P.O.E.T.S. Day: Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah

From the cold and dreary shores of Britain, where beach volleyball players take medical times out to alleviate frozen toes, we take the P.O.E.T.S. Day tradition: Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. This week’s patron, a man widely hailed as the English language’s worst poet: William McGonagall.

His poetry is so bad, his reaction to criticism so blithe, and his exploits so absurd, that I think he’s putting us on. He passed the hat at work to buy the lead in a production of MacBeth. His coworkers, seemingly gleeful at what they knew would be a disastrous performance, gave freely and packed the house. The besotted crowd yipped and yelled throughout. McGonagall, feeling that the actor playing MacDuff was upstaging him, refused to die. Wrote McGonagall, “At the end of each performance I was called before the curtain, and received plaudit after plaudit of applause in recognition of my able impersonation of Macbeth.” They were laughing near him.His performances were met with drunken abuse. He was regularly pelted with rotten fish and vegetables. His recitations of poems at the Royal Circus were shut down by magistrates because the crowds were too drunk and too rowdy. That doesn’t happen without the star noticing.

He would read his truly awful poems about the danger of strong drink in pubs and write about the reaction of the patrons as such:

I will begin with giving an account of my experiences amongst the publicans. Well, I must say that the first man who threw peas at me was a publican, while I was giving an entertainment to a few of my admirers in a public-house in a certain little village not far from Dundee but, my dear friends, I wish it to be understood that the publican who threw the peas at me was not the landlord of the public-house, he was one of the party who came to hear me give my entertainment.

Some have said that he presents as Asperger’s or Autistic. That may be. Andy Kaufman wearing a wrestling belt. I think he was having us all on.

He walked to Balmoral to meet with the queen because he believed letter from a royal underling refusing his request to be the queen’s poet was in fact encouragement. He never got past the front guard. He received a letter from someone claiming to represent the King of Burma awarding him a knighthood. From thence forth he was “Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah.” This was a funny guy. I would like to think we would like each other before we started talking about politics and he wouldn’t shut up about oil addiction or some nonsense.

But enough prologue. Sneak out of work early, pull the fire alarm, cough as tubercularly as possible, or do the honorable thing and quit. Just get to a bar and raise a toast to this week’s P.O.E.T.S. day hero, Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah.

And now, the worst poem you have ever read*:

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 seem’d 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 peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made them 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 the 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.

-William McGonagall

Workday not quite done, I’ll be at Ore with a Guiness in hand.

*Unless you wore a lot of black as a teenager and recently found your old notebooks.

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This entry was posted in Humor, Language, Poets Day, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to P.O.E.T.S. Day: Sir William Topaz McGonagall, Knight of the White Elephant, Burmah

  1. Kevin says:

    That is the best poem ever. To write a few lines that bad is one thing. But to keep that up for that long truly requires a sort of mad genius. Or maybe he was just fucking with us.

  2. Wow. Granted I am not very into poetry but … Wow that was very un-good.

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