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Say It Right Series

Revoking the Poetic License

Posted by lotsofwordsandnospaces June 10, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: McGonogall

I wanted to post to this group about William McGonagall, perhaps the worst poet in the English language. I really want to encourage the study of Chinese, so I set out looking for a a parallel from the Chinese poetry tradition, and I simply can not find anyone similar.

McGonagall was not a funny poet (mostly sincere), and his rhymes rhymed... he was was not a gifted poet, and simplydidn't know it (to quote Friends of all things).

Here is a snippet from one of his most famous poems:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk

All I can really take heart from my research is that my culture seems to relish in the sublimely bad, whereas I percieve that whilst there no doubt were some terrible poets in Chinese history... China has chosen to forget them. I can picture them clearly, and I lament the loss of their works.

Another thing that occurs to me - I recognise McGonagall's poems are 'bad', but the essence of its badness is hard to sum up.

Surely if we can appreciate a taste, we must be able to appreciate a bad taste. And although taste is relative - there are some tastes which are universally recognised as being 'bad', but then, many where they are not.... ramble ramble ramble... what am I trying to say...

I realise I am not a critic when it comes to Chinese poetry. I don't really have the faculties. After the translation, and borrowing other people's interpretations, the critical faculty never gets employed. The lesson is what I judge, the quality of the readin is what I judge - but I am a novice when it comes to appreciating Chinese poems. I am going to go back through the PwP and decide if any of them suck.

End of Rant

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