The work of Caledonian poet Gulielmus McGonagall is generally only known in English translations, which “defy complete analysis.” (Walker 5) Until this point, none of the original Latin versions of these poems have been published. Many lost works can be found, however, if one is willing to expend sufficient intellectual effort.
This writer discovered the first line presented below in October of 2017. However, as the first line is so similar between all three poems in the Tavi Pons cycle, it remained unclear which of the poems it begins. Thus, they were overjoyed to see the suggestion that the middle poem in the cycle should be available “in Virgilian hexameters.” (Hammer) Encouraged, this writer returned to the books and was able to find the two fragments of De Tavi Pontis Clade provided below.
Though the traditional English translations are justly celebrated, a prose gloss of the new fragments is provided as well.
Traditional Translation (McGonagall Online)
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.
Trāminis ō pulcher pons tū Tāvī radiantis!
Mortem (vae!) vītās nōnāgintā rapuisse
Lūmine postrēmō sanctō cūjūspiam || annī
(Hic millēsimus atqu’octōcentēsimus annus
Undēoctōgēsimus est) mē dīcere lædit
Cūjūs nos memorēs erimus per sæcula multa.
O you beautiful track bridge of the shining Tay!
That Death (woe!) has snatched ninety lives
In the final holy light of a certain year
(This year the thousandth and eight hundredth
One-from-eightieth is) injures me to say
Of which we will be mindful through many centuries.
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.
Trāminis infēlix ō pons Tāvī radiantis!
Nunc mihi carminis est nostrī fīnis facienda
Impavidē mundō absque metū minimō referendō
Nōn ullā ratiōne trabēs mediās cecidisse,
Saltem sīc hominēs cautī plērīque loquuntur,
Illæ antēridibus sī fultæ essent utrobīque,
Saltem sīc hominēs cautī plērīque fatētur,
Nam quam fortis erit nostra ars domuum faciendī,
Tam paucās sortēs dūcēmus nōs moriendī.
O unlucky track bridge of the shining Tay!
Now an end must be made of our song by me
By relating to the world without the smallest fear
That not by any reasoning would the central beams have fallen
At least thus do most cautious people speak,
If those had been supported on either side by buttresses,
At least thus does most cautious people confess,
For however strong will be our skill at making houses,
So few lottery tickets of dying will we draw.
- McGonagall, William. “The Tay Bridge Disaster.” McGonagall Online, www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/the-tay-bridge-disaster.
- McGonagall, William. McGonagall: A Selection. Edited by Colin S. K. Walker, Birlinn, 1998.
- Hammer, Larry. “Yuletide Letter 2018.” Larry's Pretty Good Journal, 10 Oct. 2018, larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/699698.html.