Aug 18

Bad Poetry Day

Nothing Rhymes with Silver, Nothing Rhymes with Orange
Show More
William McGonagall
(1825-1902)
Show More

"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." ~The Tay Bridge Disaster, William Topaz McGonagall, 1880

Aspiring poets and civil engineers, learn from this man! William Topaz McGonagall, weaver, actor and doggerel poet is widely acclaimed to be the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he is deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. The 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 masterpiece, The Tay Bridge Disaster, is best read aloud. Contrary to popular belief, there is a single perfect rhyme for orange - "sporange" (a botanical term for part of a fern) but no perfect rhymes for the words silver, purple, month, ninth, pint, wolf, opus, dangerous, marathon and discombobulate (though there are "slant rhymes" which will make do in a pinch). Note: recently, McGonagall's title of Worst Poet ever has been challenged by the discovery of the works of Theophile Jules-Henri Marzials, 1873 poem "The Tragedy" which ends with the classic lines: "Drop Dead. Plop, flop, Plop."

August 18th is a day for reading or writing bad poetry.   For today's tartan we have the Nothing Rhymes with Silver, Nothing Rhymes with Orange tartan.

Designed by Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan was inspired by the notation in the  Oxford dictionary saying that neither the word "silver" nor the word "orange" have a perfect rhyme, along with a ski jacket colour combination that she happened to notice on a ski hill.

 

We couple this beautiful tartan tribute to challenging rhyming words with a nod to someone who was not troubled at all over the  perfect rhyming couplet - the world's worst poet, William Topaz McGonagall (1825 -1902), Scottish 

weaver, doggerel poet, and actor.

McGonagall has been widely acclaimed as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he is deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly.

 

McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings generate in his work. The 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 audiences threw rotten fish at him, the authorities banned his performances, and he died a pauper over a century ago. But his books remain in print to this day, and he’s remembered and quoted long after more talented contemporaries have been forgotten.

No example better exhibits his natural talent  than his famous poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster (1880), which we repeat here in its entirety because it is truly a masterpiece.

Best read aloud, it ends with an unforgettable verse.

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.

Indeed.

If this wondrous inattention to meter, rhyme, and good taste has inspired you, click the portrait of William McGonagall for more of his other poetry and also, an extensive list of other words, generally thought to have no natural rhymes, but actually which do have some very good ones, if you can manage to work the meanings into your poetry.

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle
  • YouTube - Grey Circle

This site is featured on:​   boredalot.com   &   pointlesssites.com

9 out of 10 kilt wearers agree - this is almost as thrilling as a good

tartaned kilt flip when going regimental! 

In a tartan mood? Tag along on social media