Verse and Worse

This page contains three parodies originally written to mark April Fools' Day on the Encyclopedia Titanica forum.  Two were transmitted from the Great Beyond, with the aid of William T Stead and the Digitally Enhanced Ouija Board.  (Patent Pending.  Also serves as pizza plate.)  The Lord Mersey story is partly true.  Lord Mersey really was a friend of Gilbert and Sullivan and sang their songs.  His song, however is a shameless spoof.  As readers seem to like these pranks, I have added them to my otherwise serious site.

************************************************************************************************

With all eternity to work in, William Shakespeare eventually turned his talents to Titanic.  The following is the final scene of the resulting drama.

As You Leak It.

Act V.
Scene VII. -
London.  A court of law.

LORD MERSEY, SIR ROBERT FINLAY, EDWARD WILDING.  Nobles, barristers, commoners and others.

Sir Robert Finlay: Two hours together had these gentlemen
(Fred Fleet and Reggie Lee) upon their watch
In the dead vast and middle of the night
Kept watch upon the ocean wet and wide
When Freddy suddenly cried out to Lee,
"Is this an iceberg that I see before me, Reg?"
And forthwith smote upon the bell three times
And by this clamour did alert the bridge
Whereon stood Murdoch, he who had the care
Of great Titanic and her company.
Then cried he unto him that manned the wheel,
"Thine helm to starboard, varlet, for thy life!"
Now some there be that say that he did wrong
And should have kept the ship upon her course
As fixed and constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.

Mersey: To turn or not to turn, that is the question.
Whether tis better on the bow to take
The impact of a dirty great big berg,
Or by a smartly turnéd wheel
To swing to port and pass the bastard by.
How say you, Master Wilding?

Wilding: Methinks the luckless Murdoch had no choice.
For had he hit the curséd ice full fair
The drowsy firemen slumbering below
Would all have perished in their sleep, forsooth,
Unhous'led, disappointed, unanel'd.
Then would unhappy Murdoch have been damned
And stripped of his certificate for life,
To eke out an existence on the shore,
Sans ship, sans rank, sans cash, sans everything.

Sir Robert Finlay: I say indeed it was not Murdoch's fault.
For who would run a vessel into ice
If he could turn but thirty poor degrees
And by this turning dodge it?
The fault is in the stars, not in ourselves.
They gave so parsimonious a light
That, coupled with the calmness of the sea,
The iceberg stole upon the ship all unaware.
I'm paid to say, "It was not Murdoch's fault,
Nor yet White Star's, nor yet the Board of Trade's"

Mersey: If that be so, this court is at an end.
I find the accident was no-one's fault.
Let's to the pub.  At once, good day.
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.  And for your well-earned fees
Let cash for quantities of ale and sack
Be put into each purse.  We would not drink
In that man's fellowship who lacks the coin
To buy his round whene'er it falleth due.
So thanks to all at once and to each one,
Whom we invite to see us stoned at The Crown.

(Exeunt omnes.  Musick offstage playeth Nearer my God of Mersey and Compassion to Autumn)

************************************************************************************************

William McGonagall writes again.

Connoisseurs of dreadful poetry will be familiar with the works of William McGonagall, the Scottish 'Poet and Tragedian' whose truly awful verses include The Tay Bridge Disaster and The Famous Tay Whale.  The latter was memorably set to music by Mátyás Seiber in 1958, proving that his deeply felt poetry crosses boundaries of race and language.  Indeed, it is greatly improved by the reader being completely ignorant of English.  His posthumous verse on the Titanic disaster is deservedly little known.  Strongly resembling The Tay Bridge Disaster, it shows that time and death did not improve his poetic technique.

The Lamentable Titanic Disaster.

By William Topaz McGonagall, Poet and Tragedian.

Oh, mighty Titanic! It grieves me to say
That over fifteen hundred lives were taken away,
When the ocean did drown your passengers so happy and gay,
Which happened on the fifteenth day of April in the year 1912,
When brave Captain Smith cried, 'Every man for himself'!

