William Topaz McGonagal was a Scottish poetic genius. He has been imitated often but nobody has ever matched the sublime, unique quality of his verse. I am not attempting to mimic his voice, this is just an impression.
This ode was written for the Rev. George Gilfillan, who occasionally gave him a shilling, and the Rev responded, "Shakespeare never wrote anything like this."
His work is immediately recognisable: it is most memorable, always driven by the highest priciples and sincerest emotions. It was always a matter of great regret for him that he never was made Poet Laureate. He walked 50 miles to see Queen Victoria, getting soaking wet, to persuade her to grant him an interview as Poet Laureate, but he was turned away at the door.
He had a hard life of perpetual poverty. He sold his poems in the street. He campained against the evils of drink, reciting in pubs and at the circus, often having to dodge rotten fish, eggs and potatoes flung at him by the crowd. He hated the keepers of public houses declaring, "I don't like publicans. The first man to throw a plate of peas at me was a publican."
When ever there was a newsworthy event he would pen a poem about it, such as,
"Alas! Lord and Lady Dalhousie are dead, and buried at last,
Which causes many people to feel a little downcast."
Many of his poems dealt with catastophic events, the most famous being The Tay Bridge Disaster.
He also write moral odes about acts of heroism and some sublime short pieces such as:
A chicken is a noble beast,
The cow is much forlorner;
Standing in the pouring rain,
With a leg at every corner.
This isn't comic verse. He never said anything intended to be comical in his life.
Here's Tim Hopkins imitating William McGonagall imitating Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that goodnight"
"Do not go gentle into death's esteemed Vale,
Elderly persons should try to hang on when the body starts to fail;
Though, of course, one day it naturally transpires,
That everyone's membership of the human race expires."
George Gilfillan's picture came from this site:
All hail to the Rev. George Gilfillan of Dundee,
He is the greatest preacher I did ever hear or see.
He is a man of genius bright,
And in him his congregation does delight,
Because they find him to be honest and plain,
Affable in temper, and seldom known to complain.
He preaches in a plain straightforward way,
The people flock to hear him night and day,
And hundreds from the doors are often turn'd away,
Because he is the greatest preacher of the present day.
He has written the life of Sir Walter Scott,
And while he lives he will never be forgot,
Nor when he is dead,
Because by his admirers it will be often read;
And fill their minds with wonder and delight,
And wile away the tedious hours on a cold winter's night.
He has also written about the Bards of the Bible,
Which occupied nearly three years in which he was not idle,
Because when he sits down to write he does it with might and main,
And to get an interview with him it would be almost vain,
And in that he is always right,
For the Bible tells us whatever your hands findeth to do,
Do it with all your might.
Rev. George Gilfillan of Dundee, I must conclude my muse,
And to write in praise of thee my pen does not refuse,
Nor does it give me pain to tell the world fearlessly, that when
You are dead they shall not look upon your like again.