Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My favourite worst poem

There are many serious contenders for the title of worst poem of all time. The all-time greats - people like Julia Moore and William McGonagall - produced gloriously crappy epics (of which more at a later date). But even the big guns occasionally dropped a bollock. Can you believe that William Wordsworth could produce lines like:

'I've measured it from side to side;
'Tis three feet long and two feet wide...'

(describing a pond in The Thorn)

But this pales into insignificance beside the outlandish poesy of Theophilus Marzials. His greatest work (in my humble opinion) is A Tragedy, first published in 1874 in an anthology of his work called The Gallery of Pigeons. Dante Gabriel Rossetti hated it, saying that, 'I could scarcely believe it wasn't a spoof, so I checked the first edition, and sure enough this text is accurate and the book clearly had pretensions to be taken seriously.'

So here it is in all of its bizarre onomatopoeic glory ...

A Tragedy

Death! Plop.
The barges down in the river flop.
Flop, plop.
Above, beneath.
From the slimy branches the grey drips drop,
As they scraggle black on the thin grey sky,
Where the black cloud rack-hackles drizzle and fly
To the oozy waters, that lounge and flop
On the black scrag piles, where the loose cords plop,
As the raw wind whines in the thin tree-top.
Plop, plop.
And scudding by
The boatmen call out hoy! and hey!
All is running water and sky,
And my head shrieks -- "Stop,"
And my heart shrieks -- "Die."

My thought is running out of my head;
My love is running out of my heart,
My soul runs after, and leaves me as dead,
For my life runs after to catch them -- and fled
They all are every one!
-- and I stand, and start,
At the water that oozes up, plop and plop,
On the barges that flop
And dizzy me dead.
I might reel and drop.
And the shrill wind whines in the thin tree-top
Flop, plop.

A curse on him.
Ugh! yet I knew --
I knew --
If a woman is false can a friend be true?
It was only a lie from beginning to end --
My Devil --
My "Friend"
I had trusted the whole of my living to!
Ugh; and I knew!
So what do I care,
And my head is empty as air --
I can do,
I can dare,
(Plop, plop
The barges flop
Drip drop.)
I can dare! I can dare!
And let myself all run away with my head
And stop.
Plop, flop.


'And let myself all run away with my head?' Genius.

Want to read more bad poetry? I can recommend three books - The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse by D B Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee, Very Bad Poetry by Kathryn and Ross Petras, and Pegasus Descending: A Treasury of the Best Bad Poems in English by James Camp, X J Kennedy and Keith Waldrop. All three are crammed full of delicious dross and doeful waffle.


Me said...

onomatopoeic - wonderful word. You can really see though why they suspected it was a spoof - it's a particularly dire poem!

Adolph said...

Theres a problem here, where do you draw the line between lyrics and poems? Hmmm, guess I'll have to put together a collection of great songs, with lyrics that would make a dead cat rise from the dead to run away if you read the lyrics as poems...

note to self.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Oddly enough, like most teenagers I used to write awful poetry ... but when I set them to music and called them 'lyrics' I somehow got away with it. Mind you, that doesn't always work. I'm thinking here of songs like Steve Bent's 'I'm going to Spain' that has a chorus that could NEVER be called good poetry ...

'I'm going to Spain,
Cousin Norman had a real fine time last year.
I hear it doesn't rain.
Hope that I can quickly learn the language.'

There are no excuses for that kind of writing!

Adolph said...

And sometimes a really bad poem makes a good lyric. Rage Against The Machine sings Shakespeare? Rather not, but then again - Shakespeare should stay away from Killing in the Name.

I need a beer.