Tuesday poem: An Address to Shakespeare by William McGonagall
May 28, 2012
An Address to Shakespeare
Immortal! William Shakespeare, there’s none can you excel,
You have drawn out your characters remarkably well,
Which is delightful for to see enacted upon the stage
For instance, the love-sick Romeo, or Othello, in a rage;
His writings are a treasure, which the world cannot repay,
He was the greatest poet of the past or of the present day
Also the greatest dramatist, and is worthy of the name,
I’m afraid the world shall never look upon his like again.
His tragedy of Hamlet is moral and sublime,
And for purity of language, nothing can be more fine
For instance, to hear the fair Ophelia making her moan,
At her father’s grave, sad and alone….
In his beautiful play, “As You Like It,” one passage is very fine,
Just for instance in fhe forest of Arden, the language is sublime,
Where Orlando speaks of his Rosilind, most lovely and divine,
And no other poet I am sure has written anything more fine;
His language is spoken in the Church and by the Advocate at the bar,
Here and there and everywhere throughout the world afar;
His writings abound with gospel truths, moral and sublime,
And I’m sure in my opinion they are surpassing fine;
In his beautiful tragedy of Othello, one passage is very fine,
Just for instance where Cassio looses his lieutenancy
… By drinking too much wine;
And in grief he exclaims, “Oh! that men should put an
Enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains.”
In his great tragedy of Richard the III, one passage is very fine
Where the Duchess of York invokes the aid of the Divine
For to protect her innocent babes from the murderer’s uplifted hand,
And smite him powerless, and save her babes, I’m sure ’tis really grand.
Immortal! Bard of Avon, your writings are divine,
And will live in the memories of your admirers until the end of time;
Your plays are read in family circles with wonder and delight,
While seated around the fireside on a cold winter’s night.
Whenever I feel doubt about my poetry, I turn either to a great poet for inspiration, or to William Topaz McGonagall. Schadenfreude soothes as well as Shakespeare, and this work, by the man often described as the world’s worst poet, has a particular bite as the incompetent bard of Dundee struggles to describe that other William.
One of my favourite sites on the web is a tribute site to the great McGonagall. It’s put together by Chris Hunt, and its full title is McGonagall Online — A Tribute to the great Poet and Tragedian of Dundee. Such a well-researched and professional memorial to this man who seems to have continued to believe in his poetry’s worth, despite ridicule wherever he travelled. I often find myself laughing, and I often find myself wincing, as I read both the poetry and biographical entries.
His unsuccessful journey to meet Queen Victoria is recorded in painful detail down to every meal at every farm in one of his autobiographical writings. His hatred of publicans and alcohol (you’ll note how he ‘subtly’ worked it into the Shakespeare tribute) adds another source of mirth, particularly as he often performed his readings in pubs. Was his persistence admirable, or evidence of his lack of ability to read the world, just as he was unable to write anything that scanned or rhymed with less clang than is made by a metal bridge collapsing?
Now, for other poems, all better than those of McGonagall:
Click on this scattered feather
That tells a tale of foul and windy Southern weather,
Such as might cause a sturdy bridge to suddenly fall,
Or an unfortunate boat to founder because of the treacherous squall.
It really is hard to write like that; he had a talent. I’m off to see a Bell Shakespeare production of Macbeth later this week. May this poem not intrude itself into my mind, with its limpingly pedestrian ‘for instances’ and endless ‘fines’, as the witches appear.