Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Theo Marzials’ ‘A Tragedy’: The Worst Poem Ever Published

A Tragedy

The barges down in the river flop.
Flop, plop.
Above, beneath.
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.
Plop, plop.
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
Flop, plop.

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,
(Plop, plop
The barges flop
Drip drop.)
I can dare! I can dare!
And let myself all run away with my head
And stop.
Plop, flop.


Théophile-Jules-Henri “Theo” Marzials (1850 – 1920) was a British composer, singer and poet. In 1873 Marzials’s only published collection of poetry was released, The Gallery of Pigeons and Other Poems in which appears ‘A Tragedy.’ Dr Oliver Tearle and other critics claim that it is the worst poem ever written, and truth to tell, it would be high on anyone’s list for the honor.


John Betjeman described him as “a picturesque figure, with flowing moustaches, long hair and a silk tie that fell in folds over the lapels of his coat.” So offbeat was Marzials that one day in the silence of the Reading Room at the British Museum, while Karl Marx was quietly working below on his masterwork “Das Kapital”, Marzials leant over the gallery and shouted, “Am I or am I not the darling of the Reading Room!?”

2 comments on “Theo Marzials’ ‘A Tragedy’: The Worst Poem Ever Published

  1. Daniel Burston
    August 30, 2019


    Where on earth did you find this gem? I. guess, reading this, we’re all meant to die laughing. . .


    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      August 30, 2019

      This poem should be required reading in all MFA writing programs as an example of what not to do…


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This entry was posted on August 30, 2019 by in Humor and Satire, Poetry and tagged , , .

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