Hoamly Chat.

“Aw say, des tu yer theer, heigh! Tum,
Just stop fur a miunit or too;
Is t’ woife, un all t’ bairns weel, ut whoam;
Un aoh gets tu on wi’ owd Sue?”
“Wha! weighving ull hardly meight find;
Aw wish all t’ Surat wur i’th pop,
Foaks seyn, ut if things dunnot mend
Aur maisters ull soon hev tu stop.
Un cotton, they seyn, ’s getting dar,
Un sich stuff it is, railly,
It’s all through this ’Merikay war;
Aw wunther wot th’end on it ull be.”
“Aye! ut aor haose we hennot ainr’d salt,
Eight childer, un Dick, un mysel;
Aw’st caper abaot like o’ cault,
If aw nobbut yeard t’ factory bell.”
Summot like thirty weeks they’n bin stopt,
Un nobbut hoalf-time afore hed,
Aor brass wur soon done, un things popt,
Fur we hed tu do summot for bread.
Un Dick, when he couldent get wark,
Sum urn dree, un daon-hearted did look;
We’d sit theer, baot fire, un th’ dark,
All shiv’ring un huddled I’th’ nook.
Un aw’ve cried to see th’ childer baot meight,
Un cloas, till my e’en couldent see;
Un aw thought, though I didm’t think reight,
Foaks ud leove uz tu starve un to dee.
But, aye, when they brought the relief,
Un gie’d uz o’ shilling ‘o yed,
Aw thought it aboon all belief,
Wi’ two bran, span, new blankets fur th’ bed.
Aor owd cloas wur fettled un petch’d,
Till they wouldent petch up ony more,
When they coom, un then fresh uns wur fetched;
God bless em fur helping the poor.
Naoh, Dick looks as slick as o’ snig,
They’ve drest him so weel – top tu toey,
They’ve gin him o’ second-hand rig;
Un us foine uz a fiddler is Joey.
Awm soa fain, aw mun oat wi ‘t un tell;
Un mi haort, sithee, Tum, ‘s in sich glee,
Aw hardly can hold wi myself-
God bless em! – whoaever they be.”

Title:Hoamly Chat

Author:Williffe Cunliam

Publication:Burnley Free Press And General Advertiser

Published in:Burnley

Date:11th July 1863

Keywords:america, charity, dialect, domesticity, poverty, unemployment, war


Although written broadly in iambic tetrameter this poem’s conversational format, characteristic of Williffe Cunliam (William Cunliffe) and much dialect poetry more generally, encourages the reader to follow the sense of the poem more than its metre. Even the strict ABAB rhyme scheme is largely disguised by the frequent exclamations, caesurae (punctuation breaks in the line), and switches between speakers. There are eleven quatrains, which is quite short for this kind of conversation poem, but the writer manages to pack a lot of detail into this, covering commentary on the American Civil War, accounts of charitable efforts, and discussion about the prospect of the mills starting up again.

The poem appears to be a representation of a conversation between acquaintances on the street, and it uses this conceit to highlight the common concerns of the day, including war, unemployment, and charity. One of the things that connects this poem to Cunliffe’s other work for the Burnley newspaper he wrote for is the foregrounding of the shift in social attitudes to the receipt of charitable relief as the Cotton Famine progressed. The second speaker is not ashamed of the help they have received, and indeed, with the discussion touching on clothes that have been mended until they can be mended no more, this poem might be seen as a kind of sequel to the same poet’s ‘The Petched Shirt’.

- SR.