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The Wreck of the Thomas Dryden

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

As I stood upon the sandy beach
One morn near Pentland Ferry,
I saw a beautiful brigantine,
And all her crew seem'd merry.

When lo! the wind began to howl,
And the clouds began to frown,
And in the twinkling of an eye
The rain came pouring down.

Then the sea began to swell,
And seem'd like mountains high,
And the sailors on board that brigantine
To God for help did loudly cry.

Oh! it was an awful sight
To see them struggling with all their might,
And Imploring God their lives to save
From a merciless watery grave.

Their cargo consisted of window-glass,
Also coal and linseed-oil,
Which helped to calm the raging sea
That loud and angry did boil.

Because when the bottoms of the barrels
Were with the raging billows stove in,
The oil spread o'er the water,
And smoothed the stormy billows' din!

Then she began to duck in the trough of the sea,
Which was fearful to behold;
And her crossyards dipped in the big billows
As from side to side she rolled.

She was tossed about on the merciless sea,
And received some terrible shocks,
Until at last she ran against
A jagged reef of rocks.

'Twas then she was rent asunder,
And the water did rush in --
It was most dreadful to hear it,
It made such a terrific din.

Then the crew jumped into the small boats
While the Storm-fiend did roar,
And were very near being drowned
Before they got ashore.

Then the coal-dust blackened the water
Around her where she lay,
And the barrels of linseed-oil
They floated far away.

And when the crew did get ashore,
They were shaking with cold and fright,
And they went away to Huna inn,
And got lodgings for the night!

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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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