Mary, the Maid o' the Tay

William Topaz McGonagall 1825 – 1902 (Greyfriars Parish, Edinburgh)

Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Tay,
Whaur me and my Mary oft did stray;
But noo she is dead and gone far away,
Sae I maun mourn for lovely Mary, the Maid o' the Tay,

The first time I met her 'twas in the month of May,
And the sun was shining bricht on the Silvery Tay;
I asked her name and she modestly did say,
"Some fouks ca's me lovely Mary, the Maid o' the Tay."

Oh, charming Mary o' the Tay,
Queen o' my soul by nicht and day;
But noo thou'rt gane and left me here
To weep for you, sweet Mary dear.

Oh, bonnie Mary o' the Tay,
Joy o' my heart and Queen o' May;
With thee I aye felt happy and gay
While rambling with thee on the banks o' the Tay.

Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Tay,
With my Mary ye seemed ever gay;
But noo ye seem baith dark and drear,
For my puir heart ye canna cheer.

My Mary was handsome and fair to be seen,
She bad bonnie fair hair and twa blue een;
And she was, aye happy while we carelessly did stray
Alang the banks o' the Silvery Tay.

Oh, Mary dear, I mourn thy loss,
To me the world seems nought but dross;
Sae I maun mourn baith nicht and day
For my lovely Mary, the Maid o' the Tay.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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William Topaz McGonagall

William Topaz McGonagall (March 1825 – 29 September 1902) was an Irish weaver, poet and actor who lived in Scotland. He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of, or concern for, his peers' opinions of his work. He wrote about 200 poems, including "The Tay Bridge Disaster" and "The Famous Tay Whale", which are widely regarded as some of the worst in English literature. Groups throughout Scotland engaged him to make recitations from his work, and contemporary descriptions of these performances indicate that many listeners were appreciating McGonagall's skill as a comic music hall character. Collections of his verse remain popular, with several volumes available today. McGonagall has been lampooned as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he was deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme. McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings are considered to generate in his work. Scholars argue that his inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language. His work is in a long tradition of narrative ballads and verse written and published about great events and tragedies, and widely circulated among the local population as handbills. In an age before radio and television, their voice was one way of communicating important news to an avid public. more…

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