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Poems by 'world's worst poet' sold for 6,000 pounds

Latest update : 2008-05-16

"So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay, Until it was about midway, Then the central girders with a crash gave way, And down went the train and passengers into the Tay." This poem was sold with 35 others at an auction on Friday.

A collection of poems by a Scottish bard dubbed the "world's worst poet," who died penniless over a century ago, was sold at auction for 6,000 pounds (11,730 dollars, 7,530 euros) Friday.

William McGonagall was mocked by literary critics and had food thrown at him during public readings, before being buried in an unmarked grave in Edinburgh in 1902.

But his very notoriety means his work has become surprisingly popular, and on Friday the collection of 35 poems was snapped up at auction for nearly the top of the forecast price range, which went up to 6,500 pounds.

"McGonagall is obviously not the best poet, but he is actually very popular these days," said Alex Dove, a specialist at Lyon and Turnbull auction house in the Scottish capital, which sold the poems.

"The poems were bought by a private buyer who wishes to remain anonymous," he added.

He noted that McGonagall would probably have published and sold his poems on the street himself, adding that they would likely have been his main source of income.

The works, many of them signed, deal with topics including women's suffrage and the burning of a theatre in Aberdeen.

Friday's sale puts McGonagall in the same league as first edition copies of Harry Potter books signed by author J. K. Rowling, according to The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

The poet -- full name William Topaz McGonagall -- was nicknamed the "The Tayside Tragedian" in his home city of Dundee, where laughing locals would throw fruit and vegetables at him.

Critics have awarded him the "world's worst" label because of the crashing lack of subtlety in rhyme, imagery, vocabulary and repetition.

His most famous poem is about the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879, in which 75 people died:

"So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay,

"Until it was about midway,

"Then the central girders with a crash gave way,

"And down went the train and passengers into the Tay."

Date created : 2008-05-16