Reader Ian Colville sends in this gem which, he tells me, he has “recited at several open mic events and suchlike, including at an alternative to Burns’ Night”. I hope he got a better reception from his audience than William did! As you’ll see, it’s both a tribute and a biography…
A Tribute to William Topaz McGonagall
All hail to William T. McGonagall,
Who shall be remember’d as a poet, above all.
Alas! we should be very sorry to say
That his life was taken when he passed away
On the last but one day of September, 1902,
Poor and forlorn, with a hole in his shoe.
He will be recalled for a very long time
In the land of his birth where poets can still shine,
A man of genius, whose raw poetry
Contained verses and rhymes so silvery.
Two hundred poems from the Jewel of Dundee,
That marvellous man, steeped in gallantry.
A weaver by trade our man of the loom,
He turned to the stage, where his talent he’d groom
When he paid for to play the role of Macbeth
And his strong manly style was a lisping success,
And Grocer’s Hall, down in old Castle Street,
Saw his Richard the Third give Dundee a treat.
He worked as a poet and performing artiste,
Never straying too far from the coast on the east,
Except for a jaunt to visit the Queen,
Whom sadly he never got to have seen,
And a trip to the south, and a ship to New York
In the eighteen eighties, to try and find work.
’Twas on a fine day back in beautiful Dundee
Our Topaz received the spirit of poetry,
As he wrote of his muse in old Paton’s Lane,
When all of a sudden his body was aflame,
A voice in his ears crying, “Write, Topaz, write!”
And he penned an Address to a Reverend’s delight.
In eighteen hundred and seventy-eight,
He got up a volume of verse that was great.
Those ‘Gems’ in its pages would fill your heart with delight
While seated round the fireside on a cold winter’s night.
He wrote about Burns and the Silv’ry Tay,
And the loss of men’s lives on the last Sabbath day.
He found lucrative work in the town’s circus troupe,
You’d think that a sign of how low he would stoop,
Reciting his poems whilst the raucous crowd threw
Stale bread at the stage, and raw eggs and flour, too,
But imagine his horror at the banning decree,
He made so much a night; nigh on a Pound, nearly!
Though born in Auld Reekie, he’s a son of Dundee
Where citizens formed an Appreciation Society
To the cult of McGonagall; to the man and the myth,
To Scotland’s worst poet, its awesome wordsmith
Who died as a pauper, it’s said with such sorrow,
And rests with no headstone, in Greyfriars, Edinburgh.
Though he claimed at the time to have “heretical detractors”
I’m sure you’ll agree, there are mitigating factors.
The most popular ‘worst poet’ who’s so bad he’s good,
Has given so much enjoyment from poetry so crude.
So please, one and all, raise a glass and let’s call
For a toast in remembrance of dear McGonagall!