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Bad Poetry Day

"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

For your next Burns' Supper party piece, highlight the genius and artistry of Robert Burns by contrasting the Ploughman Poet with the man who holds an equally eminent distinction of being acclaimed as "the worst poet in British history"! William Topaz McGonagall, weaver, actor and doggerel poet, is reckoned thusly for good reason. The chief criticisms of his work are that not only is he is deaf to poetic metaphor, sensitivity and taste, but that he is 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 unmatched when read aloud for both its tragic hilarity and chiding civil engineering advice. McGonagall, perhaps, would not have been deterred by the extant list of words for which no perfect rhymes exist including: silver, purple, month, ninth, pint, wolf, opus, dangerous, marathon and discombobulate (though there are "slant rhymes" which will make do in a pinch). However, contrary to popular belief, there is a single perfect rhyme for orange - "sporange" (a botanical term for part of a fern), should you too be inspired to wax poetic. 🌿 🍊 ✍️

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.


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 silver and orange for more of William McGonagall's 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.


Note: McGonagall's title of Worst Poet ever has been recently challenged by the discovery of the works of British composer and poet, Theophile Jules-Henri Marzials, whose 1873 poem "The Tragedy" ends with these poignant lines: "Drop Dead. Plop, flop, Plop."