A gallant knight and his betroth’d bride,
Were walking one day by a river side,
They talk’d of love, and they talk’d of war,
And how very foolish lovers are.

At length the bride to the knight did say,
‘There have been many young ladies led astray
By believing in all their lovers said,
And you are false to me I am afraid.’

‘No, Ellen, I was never false to thee,
I never gave thee cause to doubt me;
I have always lov’d thee and do still,
And no other woman your place shall fill.’

‘Dear Edwin, it may be true, but I am in doubt,
But there’s some beautiful flowers here about,
Growing on the other side of the river,
But how to get one, I cannot discover.’

‘Dear Ellen, they seem beautiful indeed,
But of them, dear, take no heed;
Because they are on the other side,
Besides, the river is deep and wide.’

‘Dear Edwin, as I doubt your love to be untrue,
I ask one favour now from you:
Go! fetch me a flower from across the river,
Which will prove you love me more than ever.’

‘Dear Ellen! I will try and fetch you a flower
If it lies within my power
To prove that I am true to you,
And what more can your Edwin do?’

So he leap’d into the river wide,
And swam across to the other side,
To fetch a flower for his young bride,
Who watched him eagerly on the other side.

So he pluck’d a flower right merrily
Which seemed to fill his heart with glee,
That it would please his lovely bride;
But, alas! he never got to the other side.

For when he tried to swim across,
All power of his body he did loss,
But before he sank in the river wide,
He flung the flowers to his lovely bride.

And he cried, ‘Oh, heaven! hard is my lot,
My dearest Ellen! Forget me not:
For I was ever true to you,
My dearest Ellen! I bid thee adieu!’

Then she wrung her hands in wild despair,
Until her cries did rend the air;
And she cried, ‘Edwin, dear, hard is out lot,
But I’ll name this flower Forget-me-not.

‘And I’ll remember thee while I live,
And to no other man my hand I’ll give,
And I will place my affection on this little flower,
And it will solace me in a lonely hour.’

We have received a contribution from McGonagall, entitled “Song: The Flower called Forget-Me-Not,” accompanying which is a letter dated “March the 5th, 1878,” which from some unaccountable delay somewhere, has required nearly a whole year to reach our hands. Where the letter and song may have been during the long interval we have no idea. Mr McGonagall in his letter says— “At the request of several of my admirers I have been requested to get this new song published in the Weekly News on Saturday, the 15th March, 1878, because they intend to buy a copy of the Weekly News, if it is published.” We regret very much to have disappointed our Patons Lane poet and his admirers, and we mourn over the fillip which our circulation might have received on the date named: but he and our readers will see it is quite out our power to comply with his request now. That our readers and Mr McGonagall’s admirers, however, may not be entirely deprived of the treat which he had prepared for them a whole year ago, we give the first four of the twelve verses which he has written upon a well-known love episode—preserving, as usual, his ornate spelling and grammar

Weekly News, 15th March 1879

Further Reading

Related Gems

Comments (11) »

  1. Rachel Penney
    In the year 2012, on the 25th day of April at 12:37 am

    Oh McGonagall! Thou immortal bard!!!!

  2. Robert D. Ruplenas
    In the year 2013, on the 1st day of May at 7:16 pm

    His verse is truly unforgettable (try as one might).

  3. Julie Hampton
    In the year 2013, on the 19th day of July at 6:00 am

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. McGonagall is definitely a legendary poet…

  4. Ted
    In the year 2014, on the 23rd day of August at 5:43 am

    The rhyming of “other side” with “other side” is a particularly astounding aesthetic choice

  5. In the year 2014, on the 29th day of December at 11:12 am

    […] theory is that the poem of the same name, by McGonagall1, is the story upon which AnoHana is loosely […]

  6. Anji
    In the year 2017, on the 15th day of December at 12:38 pm

    Oh Edwin, you fool! Was she worth dying for? Still, the moral of this sad story is there in the first verse: “How very foolish lovers are”. Although this is typical McG tripe, it is nevertheless a sad story, I think well told by McG’s standards..

  7. Martin
    In the year 2018, on the 30th day of September at 1:04 pm

    If only McGonagall had actually read and studied more poetry. He could have become a serious poet.

  8. S J Midgley
    In the year 2020, on the 29th day of February at 11:57 pm

    There’s a subtle irony in the title. Dearest Ellen’s expressions of distress are somewhat hypocritical because, truth for to tell, she can’t even be bothered to call out the rescue services, let alone jump into the river wide to rescue poor Edwin herself. Instead she forgets about him just when he needs her most, clearly valuing the flower (or flowers in the plural, ’tis not clear which) more than she values him. Indeed, how very foolish lovers are – a point well made by Anji above.

  9. Dan Embleton
    In the year 2020, on the 15th day of August at 11:20 pm

    At least William was happy when he wrote this, it’s pity those who criticise him weren’t that charitable.
    Having come from a time thirty years later from when he passed away, that was in the time of the depression where we had nothing. There was no such thing as a free hand out and the Poor House or as what weas known as the Work Huse in England was the dread of all.
    William managed to keep himself and family out of that dreaded place. Given the right sercumstance and opportunity Our Willie might have done a lot better, I wonder how people today with their soft life would have managed.

  10. Joseph Salemi
    In the year 2020, on the 28th day of September at 9:11 pm

    If anyone is interested, my article on W. T. McGonagall is accessible at the website of the Society of Classical Poets. Just click the tab on “Essays” and scroll down a few inches.

  11. Chris Hunt
    In the year 2021, on the 15th day of June at 8:58 am

    I have added Dr Salemi’s essay mentioned in the previous comment, to the page of McGonagall links.

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