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The Battle of Alexandria (or The Reconquest of Egypt)
by William Topaz McGonagall
circa 1897

It was on the 21st of March in the year of 1801,
The British were at their posts every man;
And their position was naturally very strong,
And the whole line from sea to lake was about a mile long.

And on the ruins of a Roman Palace, rested the right,
And every man amongst them was eager for the fight,
And the reserve was under the command of Major General Moore,
A hero brave, whose courage was both firm and sure.

And in the valley between the right were the cavalry,
Which was really a most beautiful sight to see;
And the 28th were posted in a redoubt open in the rear,
Determined to hold it to the last without the least fear.

And the Guards and the Inniskillings were eager for the fray,
Also the Gordon Highlanders and Cameron Highlanders in grand array;
Likewise the dismounted Cavalry and the noble Dragoons,
Who never fear'd the cannons shot when it loudly booms.

And between the two armies stretched a sandy plain,
Which the French tried to chase the British off, but it was all in vain,
And a more imposing battle-field seldom has been chosen,
But alack the valour of the French soon got frozen.

Major General Moore was the general officer of the night,
And had galloped off to the left and to the right,
The instant he heard the enemy briskly firing;
He guessed by their firing they had no thought of retiring.

Then a wild broken huzza was heard from the plain below,
And followed by a rattle of musketry from the foe;
Then the French advanced in column with their drums loudly beating,
While their officers cried forward men and no retreating.

Then the colonel of the 58th reserved his fire,
Until the enemy drew near, which was his desire;
Then he ordered his men to attack them from behind the palace wall,
Then he opened fire at thirty yards, which did the enemy appal.

And thus assailed in front, flank and rear,
The French soon began to shake with fear;
Then the 58th charged them with the bayonet, with courage unshaken,
And all the enemy that entered the palace ruins were killed or taken.

Then the French Invincibles, stimulated by liquor and the promise of gold,
Stole silently along the valley with tact and courage bold,
Proceeded by a 6 pounder gun, between the right of the guards,
But brave Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart quickly their progress retards.

Then Colonel Stewart cried to the right wing,
Forward! My lads, and make the valley ring,
And charge them with your bayonets and capture their gun,
And before very long they will be glad to run.

Then loudly grew the din of battle, like to rend the skies,
As Major Stirling's left wing faced, and charged them likewise;
Then the Invincibles maddened by this double attack,
Dashed forward on the palace ruins, but they soon were driven back.

And by the 58th, and Black Watch they were brought to bay, here,
But still they were resolved to sell their lives most dear,
And it was only after 650 of them had fallen in the fray,
That the rest threw down their arms and quickly ran away.

Then unexpected, another great body of the enemy was seen,
With their banners waving in the breeze, most beautiful and green;
And advancing on the left of the redoubt,
But General Moore instantly ordered the Black Watch out.

And he cried, brave Highlanders you are always in the hottest of the fight,
Now make ready for the bayonet charge with all your might;
And remember our country and your forefathers
As soon as the enemy and ye foregathers.

Then the Black Watch responded with a loud shout,
And charged them with their bayonets without fear or doubt;
And the French tried hard to stand the charge, but it was all in vain,
And in confusion they all fled across the sandy plain.

Oh! It was a glorious victory, the British gained that day,
But the joy of it, alas! Was unfortunately taken away,
Because Sir Ralph Abercrombie, in the hottest of the fight, was shot,
And for his undaunted bravery, his name will never be forgot.

Editor's Notes: From a collection of McGonagall's unpublished works, "Last Poetic Gems."  This poet and "tragedian" of Dundee has been widely hailed as the writer of the worst poetry in the English language.  A self-educated handloom weaver from Dundee, he seemingly went through a phase of self-discovery in 1877, at about the age of forty-five, when the realization hit him that he was in fact a poet.  McGonagall then embarked upon a 25 year career as a working poet who had the skills of, in the words of one modern day wordsmith, "delighting and appalling audiences across Scotland and beyond."  One has to feel for this gentleman, who was regularly engaged to give entertainments in small halls just so his audience could make a goat of him.  Regardless, his belief in himself could not be shaken, despite society's reaction.

His reputation of the being the best "bad poet in the English language" extends even to the present time (a McGonagall Society endures) where some fans flock to McGonagall's works in much the same way moths are attracted to flame.  Scottish literary critic James Cameron went so far as to state that McGonagall's oeuvre was "of a magical dreadfulness that reached the sublime" and that this self-proclaimed poet/actor was "one of God's clumsy innocents, who found his way among the angels."

After the release of "Poetic Gems" McGonagall continued to write for twelve years, publishing and selling his work on the streets in broadsheet form.  Two additional publications, "More Poetic Gems," (1962) and "Last Poetic Gems," (1968) were released with his remaining broadsheet and other previously unpublished material.  They were well received, which in itself is a testimony to McGonagall's staying power.