(From “Lancashire Songs.”]
By Edwin Waugh.
Title:Tickle Times (from "Lancashire Songs")
Publication:Whittaker & Co.
Published in:Ave Maria Lane, London
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.