"Thenkful Jone"

Bless God for a dinner!
Tho’ aor porridge gets thinner,
Tho’ aor meel be a clemm’d un, un meight we heh noan,
Thank God for it allus,
If He thinks tu doal us
But prators un salt, ‘baot o’ bit uv o’ boan.
Tho’ poor un hoaf clemmin,
Un scraping and skeamin,
Tu keep just alive, un get summot to eet;
Let’s try to make merry –
Feel thankful and cheery,
It’ll breetun aor troubles, un make ‘em seem leet.
Ther’s nout con distress us,
Wi’ o’ good haort tu bless us,
Dry porridge ull e’en taste as good as roest beef;
Un, baot beef or pudding,
We’ll feost like a good un,
O’th’ bacon and peyse, ut we geet fra’ th’relief.
Un, when th’ war is settl’d,
Un foughten, un battl’d,
Till peohce comes agean, tu show ut aw’m fain,
Aw’ll ‘luminate th’ winder,
O’ penny sho’nt hinder,
Aw’ll stick aw few tallow-dips up agean th’ pane.
Un then, when possessing
Full wark, un its blessings,
Aw hoap ut aw sho’nt get aboon wi’ mysel;
Content as God pleases,
Wi’ just wot He gi’es us,
Let’s be thankful, humble, un bide wi’ His will.
Un, if we are starving,
It’s what we’re deserving,
It’s all o’ His goodness we’re lettun tu live:
His marcy’s unstinted –
Aor lives angel-tented;
Let’s thenk Him, un bless Him, for wot He does give.

Title:Thenkful Jone

Author:Williffe Cunliam

Publication:Burnley Free Press And General Advertiser

Published in:Burnley

Date:5th September 1863

Keywords:charity, dialect, poverty, religion


This thirty-six line poem is arranged in six six-line stanzas (sestets) with a distinctive pattern of two short lines followed by a longer one and the same pattern repeated. There is a broadly dactylic metre (stress / unstresss / unstress) which is more apparent if one reads across the lines to take account of the unstressed syllable which begins each: ‘Un, if we are starving, / It’s what we’re deserving, / It’s all o’ His goodness we’re lettun tu live’.

The poem is in the voice of the titular character, ‘Thenkful Jone’, presumably the same Jone who appears with words of wisdom in ‘Th’ Petched Shirt’ by the same poet. The piece appears an encouragement to accept one’s lot in the face of hardship and though clearly expressed through a fictional character, it aligns with sentiments of positive thinking in Cunliam’s ‘Work, Lads, and Think’. There are some interesting domestic details such as the reference to bacon and peas that are doled out by the relief committees, and the determination of the speaker to mark the end of the war, when it comes, by the lighting of candles for the front window of the house. The first and last two stanzas suggest a religious attitude to the suffering, but do not call for divine intervention. Rather, there is the opinion that suffering must be morally justified if God allows it, and that sufferers should be thankful for what they do receive. I remember a saying from my Manchester childhood – ‘you’ll get what you’re given and be thankful’ – which though a secularised version, may well relate to this historical attitude to poverty and its effects.

- SR.