Settling th'War!

Wot’s the matter? – wot’s the matter? –
Wot’s theas folks, all staning raond?
Hez ther sum’uddy bin feightin,
Ur ther’s sum’uddy kill’d ur draown’d?
Oh! aw know, naoh, - aw’d forgettun –
Welly six-months, fur ur nar,
Heer aor parlyment’s bin meetin,
Bizzy settling o’ th’ war.
Chaps wi’ noddles full o’ larninng;
Yeds ut’s brasting wi’ ther wit,
Heer yo’ll find, boath neet un morning,
Gie’ing the world the benefit.
One owd mon, seys “it’s noa wundther
That all t’ roagues, ut’s goan fra heer;
You, should get tu differin, feightin;
That’s no’at natteral, un clear.”
“It’s theas steom looms,” seys, another,
“Cotton for th’ hond-loos at whoam,
Wi’ full time, we’ve hed tu last uz
For a hunther’d yeors tu cum.
Un, bi weighving upo’ th’ hond-looms,
We’d a hed anuff tu dun:
‘Cause this steom-loom stuff’s like cobwebs;
‘T weors aot – ten tu hond-wove one.”
Un another, seys, “theas haythen
Ar’ent larn’d like gradely foaks,
Un they’re awful wicked craturs,-
That yo know, ut reads I’ books.-
“Furriners, kicking up ther rumpus,
Mony a time we’n hed tu lick;
Un theas ‘Merikans weont bi quiet,
Till John Bull goas wi’ a stick.”
Soa they argy, tone geon tother,-
Baon tu hev it , right ur wrong,
Till o’d a ‘most think they’d at it
Wi’ ther neohves, uz weel uz’t tongue:
This mon threopin, all for Davis,
T’other Lincoln, fair ur faol,-
Tongs un poker, whang, bang at it,
Spit un sputter, gern un groawl.
Well! chaps, hurry up the bizness,
(Let’s hoap th’ end on’t’s getting nar)
Spout away at Nuttall’s corner,
Finish th’ job, un settle th’ war.

Title:Settling th'War

Author:Williffe Cunliam

Publication:Burnley Free Press And General Advertiser

Published in:Burnley

Date:22nd August 1863

Keywords:america, dialect, religion, satire, unemployment, war, work


This poem is rhythmically quite close to standard ballad meter, but inverted with the use of trochees instead of iambs, front-loaded emphases which give it a driving urgency (Wot’s the matter? – wot’s the matter?). Ninety years later, the American poet Charles Olson would describe the trochee’s effect as a ‘heave’. The rhythm is also frequently disrupted with exclamations, caesurae, use of brackets, and enjambments. The overall effect when combined with the very lively language used is conversational and comic. In fact this reads more like one of Robert Browning’s more scurrilous works in tone (‘Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister’ for instance) than some of the very serious or sentimental works which typify Cotton Famine poetry. The form of address at the beginning of the poem is strangely rhetorical, like an exclamation overheard, before moving into a piece of social observation and ending with an ironic encouragement to the town busybodies it describes.

This poem is deeply ironic in its depiction of the Burnley great and good arguing about the causes and consequences of the American Civil War. There is a sense of Swiftian ridicule that these small-town Lancastrians discuss the war as though they have a say in its outcome. Contemporary newspaper accounts place William Cunliffe (the poet’s real name) in similar meetings in the town, and so we can assume that this is comic interpretation of these events.

- SR.