Friday, May 16, 2008

Worst Poetry Ever

It has to be said that William McGonagall's poetry was pretty dire:
"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..."
And Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, immortalised by Douglas Adams, wrote some dreadful stuff, but fortunately his output was not as prolific as that of McGonagall, and he had the excuse of being young at the time:
The dead swans lay in the stagnant pool....
They also smelt a great deal.
Some of Wordsworth's stuff is pretty dire, for example The Thorn (from which Coleridge fortunately persuaded him to omit the worst lines:
'Twas three feet long and two feet wide,
I measured it from side to side.
My friend Bo (currently expelling blatant beasts) found some pretty turgid stuff by James Fenton:
Real sample: 'This is Utopia./ I came here from Ethopia....Have you ever met an Arab?/ Yes I am a scarab...' The mind boggles. ... I have since read James Fenton's Selected Poems (Penguin). They are excruciating. I turned page after page staggered by their ineptitude. ('Soldiers die, / Why why why?')
As the critics said, very much like chewing shoe leather, or the total destruction of language.

Personally, I find the poetry of Thomas Chatterton to be unbelievably bad; anyone who rhymes "pugilistic oafs" with "fisticuffs" without intending irony cannot be seen as a great poet. I am surprised that the Romantic poets liked his stuff so much.

And we must not forget the indefatigable Felicia Hemans, author of "the boy stood on the burning deck" (possibly the most parodied poem in the language, and one of the worst possible sentiments for a poem - do what you're told, even if it's completely pointless and you're going to die).

Of course, there may be worse poets than this that no-one has published. We must be thankful for small mercies.


Steve Hayes said...

Wasn't it the Brit poet laureate who penned the immortal lines

Across the wires the electric message came
He is no better, he is much the same

concerning the final illness of King George V (or VI)?

Saw it in some English grammar book to illustrate bathos.

Yvonne said...

That's pretty bad poetry!

(And people wonder why I dislike rhyming poetry!)

Steve Hayes said...

Thanks to DouglasAdams it dow has its own genre: Vogon poetry.