Things Tuh Think on at This Time

Nau th’ sun may be varry breet shinin ith’ sky,
Un happen raund heaven with’ stars it may fly,
Ther distance fra uz may be farther ner far,
While yeds may be crackin tuh kno whot they are;
But then they care nowt abaat uz hevin leet,
Fer when a claud comes, they creep oaf ant uth’ seet,
Un iv they wern’t paid weel for th’ leet they send uz,
They’d soon stop it oaf like them gas felleys duz
But tuh save us poor fro danger,
Th’ richest men yuh nauh can find
Helpin all, booath friend un stranger,
Wi’ uh spirit gradely kind;
Un ther deeds ull live fer ages,
Breet enuff for all tuh see,
Showin men throo hist’ry’s pages,
Whot uh mon tuh mon should be.
Then leet be ther hearts, un ther een breet uz weel,
May manliness be i’ ther form;
Ther brothers tuh poor, an can feel uz they feel,
Shinin th’ breetest ith’ midst uv ah storm.
Nauth ’ primrosez un th’ causlip un th’ pale dafodil,
Un th’ daisy un th’ crowfoote ut grows on tuth’ hill,
Un th’ rosuz un th’ hagneblossom un th’ bonny bluebell,
Un th’ foxglove ut grows raund ith’ wall ith’ owd well,
Ther things uz we like, for ther bonny un fair,
But then not uh button fer uz dun they care,
Fer iv they wern’t med tuh spring up when they doo,
They’d soon meck uz wonder where they’d getten too.
But tuh save us poor fro clamin,
Th’ gentlest ladies now we see
Bravely keepin back uh famin,
Helping need suz where it be;
Un tho some uz would be clever,
Pay um back wi’ nowt but blame,
Their good actions will for ever
Shine uh breeter thing than fame.
Then gladness be wi’ um, fer where they may be,
Ther fairer nor th’ fairest uth’ flaurs;
Ther sisters tuth’ poor az con see uz they see,
Bloomin th’ sweetest ith’ cowd winter haurs.
Nauh yeds may be good enuff too oa dar say,
Un plan mony uh thing uz iz good in its way,
Machines un new systems, reform bills un all,
They’n plann’d uh fine lot uz ez soon hed tuh fall,
Un tho they con plan nother grass, tree, nor sod,
Ther’s some con plan aut ut ther izent uh God,
Un while they’n plann’d halls ferth’ rich fooak aut bith’ score,
Uh workhouse iz all ut they’n plann’d aut ferth’ poor.
But tuh end uz these dark trubles,
Yeds mun work un plan things aut,
Un tho some may turn ont bubbles,
They’ll doo good ith’ end nah daut;
Arkwright’s looms we all con see;
Un iv lost wi’ such beginners.
Then its lang yo un me.
Then rowse up yer sperits, yo gradely good men,
Un scrape up your courage wi’ care,
Iv w’ain uz much wit uz wer faithers hed then,
Win more ner ull let uz dispare.

Title:Things Tuh Think on at This Time

Author:E. Slater

Publication:Burnley Free Press and General Advertiser

Published in:


Keywords:economy, industry, poverty


‘Things Tuh Think on at This Time’ is a carefully plotted poem, written in the Burnley dialect. The beginning of each stanza sets up traditional poetic images of brightness, beauty and knowledge—yet always stresses their remoteness and reluctance to perform. The speaker wryly asserts that if stars were not paid with admiration, they would soon cut off their light ‘like them gas fellys duz’. In the lilting refrain section of each stanza, the speaker reclaims these ideas of morality from the traditional poetic vehicles of the stars and flowers by showing them to be inadequate. Instead, these attributes are best evinced by the men and women who become ‘brothers tuh poor’ at their time of need. The other important force at work in the poem is that of time. Each stanza begins with the adverb ‘Nau’, while the poem’s title emphasises the immediacy of ‘This Time’. The remote appearance of stars and the perennial spring flowers do nothing to ease the troubles of those suffering. Instead, relief and strength comes from those who are present now, in the midst of crisis and ‘cowd winter haurs’. The speaker asserts that it is these deeds of kindness that will be remembered in future ages: ‘Showin men throo hist’ry’s pages, / Whot uh mon tuh mon should be.’ This notion of two strands of time comes to the fore in the final stanza, which forms a blistering rebuke to the inadequate responses of those in power. Slater satirises those who merely ‘plann’d uh fine lot’ and achieved nothing, apart from unpicking their own belief in God. This satire is biting when it turns to the working class, for whom nothing was planned—aside from, of course, the cruel system of parish workhouses. The refrain section invokes British innovations that have shaped the industrial Lancashire region: the steam engine of James Watts, Samuel Crompton’s spinning mule, and Richard Arkwright’s water frame. The speaker appeals to this inventing spirit as a means to escape the current struggles that the region faces. As with all poems written in dialect orthography, this poem comes alive and shows its full power when read aloud. This is a poem where performance is encouraged within the reading process, emphasising the speaker’s rallying final call for courage and cohesion in the face of desperate poverty.

Georgia Thurston, University of Cambridge