The Titanic was built in Belfast, under a gantry made by Arrol,
Who did make the New Railway Bridge over Silvery Tay,
Whose fame is known to this very day,
And those who built her were heard to say
That crossing the Atlantic would be to her but play,
Especially Mr J. Bruce Ismay.

It was on the tenth of April and 1912 was the year,
When the mighty Titanic sailed without fear
And crossed the Channel from England to France,
While her carefree passengers did sing and dance,
And all the rich passengers, such as John Jacob Astor,
Did take with them servants, never thinking of disaster,
Any more than did brave Captain Smith, the Master.

The Titanic left France in the night,
And presented a most beautiful and wonderful sight,
With her numerous portholes lit by electric light,
And next day did reach Ireland's green shore,
Where poor Irish emigrants did come on board by the score,
Because they hoped that in the United States
They would meet better fates,
And I say without fear that their expectations might have come true
If they had not been sunk beneath the ocean blue,
Which happened on the fifteenth day of April in the year 1912,
When brave Captain Smith cried, 'Every man for himself'!

In the Far North, the Demon of the Ice
Prepared for to destroy the Titanic in a trice,
And did send a mighty iceberg in the Titanic's way,
That the works of Man over Nature might not hold sway,
And in their pride the crew did not obey
The warnings sent to them from far away
By the wonderful wireless of Signor Marconi,
Whose invention did earn him great sums of money.

And, oh, it was a most terrible sight
When, just before the middle of the night,
The mighty Titanic struck the ice in full flight,
Making the sea to rush into the ship with all its might.

It grieves me to say that not enough boats
Were provided to keep the poor people afloat
And though brave Captain Rostron came, regardless of cost,
More than fifteen hundred souls were lost,
And articles of commerce, both humble and rare,
As well as numerous pieces of kitchen ware,
Which happened on the fifteenth day of April in the year 1912,
When brave Captain Smith cried, 'Every man for himself'!

I must now conclude my song
By saying that the life of the Titanic would have been long,
If those who had designed the boat
Had taken greater pains to make it stay afloat.
 

************************************************************************************************

A Newly Discovered Oddity

It is a little-known fact that Lord Mersey was a friend of Sir W S Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.  In 1911, Mersey was one of the main mourners at Gilbert's funeral.  Mersey was a good baritone and enjoyed singing his friends' songs.   The following ditty, evidently written by Lord Mersey to a familiar Sullivan tune, was recently found among his legal papers.  It was evidently prepared for a private party of some kind, perhaps Lord Mersey's birthday.  The manuscript indicates that the italicised passages were to be sung by a chorus of young barristers.

LORD MERSEY'S SONG.

When I was a lad fresh out of school
I worked with my father up in Liverpool
I stamped the letters and I filed the bills
And I tallied up the money in our great big tills.

And he tallied up the money in their great big tills!

And nobody thought, who looked at me,
That I'd ever be a viscount and a rich KC!

And nobody thought who looked at he
That he'd ever be a viscount and a rich KC!

But business life I found so tame
I sought in another field to make my name.
I took to the law and I knuckled down
And I soon became a barrister in wig and gown!

And he soon became a barrister in wig and gown!

And that's how you start to climb the tree
If you want to be a viscount and a rich KC!

And that's how you start to climb the tree
If you want to be a viscount and a rich KC!

When a big, bad iceberg hit Titanic
The cunning British government refused to panic.
They set me up in the Scottish Hall
And I found that no-one was at fault at all!

And he found that no-one was at fault at all!

And that's the kind of wisdom you'd expect to see
From someone who's a viscount and a rich KC!

And that's the kind of wisdom you'd expect to see
From someone who's a viscount and a rich KC!

When Empress of Ireland hit the mud
The Canadians cried, 'Give us a hand, m'lud!'
I taught the colonials how to judge
Between ourselves, it was a great big fudge!

