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The Battle of Inkermann

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

'Twas in the year of 1854, and on the 5th November,
Which Britain will no doubt long remember,
When the Russians plotted to drive the British army into the sea,
But at the bayonet charge the British soon made them flee.

With fourteen hundred British, fifteen thousand Russians were driven back,
At half-past seven o'clock in the morning they made the attack,
But the Grenadiers and Scottish Fusilier Guards, seven hundred strong,
Moved rapidly and fearlessly all along.

And their rifles were levelled ready for a volley,
But the damp had silenced their fire which made the men feel melancholy,
But the Russians were hurled down the ravine in a disordered mass
At the charge of the bayonet-- an inspiring sight!-- nothing could it surpass.

General Cathcart thought he could strike a blow at an unbroken Russian line;
Oh! the scene was really very sublime,
Because hand to hand they fought with a free will,
And with one magnificent charge they hurled the Russians down the hill.

But while General Cathcart without any dread
Was collecting his scattered forces, he fell dead,
Pierced to the heart with a Russian ball,
And his men lamented sorely his downfall.

While the Duke of Cambridge with the colours of two Regiments of Guards
Presses forward, and no obstacle his courage retards,
And with him about one hundred men,
And to keep up their courage he was singing a hymn to them.

Then hand to hand they fought the Russians heroically,
Which was a most inspiring sight to see;
Captain Burnaby with thirteen Guardsmen fighting manfully,
And they drove the Russians down the hillside right speedily.

The French and Zouaves aided the British in the fight,
And they shot down and killed the Russians left and right,
And the Chasseurs also joined in the fight,
And the Russians fell back in great afright.

Then the Russians tried again and again
To drive the British from the slopes of Inkermann, but all in vain,
For the French and British beat them back without dismay,
Until at last the Russians had to give way.

And the French and British fought side by side
Until the Russians no longer the bayonet charge could abide,
And the Russians were literally scorched by the musketry fire,
And in a short time the Russians were forced to retire.

Then the British and the French pursued them into the depths of the ravine,
Oh! it was a grand sight-- the scene was really sublime--
And at half-past one o'clock the Russians were defeated,
And from the field of Inkermann they sullenly retreated.

Then the Battle of Inkermann was won,
And from thefield the Russians were forced to run,
But the loss of the British was terrible to behold;
The dead lay in heaps stiff and cold,
While thousands of Russians were dying with no one to aid them,
Alas! Pitiful to relate, thousands of innocent men.

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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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