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The Wreck of the Steamer Mohegan

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

Good people of high and low degree,
I pray ye all to list to me,
And I'll relate a terrible tale of the sea
Concerning the unfortunate steamer, Mohegan,
That against the Manacles Rocks, ran.

'Twas on Friday, the 14th of October, in the year of ninety-eight,
Which alas! must have been a dreadful sight;
She sailed out of the river Thames on Thursday,
While the hearts of the passengers felt light and gay.

And on board there were 133 passengers and crew,
And each one happier than another seemingly to view;
When suddenly the ship received some terrible shocks,
Until at last she ran against the Manacles Rocks.

Dinner was just over when the shock took place,
Which caused fear to be depicted in every face;
Because the ship was ripped open, and the water rushed in,
It was most dreadful to hear, it much such a terrific din.

Then the cries of children and women did rend the air,
And in despair many of them tore their hair
As they clung to their babies in wild despair,
While some of them cried- 'Oh, God, do Thou my babies spare!'

The disaster occurred between seven and eight o'clock at night,
Which caused some of the passengers to faint with fright;
As she struck on the Manacles Rocks between Falmouth and Lizard Head,
Which filled many of the passengers' hearts with dread.

Then the scene that followed was awful to behold,
As the captain hurried to the bridge like a hero bold;
And the seamen rushed manfully to their posts,
While many of the passengers with fear looked as pale as ghosts.

And the poor women and children were chilled to the heart,
And crying aloud for their husbands to come and take their part;
While the officers and crew did their duty manfully,
By launching the boats immediately into the sea.

Then lifebelts were tied round the women and children
By the brave officers and gallant seamen;
While the storm fiend did laugh and angry did roar,
When he saw the boats filled with passengers going towards the shore.

One of the boats, alas! unfortunately was swamped,
Which caused the officers and seamens' courage to be a little damped;
But they were thankful the other boats got safely away,
And tried hard to save the passengers without dismay.

Then a shriek of despair arose as the ship is sinking beneath the wave,
While some of the passengers cried to God their lives to save;
But the angry waves buffetted the breath out of them,
Alas, poor sickly children, also women and men.

Oh, heaven, it was most heartrending to see
A little girl crying and imploring most piteously,
For some one to save her as she didn't want to die,
But, alas, no one seemed to hear her agonizing cry.

For God's sake, boys, get clear, if ye can,
Were the captain's last words spoken like a brave man;
Then he and the officers sank with the ship in the briny deep,
Oh what a pitiful sight, 'tis enough to make one weep.

Oh think of the passengers that have been tempest tossed,
Besides, 100 souls and more, that have been lost;
Also, think of the mariner while on the briny deep,
And pray to God to protect him at night before ye sleep.

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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 Steamer Mohegan" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 14 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41953/the-wreck-of-the-steamer-mohegan>.

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