City Gossip

McGonagall has finished a new poem on the death and burial of Lord Tennyson. The world has been looking out with eager expectancy for this “In Memoriam” from the great Mac. And now that it has been issued from the press, our readers will be as anxious to hear our opinion on the great work. All that can be said will fail to convey an adequate idea of the merits of the poem.

For tenderness of sentiment, rhyme and rhythm, it excels all the Poet has ever yet attempted; and as for graphic description, no penny-a-liner could ever approach within sight of it. It is meet that one great poet should pay a tribute to the memory of a departed brother, just to show that no feeling of jealousy existed between them.

To quote the whole poem would never do, as nobody would buy it after reading it in our columns. But to arouse a literary appetite in the community a verse here and there may be called out of the dozen stanzas into which the ode is divided. Well, here goes for the opening or introductory verse, and just observe how abruptly but aptly the “Poet” plunges into his subject:-

Alas! England now mourns for her poet that’s gone-
The late and the good Lord Tennyson.
I hope his soul has fled to heaven above,
Where there is everlasting joy and love.

What strikes one in these lines is the pious wish that Tennyson’s “soul has gone to heaven above.” To write about heaven and immortality is a favourite theme with poets, whether they believe in such things or not. But no one doubts McGonagall’s belief in future reward, as he has so little hope of much good in the present cold, hard world. The poem goes on to eulogise the works of Tennyson, and winds up with a description of the funeral, taken from the newspapers, of course, for, unfortunately, McGonagall did not get an invitation to attend the obsequies in Westminster Abbey.

Why he was omitted is a question we need not go far afield to get to find the answer. The fact is, Swinburne and other English poetasters whose name is legion are jealous that McGonagall should become their rival for the vacant office of Poet Laureate. The concluding stanza, which is given verbatim et literatim, reflects the highest credit on McGonagall’s mind and heart-

And, in conclusion, I most earnestly pray,
That the people will erect a monument for him without delay,
To commemorate the good work he has done,
And his name in gold letters written thereon!

Some people in this world are very inconsiderate with other people’s feelings, which, to say the least, is very reprehensible. No class of men are so sensitive, especially when their own interests are concerned, as poets and authors. Now, two fellows of the “baser sort,” signing themselves Herbert Somerville and T. K. Watson, have been tormenting the Poet by letters and postcards urging him to apply for the post of Queen’s Rhymester alias Poet Laureate, worth five hundred a year, and vacant by the death of Tennyson. Five hundred a year is enough to make a hungry poet’s teeth water, and if there was a ghost of a chance of securing such a prize wouldn’t McGonagall jump at it like a bull at a haystack? But McGonagall knows better.

“Do they take me for a fool?” he said indignantly, as he tossed the letters on my desk. No Scotchman will ever get such a situation so long as there are so many hungry, needy, seedy, out-at-the-elbows and out-at-the-toes poets hanging about London. So Messrs Somerville and Watson had better shut up, and save their postage stamps. McGonagall won’t be made a fool of by them any longer.

Weekly News, 22nd October 1892

Notes

It took over a hundred years for a Scotchwoman to outmanoeuvre the “hungry, needy, seedy, out-at-the-elbows and out-at-the-toes”  English poets, and secure the Poet Laureateship. Carol Ann Duffy achieved the feat in 2009.

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