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Saturday, 20 September 2014

An address to the New Tay Bridge by William Topaz McGonagall.

Last week Burns, this week McGonagall. Talk about varied delights.

William Topaz McGonagall wrote three Tay Bridge poems. One was about the magnificence of the first bridge; one was about the terrible disaster when it collapsed while a train was crossing it; and one was about the second Tay Bridge, which replaced the original bridge and has fortunately stood the test of time.

Taybridge from law 02SEP05.jpg

It's the middle poem, the one about the disaster, which is most famous, but all three of the poems are done in McGonagall's unique and astonishing style.

The text of the whole of the third poem can be found HERE, but an extract is enough to show off McGonagall's extraordinary...um...I'm not absolutely sure what to call it.

It's verse, but not as we know it.

BEAUTIFUL new railway bridge of the Silvery Tay,
With your strong brick piers and buttresses in so grand array,
And your thirteen central girders, which seem to my eye
Strong enough all windy storms to defy.
And as I gaze upon thee my heart feels gay,
Because thou are the greatest railway bridge of the present day,
And can be seen for miles away
From North, South, East or West of the Tay

Now, is that bad verse? It defies most of the rules, but then originality is a good thing, isn't it? I accept that the humour is unconscious, but then in this vale of tears surely any joy is to be highly valued, whatever the original intention.

Most of all, the style hinges on McGonagall's highly unpoetic honesty: and that should surely be valued most highly of all.  

Sadly, with this third Tay Bridge poem, William Topaz McGonagall seems to have felt that his work was done. He never wrote another.

The world of literature - and, indeed, the world itself - is a duller place for it.

I leave you with his final partial, personal, and patriotic words on the subject.

The New Yorkers boast about their Brooklyn Bridge,
But in comparison to thee it seems like a midge,
Because thou spannest the Silvery Tay
A mile and more longer I venture to say;
Besides the railway carriages are pulled across by a rope,
Therefore Brooklyn Bridge cannot with thee cope;
And as you have been opened on the 20th day of June,
I hope Her Majesty Queen Victoria will visit thee very soon,
Because thou art worthy of a visit from Duke, Lord or Queen,
And strong and securely built, which is most worthy to be seen
Near by Dundee and the bonnie Magdalen Green.

Word To Use Today: bridge. This word has been around in English for a long time. The Old English version was brycg.

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