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The Wreck of the Indian Chief

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

'Twas on the 8th of January 1881,
That a terrific gale along the English Channel ran,
And spread death and disaster in its train,
Whereby the "Indian Chief" vessel was tossed on the raging main.

She was driven ashore on the Goodwin Sands,
And the good captain fearlessly issued hie commands,
"Come, my men, try snd save the vessel, work with all your might,"
Although the poor sailors on board were in a fearful plight.

They were expecting every minute her hull would give way,
And they, poor souls, felt stricken with dismay,
And the captain and some of the crew clung to the main masts,
Where they were exposed to the wind's cold blasts.

A fierce gale was blowing and the sea ran mountains high,
And the sailors on board heaved many a bitter sigh;
And in the teeth of the storm the lifeboat was rowed bravely
Towards the ship in distress, which was awful to see.

The ship was lifted high on the crest of a wave,
While the sailors tried hard their lives to save,
And implored God to save them from a watery grave,
And through fear eome of them began to rave.

The waves were miles long in length;
And the sailors had lost nearly all their strength,
By striving hard their lives to save,
From being drowned in the briny wave.

A ration of rum and a biscuit was served out to each man,
And the weary night passed, and then appeared the morning dawn;
And when the lifeboat hove in sight a sailor did shout,
"Thank God, there's she at last without any doubt."

But, with weakness and the biting cold,
Several of fhe sailors let go their hold;
And, alas, fell into the yawning sea,
Poor souls! and were launched into eternity.

Oh, it was a most fearful plight,
For the poor sailors to be in the rigging all night;
While the storm fiend did laugh and roar,
And the big waves lashed the ship all o'er.

And as the lifeboat drew near,
The poor sailors raised a faint cheer;
And all the lifeboat men saw was a solitary mast,
And some sailors clinging to it, while the ahip was sinking fast.

Charles Tait, the coxswain of the lifeboat, was a skilful boatman,
And the bravery he and his crew displayed was really grand;
For his men were hardy and a very heroic set,
And for bravery their equals it would be hard to get.

But, thank God, out of twenty-nine eleven were saved,
Owing to the way the lifeboat men behaved;
And when they landed with the eleven wreckers at Ramsgate,
The people's joy was very great.

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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 Wreck of the Indian Chief" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41951/the-wreck-of-the-indian-chief>.

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