Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Worst Poem of All Time?

What is the worst poem ever written?

There are many serious contenders for the title. The all-time greats - people like Julia Moore and William Topaz McGonagall - produced gloriously crappy epics. 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)

For a while, I considering nailing my colours to The Stuttering Lover (not to be confused with the traditional Irish song of the same name - see here) by Fred Emerson Brooks (1850-1923). It's astoundingly bad. Read it out aloud in all of its insensitive glory (I hear it in my head as read by Forrest Gump for some reason):

The Stuttering Lover

I luh-love you very well,
Much mu-more than I can tell.
With a lu-lu-lu-lu-lu-love I cannot utter;
I kn-know just what to say
But my tongue gets in the way,
And af-fe-fe-fe-fe-fection’s bound to stutter!

When a wooer wu-wu-woos,
And a cooer cu-cu-coos,
Till his face is re-re-red as a tomato,
Take his heart in bi-bi-bits,
Every portion fi-fi-fits,
Though his love song su-su-seem, somewhat staccato!

I'll wu-worship you, of course,
And nuh-never get divorce,
Though you stu-stu-stu-stu-storm in angry weather;
For whu-when you're in a pique,
So muh-mad you cannot speak,
We'll be du-du-du-du-dumb then both together.

However, this looks like the finest prose when compared to the outlandish poesy of Theophile Marzials (1850-1920). 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 (I've often thought that would be a great name for a band).

The poem inflamed people's passions - although maybe not in the way Marzials would have liked. 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.

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