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The Hero of Rorke's Drift

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

Twas at the camp of Rorke's Drift, and at tea-time,
And busily engaged in culinary operations was a private of the line;
But suddenly he paused, for he heard a clattering din,
When instantly two men on horseback drew rein beside him.

"News from the front!" said one, "Awful news!" said the other,
"Of which, we are afraid, will put us to great bother,
For the black Zulus are coming, and for our blood doth thirst,"
"And the force is cut up to pieces!" shouted the first.

"We're dead beat," said both, "but we've got to go on,"
And on they rode both, looking very woebegone;
Then Henry Hook put all thought of cooking out of his mind,
For he was surrounded with danger on every side he did find.

He was a private of the South Wales Borderers, Henry Hook,
Also a brave soldier, and an hospital cook;
A soldier of the Queen, who was always ready to obey,
And willing to serve God by night and day.

Then away to the Camp he ran, with his mind all in a shiver,
Shouting, "The force is cut up, sir, on the other side of the river!"
Which caused the officer in command with fear to quiver,
When Henry Hook the news to him did deliver.

Then Henry Hook saluted, and immediately retired,
And with courage undaunted his soul was fired,
And the cry rang out wildly, "The Zulus are coming!"
Then the alarm drums were instantly set a-drumming.

Then "Fall in! Fall in!" the commanders did cry,
And the men mustered out, ready to do and to die,
As British soldiers are always ready to do,
But, alas, on this occasion their numbers were but few.

They were only eighty in number, that brave British band,
And brave Lieutenant Broomhead did them command;
He gave orders to erect barricades without delay,
"It's the only plan I can see, men, to drive four thousand savages away."

Then the mealie bags and biscuit boxes were brought out,
And the breastwork was made quickly without fear or doubt,
And barely was it finished when some one cried in dismay,
"There's the Zulus coming just about twelve hundred yards away."

Methinks I see the noble hero, Henry Hook,
Because like a destroying angel he did look,
As he stood at the hospital entrance defending the patients there,
Bayoneting the Zulus, while their cries rent the air,
As they strove hard the hospital to enter in,
But he murdered them in scores, and thought it no sin.

In one of the hospital rooms was stationed Henry Hook,
And every inch a hero he did look,
Standing at his loophole he watched the Zulus come,
All shouting, and yelling, and at a quick run.

On they came, a countless host of savages with a rush,
But the gallant little band soon did their courage crush,
But the cool man Henry Hook at his post began to fire,
And in a short time those maddened brutes were forced to retire.

Still on came the savages into the barricade,
And still they were driven back, but undismayed.
Again they came into the barricade, yet they were driven back,
While darkness fell swift across the sun, dismal and black.

Then into the hospital the savages forced their way,
And in a moment they set fire to it without dismay,
Then Henry Hook flew" to assist the patients in the ward,
And the fighting there was fearful and hard.

With yell and shriek the Zulus rushed to the attack,
But for the sixth time they were driven back
By the brave British band, and Henry Hook,
Who was a brave soldier, surgeon, and hospital cook.

And when Lord Chelmsford heard of the victory that day,
He sent for Henry Hook without delay,
And they took the private before the commander,
And with his braces down, and without his coat, in battle array grandeur.

Then Lord Chelmsford said, "Henry Hook, give me your hand,
For your conduct to day has been hereoic and grand,
And without your assistance to-day we'd been at a loss,
And for your heroic behaviour you shall receive the Victoria Cross."

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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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