Between ourselves, it was a great big fudge!

But that kind of fudging has to be
If you want to be a viscount and a rich KC!

But that kind of fudging has to be
If you want to be a viscount and a rich KC!

When Lusitania met her end
The government asked me, as a trusted friend,
To find it was the doing of the wicked Huns
And not the silly bungling of Britannia's sons.

And not the silly bungling of Britannia's sons.

Invention is the daughter of necessity
When you want to be a viscount and a rich KC!

Invention is the daughter of necessity
When you want to be a viscount and a rich KC!

Now schoolboys all, whatever you may do,
Take heed of the advice that I am giving you.
Don't bother with philosophy or history,
Or all the other guff at university.

Or all the other guff at university.

Go in for the law, and always get your fee,
And you can be a viscount and a rich KC!

Go in for the law, and always get your fee,
And you can be a viscount and a rich KC!


************************************************************************************************

The World's Worst Titanic Poem.

WANTED
For the Murder of the Poetic Muse.
The culprit revealed!  Australia has produced many fine poets.  Christopher Thomas Nixon (1865-1933) was not one of them.  This mug shot is taken from the cover of The Lay of Austral', a small booklet of 'Great Descriptive and Patriotic Poems', published in 1913.

The Titanic disaster "inspired" numerous would-be poets to take up their amateurish pens.  Generally speaking, the resulting verse was decidedly feeble, proving that sincerity is not synonymous with ability.  Maudlin sentimentality and clumsy versification are a gruesome combination.  The work of the South Australian poetaster, Christopher Thomas Nixon, published in 1912, is from a different world.  His 160 lines of stately iambic pentameter are almost free from faulty scansion, his rhymes are perfect and his language displays a rich vocabulary.  The total effect, however, is worse than the work of the unskilled hacks, and must rank among the most over-written and tedious poems on any topic.  I therefore claim for South Australia the "honour" of having produced the worst Titanic poem of all.  To spare the reader, I give only the first three verses and the last, complete with Latin tags.

The Passing of the Titanic.

(Sic transit gloria mundi.)

Through deep-sea gates of famed Southampton's bay,
  A mammoth liner swings in churning slide
Her regal tread ridged opaline gulfs asway,.
  And gauntlet flings to chance, wind, shoal and tide.
Ark wonderful!  Palatial town marine,
Invention's flower, rose-peak of skill-wrought plan;
The jewelled crown of Art the wizard, seen
  Since Noah's trade in Shinar's land began.

Vast triple screws gyrating flail and bore
  Swart blades as flukes of monstrous scouring whale;
Huge arm-rock cranks, and tree-bole shaftings roar
  And thrum reverberate, loud dynamic gale.
Stout deep-thrust pistons lunge and flash disport
 As mastadonic mighty tusks agleam;
Grim arc-bent turbine giant whirrs retort,
And gasps propulsing, force-gyved record dream.

The proud leviathanic courser bowls
  Like flank-gored steed in all-out pounding race;
Though wireless tocsin sparked on ether tolls,
  To brand Cain's curse-mark on her curbless face.
To-day she spurns yeast-spouting aftermath,
  Displays spun heels of frolic rainbowed scorn;
Next sun will scan surprised, abandoned path
  With flotsam pride and jetsam glories mourn.
........................................................................

Bare anguished Nations!  Bow and shameless pour
  With reason palled, and voices numb your tears;
Ten thousand shattered homes struck mourning sore
  To aching yearn through cloud-filled blighted years!
Implore, prayer heeding, Heaven's All-loving Love,
  Distil celestial balm, shed peace for pain;
At length in non-sea realms - which nought can move-
  Mend every rift, weld every wreck-rent chain.

Mors janua vitæ.
 

© Dave Gittins 2007 except for The Passing of the Titanic, which he happily disowns.

 HOME PORT