Awve Hard Wark To Howd Up Mi Yed. by S. Laycock, of Stalybridge.

Wherever aw trudge neaw a days,
Awm certain to see some owd friend
Lookin’ anxiously up I’ mi face,
An’ axin when times are beawn t’ mend.
Awm surprised heaw folks live, aw declare,
[1 word illegible] th' clammin’ and starvin’, they’n [stood]
[1 to 2 words illegible] ‘em, heaw [ [patient] ] they are –
[1 to 2 words illegible] aw could help ‘em, aw would.
But really awve nowt aw [cun] give,
Except it’s a bit uv a song,
An’ th’ muses han hard wark to live,
One’s bin hamper’d an powfag’d so long;
Awve tried to look cheerful an’ bowd,
An’ [ye] know [what] awve written an’ said,
But iv th’ truth mun be honestly towd,
Awve hard wark to hold up mi yed!
There’ll be some on us missin’, aw deawt,
Iv there [isn't] some help for us soon,
We’d bin jostled an’ tumbled abeawt,
Till we’re welly o’ knock’d eawt o’ tune;
Ewar Margit hoo frets an’ hoo cries,
An’ hoo sits thear wi’ th’ chilt on her knee;
An’ aw cannot blame th’ lass, for hoo tries
To be cheerful an gradely wi’ me.
Yon Yankees may think it rare fun,
Kickin’ up sich a shindy o’ th’ globe –
Confound ‘em, aw wish they’d gat done,
For they’s [weary] aawt th’ patience o’ Job!
We shall have to go help ‘em, that’s clear,
Iv they dunno get done very soon;
Iv [ewar] volunteers wur o’er there,
They’s sharpen ‘m up to some tune.
Now it’s hard for a mortal to tell
Heaw long they may plague us this road;
Iv they’d hurt nob’dy [else] but thersel,
They met fo eawt an feight till they’rn stowd,
Aw think it’s high time someb’dy spoke,
When mony are cryin’ for bread;
For there’s hundreds an theawsands o’ folk
Deawn i’ Lancashire hardly hawve fed.
Th’ big men, when they yer ewar complaint,
May treat it [as] gammon” an’ “stuff;”
An’ tell us we use to’ much pain,
But we donnut daub paint on enough.
If they think it’s noan true what we sen –
Ere they charge us wi’ tellin’ a lie,
Let ‘em look into th’ question loike men,
An’ come deawn here a [fortai’t] an’ try.

Title:Awve Hard Wark to Howd up Mi Yed

Author:S. Laycock

Publication:Ashton And Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

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.

- SR.