Monday, June 4, 2018

Alas!

It is said that William McGonagall was the worst English-language poet. Who was the second worst? Anthony Daniels says it was Cumberland Clark.
So I thought I needed to become familiar with each of them. First I searched for McGonagall and found his works collected here at McGonagall Online. As an example of his work the first two verses of "An Autumn Reverie"
Alas! Beautiful Summer now hath fled,
And the face of Nature doth seem dead,
And the leaves are withered, and falling off the trees,
By the nipping and chilling autumnal breeze.

The pleasures of the little birds are all fled,
And with the cold many of them will be found dead,
Because the leaves of the trees are scattered in the blast,
And makes the feathered creatures feel downcast. .... [the rest]
Anthony Daniels writes here about Cumberland Clark:
He was the second-worst poet in the English language, not far behind William McGonagall. Born in 1862, he seems to have commenced author, as the saying goes, in his middle fifties, thereafter suffering, or perhaps enjoying, severe graphomania, the compulsion never to leave off writing. Until then he had led a wandering life, abandoning his native London for Australia as a teenager, studying for the church at Sydney University, and working variously as a minister, gold miner, and sheep farmer in many far-flung places. But he settled eventually in Bournemouth and evidently decided that Bournemouth was best.

Much of his poetry extols the town. It is wonderfully, gloriously, hilariously awful. Here, taken at random when I opened the second edition of The Bournemouth Song Book (1934 second edition, 1929 first, privately published) is the opening stanza of “Bournemouth Boarding Houses”:
The boarding houses met with in this splendid seaside town
Are mainly very excellent, deserving their renown.
The residents form usually congenial society,
Although among so many you meet types in great variety.
Daniels also quotes the opening verse of “Bournemouth and Napoleon”:
Years ago Napoleon, at the apex of his power,
Was still upon the rampage, other countries to devour.
The English folk were not afraid, but what upset them most,
Was thinking, p’raps, he’d have a try to land upon their coast.
I have yet to discover an online collection of Cumberland Clark's "poetry." If I do I'm sure it will be pure pleasure.