Awve Hard Wark To Howd Up Mi Yed. by S. Laycock, of Stalybridge.
Title:Awve Hard Wark to Howd up Mi Yed
Publication:Ashton And Stalybridge Reporter
Date:May 9th 1863
Keywords:dialect, gender, poverty, war
This forty-eight line poem is arranged in six eight-line stanzas (octets or octaves) with an alternating rhyme scheme throughout. The lines are relatively short, with typically eight or nine syllables, with an upbeat or unstressed syllable[s] at the beginning of most of the lines and then two dactylic feet, with a ‘stress/unstress/unstress’ pattern – ‘An’ / tell us we / use to’ much / pain’.
This line, in the last stanza, is really the crux of the whole poem, as it suggests that the middle and upper classes (‘th’ big men’) have accused the working class of exaggerating the case of their deprivation during the crisis. ‘Paint’ here refers to the representation of the social conditions thousands of ordinary Lancastrians lived under during the Cotton Famine. In the fourth stanza there is blame placed on the ‘Yankees’ as the cause of the crisis. It is important to recognise that at this time this did not necessarily refer just to the Union but was often a catch-all phrase for Americans. However, in this case the Union appears to be specifically referred to, and what is unusual is the suggestion that British volunteers might provide military reinforcements and prove the deciding factor. There is certainly patriotic puffing here, but also a determination to claim some agency in the face of political helplessness. Another thing to remember is that common to most dialect poetry, this is in a fictitious voice, and the views are not necessarily those of Laycock himself.