Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sir William the Bloody

Chances are good that you never studied the poetry of William Topaz McGonagall in school, and that his work is not available at your local library. This 19th century Scottish poet is an overlooked gem, though not for the usual reasons.

To call McGonagall a dreadful poet does not quite do him justice, because the marvel of his work is in how inventively dreadful it is. Rather than describe it, I'll let the work speak for itself.

From "An Address to Shakespeare":

Immortal! William Shakespeare, there's none can you excel,
You have drawn out your characters remarkably well,
Which is delightful for to see enacted upon the stage
For instance, the love-sick Romeo, or Othello, in a rage

From "Calamity in London: Family of Ten Burned to Death":

Oh, Heaven! if was a frightful and pitiful sight to see
Seven bodies charred of the Jarvis' family;
And Mrs Jarvis was found with her child, and both carbonised,
And as the searchers gazed thereon they were surprised.

Fires are a popular topic in McGonagall's work. From "Burning of the Exeter Theatre":

It was the most sickening sight that ever anybody saw,
Human remains, beyond recognition, covered with a heap of straw;
And here and there a body might be seen, and a maimed hand,
Oh, such a sight, that the most hard-hearted person could hardly withstand!

And my favorite, "The Pennsylvania Disaster," on the Johnstown flood:

And when the merciless flood reached Johnstown it was fifty feet high,
While, in pitiful accents, the drowning people for help did cry;
But hundreds of corpses, by the flood, were swept away,
And Johnstown was blotted out like a child's toy house of clay.

All you ever wanted to know about William Topaz McGonagall and more is available at McGonagall Online.


Julie said...

Honestly? I thought the site was a fake (a wonderful fake!) until I found the Amazon links. This is so fabulous! Thanks for making my day! :)

Comrade Dave said...

Yeah, but can he rhyme something with "effulgent?"

mary_m said...

Ha! I honestly hadn't made the connection between the two. You have inspired me to change the title of this post.