Tickle Times.
(From “Lancashire Songs.”] By Edwin Waugh.

HERE’S Robin looks fyerfully gloomy,
An’ Jamie keeps starin’ at th’ greawnd
An’ thinkin’ o’ th’ table ‘at’s empty,
An’ th’ little things yammerin’ reawnd;
It’s true, it looks dark just afore us, -
But, keep your hearts eawt o’ your shoon, -
Though clouds may be thickenin’ o’er us,
There’s lots o’ blue heaven aboon!
But, when a mon’s honestly willin’,
An’ never a stroke to be had,
And clemmin’ for want ov a shillin’, -
No wonder ‘at he should be sad;
It troubles his heart to keep seein;
His little brids feedin’ o’ th’ air;
An’ it feels very hard to be deein’,
An’ never a mortal to care.
But life’s sich a quare little travel, -
A marlock wi’ sun an’ wi’ shade, -
An’ then, on a bowster o’ gravel,
They lay’n us i’ bed wi’ a spade;
It’s no use a peawtin’ an’ fratchin’ –
As th’ whirligig’s twirlin’ areawnd,
Have at it again; and keep scratchin’
As lung as your yed’s upo’ greawnd.
Iv one could but grope i’ th’ inside on ‘t,
There’s trouble i’ every heart;
An’ thoose that ‘n th’ biggest o’ th’ pride on ‘t,
Oft leeten o’ th’ keenest o’ th’ smart.
Whatever may chance to come to us,
Let’s patiently hondle er share, -
For there’s mony a fine suit o’ clooas
That covers a murderin’ care.
There’s danger i’ every station, -
I’ th’ palace as much as i’ th’ cot;
There’s hanker i’ every condition,
An’ canker i’ every lot;
There’s folk that are weary o’ livin’,
That never fear’t hunger nor cowd;
And there’s mony a miserly nowmun
‘At’s deed ov a surfeit o’ gowd.
One feels, neaw ‘at times are so nippin’,
A mon’s at a troublesome schoo’,
That slaves like a horse for a livin’,
An’ flings it away like a foo’;
But, as pleasure’s sometimes a misfortin,
An’ trouble sometimes a good thing, -
Though we livin’ o’ th’ floor, same as layrocks,
We’n go up, like layrocks, to sing.

Title:Tickle Times (from "Lancashire Songs")

Author:Edwin Waugh

Publication:Whittaker & Co.

Published in:Ave Maria Lane, London


Keywords:class, dialect, domesticity, morality, poverty


Edwin Waugh’s role in the area of Lancashire Cotton Famine poetry can hardly be overstated. He was already a nationally known literary figure, particularly after the widespread re-publication of his domestic dialogue poem ‘Come Whoam to thi’ Childer and Me’ (1856). As a kind of national spokesman for northwest labouring-class literature, Waugh went one step further by undertaking a journalistic role traveling to areas most affected by the Distress, and collecting examples of dialect poetry on the subject, which he later published in his Home-Life of the Lancashire Factory Folk during the Cotton Famine, including works of his own such as this one.

This poem is deceptively simple in its form, with alternating rhymes closing lines which nod to the ballad tradition with nine and eight syllables. Typical of Waugh, there is an observational element spiced with just enough language unfamiliar to the general reader to provoke interest. Describing life as a ‘marlock’ in the second line of the third stanza is deeply ironic in this context because that now archaic dialect term refers to a prank or to the act of play. Although it would be difficult to guess that meaning, the general reader may fair better with the ‘layrock’ in the last stanza, which is a creatively extended term for the lark, that most poetic of birds. In keeping with its frequent lyricism, dialect has long been recognised for its inventive use of language; in this case we have what is sometimes termed a ‘folk etymology’. Perhaps even more interesting is the reference to the ‘nowmun’ (‘Norman’) in the fifth stanza, which is a highly politicised term referring to the landed gentry, although in this case the adjective ‘miserly’ deflects the aim a little by being less generalised.

- SR.