Many people consider this the worst poem ever written in the English language — “A Tragedy,” by the Belgian Pre-Raphaelite poet Theophilus Marzials. It was published in 1874, in his collection The Gallery of Pigeons:
The barges down in the river flop.
From the slimy branches the grey drips drop,
As they scraggle black on the thin grey sky,
Where the black cloud rack-hackles drizzle and fly
To the oozy waters, that lounge and flop
On the black scrag piles, where the loose cords plop,
As the raw wind whines in the thin tree-top.
And scudding by
The boatmen call out hoy! and hey!
All is running water and sky,
And my head shrieks — “Stop,”
And my heart shrieks — “Die.”
* * * * *
My thought is running out of my head;
My love is running out of my heart,
My soul runs after, and leaves me as dead,
For my life runs after to catch them — and fled
They all are every one! — and I stand, and start,
At the water that oozes up, plop and plop,
On the barges that flop
And dizzy me dead.
I might reel and drop.
And the shrill wind whines in the thin tree-top
* * * * *
A curse on him.
Ugh! yet I knew — I knew —
If a woman is false can a friend be true?
It was only a lie from beginning to end —
My Devil — My “Friend”
I had trusted the whole of my living to!
Ugh; and I knew!
So what do I care,
And my head is empty as air —
I can do,
I can dare,
The barges flop
I can dare! I can dare!
And let myself all run away with my head
Reportedly Marzials once loudly asked a hushed library, “Am I not the darling of the British Museum Reading Room?” The response is not recorded.