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The Wreck of the Steamer Storm Queen

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

Ye landsmen, all pray list to me,
While I relate a terrible tale of the sea,
Concerning the screw steamer "Storm Queen"
Which was wrecked, alas! a most heast-rending scene.

From Sebastopol, with a cargo of grain, she was on her way,
And soon after entering the Bay of Biscay,
On the 21st of December, they experienced a fearful storm
Such as they never experienced since they were born.

The merciless sea was running mountains high,
And to save themselves from a watery grave manfully they did try;
But the vessel became unmanageable, but still they worked away,
And managed to launch two small boats without dismay.

They wrought most manfully and behaved very well,
But a big wave smashed a smell boat before they left the vessel;
Still the Captain, Mr Jaques, and five of the crew
Clung to the "Storm Queen" until she sank beneath the waters blue.

While the sea lashed itself into white foam and loudly did roar,
And with a gurgling sound the big waves covered the vessel o'er;
So perished Captain Jaques and five of the crew
Who stuck to the vessel, as brave sailors would do.

But before the vessel sank a raft was made,
And a few men got on to it who were not afraid;
And oh! it was enough to make one's blood to freeze
To see them jumping off the steamer into the yawning seas.

So they were tossed about on the big billows the whole night,
And beneath the big waves they were engulphed before daylight;
But 22 that reached the boats were saved in all
By the aid of God, on whom they did call.

And on the next morning before daylight
The Norwegian barque "Gulvare" hove in sight;
Then they shouted and pulled towards her with all their might,
While the seas were running high, oh! what a fearful sight.

The poor souls were prevented from getting along side
Of the barque "Gulvare" by the heavy seas and tide;
And as the boats drew near the barque the storm increases
Until the boats struck against her and were dashed to pieces.

It was almost beyond human efforts with the storm to cope
But most fortunately they were hauled on board by a rope,
While the big waves did lash the barque all over,
But by a merciful providence they were landed safely at Dover.

The survivors when rescued were in a destitute state,
But nevertheless they seemed resigned to their fate,
And they thanked God that did them save
Most timely from a cold and watery grave.

And during their stay in Dover they received kind treatment,
For which they, poor creatures, felt very content;
And when they recovered from their ills they met at sea,
The authorities sent them home to their own country.

But as for Captain Jaques, few men like him had been,
Because he couldn't be persuaded to desert the "Storm Queen,"
As he declared he wouldn't leave her whatever did betide;
So the brave hero sank with her beneath the waters wide.

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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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