Infamous bad poetry

The Tay Bridge Disaster

William McGonagall

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 seemed 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 people’s hearts with sorrow,
And made them all 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 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.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Infamous bad poetry

  1. Jennifer

    Sorry for the unfortunate passengers…Good poem, except a little too long for me ;O

  2. Jennifer

    And thanks for your kind birthday wishes and beautiful flower on my GB, Pen! Hope you are having a lovely day.

  3. Curiosity

    Bet that was an uncommon amount of lives lost in an accident in those days. Apart from ships I don’t suppose there was any other kind of transport that carried so many people. I wonder if the Bridge at Tay was purposely constructed for the railway or was it an old one that was adapted. I should hope that lessons were learned from that and future bridges designed better. Makes you wonder though, having seen the amazing ones in your previous blog.

  4. Jessica

    I wonder if there are poets today writint about disasters and national events? You don’t get to hear about them, do you? I wonder what people thought when this poem was first published?

  5. Happy

    Lines I wish I had written! ‘Which made their hearts for to quail’. The ending is conclusive. This post has me torn (up) and yet it is a poem of commemoration. Do not know McGonagall but, like Jessica, do wonder what initial reactions were to such a poem and his life as a poet? For the 19th (?) century this may have been the style. So in a way it’s like this historical example of writing and memorial of a national (?) disaster. Thanks for post. Have no idea how you located. Thank you for finding/posting. YVR remains rainless on the coast. This is like 20 or 21 days now, except for a 20 minute shower, so lots of humidity but not raindrops. Hope you are well as can be.

  6. FATMAN

    Poetry I never was any good at it no matter how hard I tried…. On e famous poem I had to read at school was ‘St Agnes Eve’ and that almost put me off for life at the tender age of 14… Cannot remember who wrote it even and do you what I not going to even Google it hhahahaha. I love poetry now along with Opera so obviously my tastes have changed…

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