For a slight change of pace...
(Poem #343) The Tay Bridge Disaster
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay! Alas! I am very sorry to say That ninety lives have been taken away On the last Sabbath day of 1879, Which will be remember'd for a very long time. 'Twas about seven o'clock at night, And the wind it blew with all its might, And the rain came pouring down, And the dark clouds seemed to frown, And the Demon of the air seem'd to say -- "I'll blow down the Bridge of Tay." When the train left Edinburgh The passengers' hearts were light and felt no sorrow, But Boreas blew a terrific gale, Which made their hearts for to quail, And many of the passengers with fear did say -- "I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay." But when the train came near to Wormit Bay, Boreas he did loud and angry bray, And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay On the last Sabbath day of 1879, Which will be remember'd for a very long time. So the train sped on with all its might, And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight, And the passengers' hearts felt light, Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year, With their friends at home they lov'd most dear, And wish them all a happy New Year. So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay, Until it was about midway, Then the central girders with a crash gave way, And down went the train and passengers into the Tay! The Storm Fiend did loudly bray, Because ninety lives had been taken away, On the last Sabbath day of 1879, Which will be remember'd for a very long time. As soon as the catastrophe came to be known The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown, And the cry rang out all o'er the town, Good heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down, And a passenger train from Edinburgh, Which fill'd all the people's hearts with sorrow, And made them all for to turn pale, Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879, Which will be remember'd for a very long time. It must have been an awful sight, To witness in the dusky moonlight, While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray, Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay. Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay, I must now conclude my lay By telling the world fearlessly without least dismay, That your central girders would not have given way, At least many sensible men do say, Had they been supported on each side with buttresses, At least many sensible men confesses, For the stronger we our houses do build, The less chance we have of being killed.
Inspired by Seamus Cooney's wonderful poetry page, I decided to run a really bad poem today. Now 'bad' poetry covers a lot of territory - there's the sincere but painful poem, the poem that tries too hard, and the poem that doesn't try hard enough, the poem by an unknown writer whose merit is insufficient to compensate for his lack of fame, and the poem by a great author whom one would really have expected better of. And then there's William McGonagall. To quote Untermeyer, "At his best he is unforgettable, standing mountain-high above his host of imitators." Okay, so he was talking about Kipling, but he could have been referring to McGonagall and no one would have compained. And 'Tay Bridge' is McGonagall at his finest - a depth-plumbingly bad poem that had me dropping my jaw in sheer amazement before the first verse was done, and laughing out loud not too long after. One cannot set out to write poetry this bad - it requires a lack of talent surpassed only by one's ego, two qualities our man seems to have possessed in spades. Truly, a poem which will be remember'd for a very long time.  [broken link] http://www.wmich.edu/english/tchg/lit/pms/index.html  [broken link] http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/html/entry/Sturgeon's-Law.html Biographical Note: William McGonagall is Dundee's best remembered nobody. He was a man without talent who thought he was a great poet and tragedian and only needed an opportunity to prove it. This made him the perfect target for practical jokers who abounded in his day. He was engaged to give entertainments in small halls just so his audience could make a goat of him. His teetotal drink was spiked with alcohol. [...] He claims a place on library shelves because his indomitable spirit appealed to authors and essayists. He made a number of courageous journeys, courageous in respect they were made by a person whose means were generally nil. He went to Balmoral, 50 odd miles, on foot, in the hope of seeing Queen Victoria. He got no further than the gate and was told never to come back. To London, then by sea, lured by forged invitations and, to cap it all, to New York, crossing the ocean in the steerage class and arriving with eight shillings. The streets of New York were not paved with gold for him, and in no time he was appealing to a Dundee benefactor to get him back home. -- from http://www.taynet.co.uk/users/mcgon/ Links: [broken link] http://poetry.about.com/arts/poetry/library/weekly/aa050499.htm http://www.taynet.co.uk/users/mcgon/ (the McGonagall Appreciation Society - the mind boggles) On Bad Poetry: There is a huge amount of bad poetry in the world. Although new bad poems are being written by the hundreds every day (many of them in university creative writing classes), most bad poetry is simply weak and ineffectual and lacking in interest and (fortunately) is soon forgotten. To achieve memorable badness is not so easy. It has to be done innocently, by a poet unaware of his or her defects. The right combination of lofty ambition, humorless self-confidence, and crass incompetence is rare and precious. (There is a famous anthology of bad poetry called The Stuffed Owl, which I recommend to those interested.) -- Seamus Cooney, W. Michigan U. Compare McGonagall's wonderfully unconscious humour with the following work by 'the worst poet in the universe'... [broken link] http://www-personal.umd.umich.edu/~nhughes/dna/docs/poetry.html And the fact that just setting out to be bad is not, well, good enough is evident from the following 'gems' of McGonagall pastiche: http://www.taynet.co.uk/users/mcgon/bglink6.htm m.