* [Bronchitis] . ᵻWearisome.
Keywords:dialect, domesticity, family, hunger, poverty
The most notable formal feature of this poem is that it is written with each stanza containing just two rhyme sounds, with feminine rhymes (more than one syllable with an unstressed syllable at the end) typically the first two and the last line endings. This is a difficult poetic skill to master but Adam Chester achieves this by varying the grammar so that the repetition is deflected by exclamations, enjambment, reported speech and parentheses. This repetition though carries its own effect, and when the amount of repetition of the single, masculine rhyme increases in stanzas 2, 4, 5, and 6, there is a build-up of tension in the reader waiting for the relief. This very obvious use of rhyme could appear comic in tone but the poet instead uses it for extra emphasis.
Adam Chester was a doctor as well as a poet (he composed the celebratory sea shanty ‘The Coming of the Griswold’) so it is highly likely that the account of localised suffering he offers here is a good representation of the living conditions of the time. There are a variety of ailments and dire situations listed but they are all underpinned by debt, poverty, and hunger. It is interesting that the last lines given to the speaker’s wife claim that the worst is yet to come, but also refute the charge of ‘shammin’. The rapidity of the medical effects of sudden mass unemployment took many people by surpise, and some assumed that reports of widespread serious illness and death were exaggerated. This poem is part of the effort to counter these perceptions.