Then Shere Sing fled in great dismay,
But Lord Gough pursued him without delay,
And captured him a few miles away;
And now the Sikhs are our best soldiers of the present day,
Because India is annexed to the British Dominions, and they must obey.

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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 Gujrat" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41863/the-battle-of-gujrat>.

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