Th’ Poor Mon un Hiz Childer

Daun ith’ loin when th’ wind wer blowin,
Seet uh mon one winter’s neet;
White his weary yed wer growin,
While his een ud lost ther leet.
Raund him wer his childer cryin,
While ther mother we um seet,
Rockin too un fro un syin
O’er her shooless bleedin feet.
All ther clois wer torn un tatter’d,
Th’ childer’s feet wer red un blue;
While uhgeun ther theeth uz chatter’d
Towd ther clamming looks wer true.
Tears wer rowlin daun ther faces,
Fallin ontuth’ graund like rain,
Un ther limbs fergeet ther places
Uz they trembl’d fra ther pain.
Cowd un hungry een kept starin
Savagely, like owt ut’s mad;
Even th’ mother seem’d dispairin
Uz hoo seet there, cowd un sad.
Then oa yerd th’ owd felley prayin,,
Plain enuff oa yerd him say,
“This may be my sins’ repayin,
Still O let it pass uhway.
“Look, oa pray Thee on these childer,
Then look in this heart uh mine,
For these sorrows me bewilder,
Pray Thee own us all uz Thine.”
Tears uptoo mi een coome wellin
Uz oa yerd him pray un cry;
But it seem’d madness swellin,
When uh mon went heedless by.
O! oa thowt, is there nuh feelin
In this greedy, selfish world,
Iv not,—then shud all them kneelin
Hypocrits be fro it hurl’d.
Whot but mon on earth cud clamin
Childer, un thez parents are,
Un oi even in uh famin,
Pass um by tuh starve un dee?
Whot but mon cun hev tuh answer
For that greediness uv heart,
Uz like some destroyin cancer
Kills religion’s breetest part.
Whot but mon, oa say, iz livin,
Ut’s suh deuf tuh pity’s call,
Ever gripin, never givin,
Wantin even moore than all?
Whot fills th’ earth wi ev’ry sorrow?
Whot gives poverty it’s sting?
Whot makes th’ widow ?flade tuhmorrow
Will uh darker trubble bring.
Look uhbaut, it needs nuh finding,
Now, it’s plain enuff to see;
It’s that selfish ever grindin
Sperit, ut kills charity.
But oa wer not long uh thinkin
Whot oa’ve sed, un even moore,
Fer oa know th’ poor mon wer sinkin,
Un he’de soon see deuth’s door.
Nother wer oa long uh teckin
Th’ hungry crayturs whoam wi me,
While aur Nanny soon wer meckin
Meyght tuh fill thur balliz we.
Oi, us all may toke ut’s willin,
But they pitch’t intoo it reyght;
Hungry balliz wants weel fillin,
Un wi gradely honest meyght.
When thi’d dun thi wesh’t ther faces,
Un thi ?lash’t ther yure uz weel;
Then oa fun um all ther places,
Where thi’d th’ mooust contented feel.
Then thi towd uz all ther histry,
Whot thi’d suffer’d, dun, er sin;
Un thi towd, baut ony mistry,
Whot this life tuh them hed bin.
Un ther ta’e wer weel worth yerin,
For it prov’d it plain enuff,
Uz where faul ?dessie iz stirrin,
Ther’s nuh raum fer better stuff.
Then let all uz teck warnin,
Un nair trust uh mon uz lies,
Iv thi doo, thi’ll find ut larnin’s
Dearly bowt, bifore ther wise.
Th’ poor owd mon hed werk’t un striven,
Un dun all uz he cud doo,
Tessin, tewin, pool’d un riven,
Bravely he’d fowtan throo.
Still fer him ther wer nuh wionin,
Trubbles met him fast un thrang,
Slander made him ever sinning,
Envy wish’t him ever rang.
Thus iz life made ever dreary,
Tho’ young hope may make yuh brave,
Still, when poor, un owd, un weary,
Th’ werld ull grudge yuh e’en uh grave.
Then wi whot oa’ve sed oa’l finish,
Yet oa’ll tell yuh plain un fair,
Uz that charity is thinnish
Ut hes never “nowt tuh spare.”
Faul ?dessie brings ev’ry trubble,
Uz this werld cun feel er know,
Fillin ev’ry spot we stubble,
Where far breeter things shud grow.
Greediness, that grindin passion,
Get’s ?dessie tuh help it on,
Blightin in uh fearful fashion
Th’ fairest attribute uv mon.
Soo, oa say, bifoore wer parted,
Iv some starving poor yuh see,
Yet, cun be yersels hard hearted,
Pray yuh let um come tuh me.
Un whot bit oa hev oa’ll share it,
We uh poor mon like misel;
Th’ poor tuth’ poor ‘ull hollos spare it,
Thot hi need it ill thersel.

Title:Th’ Poor Mon un Hiz Childer


Publication:Burnley Free Press and General Advertiser

Published in:Burnley


Keywords:hunger, poverty


Popular dialect poetry during this period frequently turns to domestic scenes of love and marriage. In ‘Th’ Poor Mon un Hiz Childer’, the poet subverts this theme of dialect poetry in order to demonstrate how the security of the hearth and homestead has been stripped away by famine. The family merely sits in silence, weeping, ‘Cowd un hungry’. The poem punctures the inactivity and wilful ignorance of those who perceive such suffering yet go ‘heedless by’. In response to an act of indifference towards the family, the speaker steps out of his role of observer to become active champion for the family, as in the lines ‘Nother wer oa long uh teckin / Th’ hungry crayturs whoam wi me’. At its beginning, the poem appears to be a straightforward narrative of the family’s suffering, yet the intervention of the speaker blurs the specificity of the early stanzas. We never learn ‘Whot this life tuh them hed bin’. The family’s history is known only by the speaker, even though we are assured it is a tale ‘weel worth yerin’. Instead, it is reported indirectly, and becomes a more general tale of nobility in the face of poverty. By maintaining this narrative distance, the speaker both broadens his gaze—wryly aware that this could be any poor family’s fortune—and almost sets up the reader as one of those capable of disinterest when faced with poverty. It is a subtle and effective rhetorical shift. The speaker’s quiet fury is enabled by the trochaic metre, falling heavy on the first beat of every line. Yet there is no relief as the stanza progresses. The second and fourth lines of the stanza are truncated, meaning that, where we would expect an unstressed syllable to close the line, the poet instead ends on both a stressed beat and a rhyme to form the quatrain. We see this when the speaker questions how a man can ‘Pass um by tuh starve un dee’. There is no room for evasion here: the metre ensures that the speaker’s testimony of destitution cannot be ignored. ‘Th’ Poor Mon un Hiz Childer’ does not end with a rallying cry for hope. Rather, the poem teases apart abstract religious ideals of charity and the very real material needs of the family it describes. There is recognition that ‘all may toke ut’s willin [to help]’—yet such talk does not ‘fill thur balliz’. The speaker’s own poverty is revealed at the last, with a direct challenge to the reader to extend aid to those starving.

Georgia Thurston, University of Cambridge