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The Destroying Angel

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

I dreamt a dream the other night
That an Angel appeared to me, clothed in white.
Oh! it was a beautiful sight,
Such as filled my heart with delight.

And in her hand she held a flaming brand,
Which she waved above her head most grand;
And on me she glared with love-beaming eyes,
Then she commanded me from my bed to arise.

And in a sweet voice she said, "You must follow me,
And in a short time you shall see
The destruction of all the public-houses in the city,
Which is, my friend, the God of Heaven's decree."

Then from my bed in fear I arose,
And quickly donned on my clothes;
And when that was done she said, " Follow me
Direct to the High Street, fearlessly."

So with the beautiful Angel away I did go,
And when we arrived at the High Street, Oh! what a show,
I suppose there were about five thousand men there,
All vowing vengeance against the publicans, I do declare.

Then the Angel cried with a solemn voice aloud
To that vast end Godly assembled crowd,
"Gentlemen belonging the fair City of Dundee,
Remember I have been sent here by God to warn ye.

"That by God's decree ye must take up arms and follow me
And wreck all the public-houses in this fair City,
Because God cannot countenance such dens of iniquity.
Therefore, friends of God, come, follow me.

"Because God has said there's no use preaching against strong drink,
Therefore, by taking up arms against it, God does think,
That is the only and the effectual cure
To banish it from the land, He is quite sure.

"Besides, it has been denounced in Dundee for fifty years
By the friends of Temperance, while oft they have shed tears.
Therefore, God thinks there's no use denouncing it any longer,
Because the more that's said against it seemingly it grows stronger."

And while the Angel was thus addressing the people,
The Devil seemed to be standing on the Townhouse Steeple,
Foaming at the mouth with rage, and seemingly much annoyed,
And kicking the Steeple because the public-houses wore going to be destroyed.

Then the Angel cried, " Satan, avaunt! begone!"
Then he vanished in the flame, to the amazement of everyone;
And waving aloft the flaming brand,
That she carried in her right hand

She cried, "Now, friends of the Temperance cause, follow me:
For remember if's God's high decree
To destroy all the public-houses in this fair City;
Therefore, friends of God, let's commence this war immediately."

Then from the High Street we all did retire,
As the Angel, sent by God, did desire;
And along the Perth Road we all did go,
While the Angel set fire to the public-houses along that row.

And when the Perth Road public-houses were fired, she cried, " Follow me,
And next I'll fire the Hawkhill public-houses instantly."
Then away we went with the Angel, without dread or woe,
And she fired the IEawkhill public-houses as onward we did go.

Then she cried, "Let's on to the Scouringburn, in God's name."
And away to the Scouringburn we went, with our hearts aflame,
As the destroying Angel did command.
And when there she fired the public-houses, which looked very grand.

And when the public-houses there were blazing like a kiln,
She cried, " Now, my friends, we'll march to the Bonnet Hill,
And we'll fire the dens of iniquity without dismay,
Therefore let's march on, my friends, without delay."

And when we arrived at the Bonnet Hill,
The Angel fired the public-houses, as she did well.
Then she cried, "We'll leave them now to their fate,
And march on to the Murraygate."

Then we marched on to the Murraygate,
And the Angel fired the public-houses there, a most deserving fate.
Then to the High Street we marched and fired them there,
Which was a most beautiful blaze, I do declare.

And on the High Street, old men and women were gathered there,
And as the flames ascended upwards, in amazement they did stare
When they saw the public-houses in a blaze,
But they clapped their hands with joy and to God gave praise.

Then the Angel cried, "Thank God, Christ's Kingdom's near at hand,
And there will soon be peace and plenty throughout the land,
And the ravages of the demon Drink no more will be seen."
But, alas, I started up in bed, and behold it was a dream!

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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 Destroying Angel" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41901/the-destroying-angel>.

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