Hard Times; Or, . (sic) Th’ Weyvur To His Wife. By “A Lancashire Lad,” (James Bowker.)
Title:Hard Times; Or, Th' Weyvur to His Wife
Author:"A Lancashire Lad," (James Bowker)
Publication:Whittaker & Co.
Published in:Ave Maria Lane, London
This poem, arranged in seven sestets (six-line stanzas), is written in rhyming couplets, but escapes the sense of a comic, or overly songlike rhythm, with its long lines of twelve, thirteen, or even fifteen syllables. This is complicated by the frequent use of the Lancastrian definite article ‘th’’, which is most properly elided into the previous word when spoken, so that, for example, the second half of the third line of the sixth stanza – wi’ th’ dark, an’ th’ snow, an’ th’ cowd,’ – is spoken with six syllables.
James Bowker was a highly skilled poet, and during the Cotton Famine he demonstrated his formal range with poems such as this, in heavy dialect and skilled characterisation, and works such as ‘Lancashire in 1862’ which is more of a state on the nation (or county) address in classic English blank verse, complete with historical allusions and lofty ideals. This piece is no less adept in achieving its ambitions in representing the feelings of shame and pride felt by working people during the Distress through a man reaffirming his commitment to his wife. There is certainly an element of Victorian sentimentality here, but also a dignity and maturity which serves to recognise and celebrate the decency of average workers during times of financial hardship.