The following unpublished and possibly never before seen poem by the Scottish poet William Topaz McGonagall was found amongst my son William's papers, sent to him in a letter dated November 9th, 1892, commemorating the death of my wife Caroline Griswold. He attempted to have it published, but for reasons that elude me not a single publication ever printed it. Even my own poem on the subject, Five Days, found publication, despite its poetical deficiencies. My endless thanks go out to McGonagall for his kindness and sympathy.
ON THE TRAGIC DEATH OF THE WIFE OF THE REVEREND RUFUS GRISWOLD, POE'S DEFAMER
BY WILLIAM TOPAZ MCGONAGALL
For poor Rufus Griswold few tears have been shed,
Because of his treatment of Edgar Allan Poe after he was dead,
But hear ye this tragic tale I shall to ye relate,
And for Rufus Griswold I think ye shall harbour less hate.
In 1842, t'was a grim second Wednesday of the month of November,
For an event occurred that all should remember,
For on this tragic day, November nine,
The Reverend Rufus Griswold lost his sweet wife, Caroline.
To Griswold's third child, a son, his wife in New York had just given birth,
But the occasion was swiftly robbed of its mirth,
For as soon as he had returned to Philadelphia,
Both Caroline and her newborn became most unhealthy.
While dining with friends at the Jones Hotel,
A messenger arrived with the dreadful news to tell,
That back in New York, which he had three days ago left,
Both his wife and his baby had died, and he was quite bereft.
Griswold's heart was full of dismay,
With the news that his bride had been taken away,
And his lamentations must have been terrible to see;
I'd wager his cries could be heard e'en 'round bonnie Dundee.
'Neath his burning brow the tears did heavily drop,
And all the way back to New York his weeping did not stop,
Until when he arrived he embraced and kissed her cold corpse,
As his daughters waited with him for his grief to run its course.
And his face as he caressed her was horrible to behold,
As he cut off locks of her hair to have and to hold,
To save as a keepsake of his wife, lost to him on November nine,
Which he would mourn and remember for a very long time.
She was placed in her vault on November eleventh,
And he could not doubt her soul had ascended to heaven,
And to almighty God he begged and complained,
And that night at midnight he wrote her a poem that was much tear-stained.
Forty days Griswold suffered with grief and pain and sadness,
And his friends and relatives thought he had been plunged into madness,
For though she was entombed, by him she could not be forgotten,
So he entered her tomb and kissed her, not caring if she was rotten.
All the night long he held her dead body in his arms,
For he loved her too much to be frightened of germs,
And he cut off more hair and on her cold breast he slept,
Until in the morning when he was dragged from her crypt.
So, good Christians, keep Griswold in your heart every ninth of November,
Even those of you who otherwise would his memory dismember,
For if he had not on this day suffered so much of woe,
His life may have been happier, and he may not have libelled Poe.
Not even the dead bloating in the depths of the silvery Tay,
Could elicit such grief as that suffered by Griswold this day,
For of the many tragedies that I have in verse so far chronicled,
This is the worst by far, yours truly, the poet, William McGonagall.
If I still had a heart it would now be broken.