When I turned 25 my friend Sanna gave me a little poetry anthology that I have since treasured. Kathryn & Ross Petras’s Very Bad Poetry (1997) is a lovely read. One of the versifiers most voluminously represented there is W.T. McGonagall (1830-1902). After quoting his words, “The most startling incident in my life was the time I discovered myself to be a poet”, the Petrases comment, “Many people in his native Dundee, Scotland, apparently disagreed with his discovery.”
Here is McGonagall’s “The Death of Lord and Lady Dalhousie“.
Alas! Lord and Lady Dalhousie are dead, and buried at last,
Which causes many people to feel a little downcast;
And both lie side by side in one grave,
But I hope God in His goodness their souls will save.
[I omit eight stanzas that cover Lord Dalhousie’s CV.]
‘Twas in the year of 1887, and on Thursday the 1st of December,
Which his relatives and friends will long remember
That were present at the funeral in Cockpen churchyard,
Because they had for the noble Lord a great regard.
About eleven o’clock the remains reached Dalhousie,
And were met by a body of the tenantry.
They conveyed them inside the building all seemingly woebegone
And among those that sent wreaths was Lord Claude Hamilton.
Those that sent wreaths were but very few,
But one in particular was the Duke of Buccleuch;
Besides Dr. Herbert Spencer, and Countess Rosebery, and Lady Bennett,
Which no doubt were sent by them with heartfelt regret.
Besides those that sent wreaths in addition were the Earl and Countess of Aberdeen,
Especially the Prince of Wales’ was most lovely to be seen,
And the Earl of Dalkeith’s wreath was very pretty too,
With a mixture of green and white flowers, beautiful to view.
Amongst those present at the interment were Mr Marjoribanks, M.P.,
Also ex-Provost Ballingall from Bonnie Dundee;
Besides the Honourable W. G. Colville, representing the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh,
While in every one’s face standing at the grave was depicted sorrow.
The funeral service was conducted in the Church of Cockpen
By the Rev. J. Crabb, of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, town of Brechin;
And as the two coffins were lowered into their last resting place,
Then the people retired with sad hearts at a quick pace.
Update 18 January: Dear Reader John Tierney has posted this blog’s first audio comment, where he mentions that he actually excavated at Cockpen churchyard 20 years ago, using “a long-handled Irish spade”. Here’s the site report.