Last week we profiled an unpublished poem by A. E. Housman coming up for auction at Bonham’s this spring in the Roy Davids sale. We’re going to take a 180 degree turn from that tender poem to head in another direction entirely.
William McGonagall, often considered the worst poet in the history of the English language, also has an unpublished poem heading to the block in the same sale. The strikingly awful poem was written on June 6, 1893 in commemoration of the union between George Albert, the soon-to-be King George V, and Princess Victoria Mary.
Despite (or rather because of) McGonagall’s terrible reputation, the poem is expected fetch £3,000 at auction.
McGonagall was a 19th Scottish weaver and actor who published approximately 200 poems in his lifetime. His contemporaries considered his poetry to be as awful as history would remember it. As such, McGonagall was regularly invited to give readings throughout Scotland which were considered highly amusing entertainment by the attendees.
His primary claim to fame is the poem “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” written about the tragic collapse of a railway bridge over the River Tay, “which will be remember’d for a very long time.”
McGonagall’s unpublished poem coming up for auction is entitled “In Praise of the Royal Marriage:” It’s about on par with McGonagall’s usual poetic inclinations:
God bless, the lovely, and sweet Princess May, Also, the Duke of York, so handsome and gay.
Long life, and happiness to them, in married life.
May they always, be prosperous and free from strife.
May their hearts, always be full of glee. And, be kind, to each other, and ne’er disagree.
And, may the demon, discontent, never mar their happiness.
And, my God, be their comforter, in time of distress...
And, if they have children, may they grow grace.
And, be an honour, to the royal race. Of the empress of India, and Great Britain’s Queen. Who is faithful to her subjects, and ever has been.