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The Downfall of Delhi

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

'Twas in the year of 1857 and on the 14th of September
That the Sepoy rebels at Delhi were forced to surrender;
The attack was first to be made by Brigadier Nicholson,
And he was ordered to attack the Cashmere Bastion.

The British were entirely in command.
Of Major-General Reid, assisted by Brigadier-Generals Wilson and Burnand;
After a long march, fighting through a hostile country,
And the brave heroes took up a position before the city.

Delhi gates were encircled with a fringe of fire,
But the British resolved to die rather than retire;
And the brave fellows rushed, towards the gate
Carrying the powder bags that were to seal the Sepoys' fate.

Here their progress was checked, for the drawbridge was destroyed,
But the British felt very little annoyed,
Because a few planks were across the chasm thrown,
Then a match was applied to the powder bags, and into atoms the gate was blown.

Then the rebel artillerymen with terror fled,
For the streets were strewn by the Sepoy dead;
Then the British charged them without fear,
Shouting "On boys, on, for our Queen and Country dear."

Then Lieutenant Home gave orders to advance,
And charge them with your bayonets, it is our only chance;
And with a ringing British cheer they charged, them fearlessly,
And. they drove the enemy before them through the streets of the city.

Then the young bugler blew a blast loud and clear,
Which was answered by a British ringing cheer;
But General Nicholson was killed, which was a great loss,
And afterwards the bugler was decorated with the Victoria Cross.

General Jones formed a junction with Colonel Campbell's Regiment,
And to enter by the Cashmere Gate they were bent;
And they advanced through the streets without delay,
And swept all before them through the gate without dismay.

The streets were filled with mutineers who fought savagely,
Determined to fight to the last and die heroically,
While the alarm drums did beat, and the cannons did roar,
And the dead and the dying lay weltering in their gore.

And the rebels fought for King Timour like tigers in a cage,
He was a very old man, more than ninety years of age;
And their shouts and yells were fearful to hear,
While the shrill sound of the bugle smote on the ear.

The British dash at Delhi will never be forgot,
For the chief instigators of the mutiny were shot;
And their bodies in the Mayor's Court were hung,
And as the people gazed thereon, their hearts with anguish were wrung.

And that evening General Wilson drank the health of the Queen,
Also his officers hailed her Empress of India, which enhanced the scene;
While the assembled thousands shouted "God save the Queen!"
Oh! it was a most beautiful scene.

Delhi was a glorious prize, for the city was full of jewels and gold,
Besides a hundred pieces of cannon, be it told;
But dearly was the victory gained,
But in the book of fame the British are famed;
Oh, it was a glorious and heroic victory,
And will be handed down to posterity.

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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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