Frettin’ Joseph Ramsbottom

Fro heawrs to days—a dhreary length—
Fro days to weeks, one idle stonds,
An’ slowly sinks fro pride an’ sthrength,
To weeny heart an’ wakely honds.
An’ still one hopes, an’ ever thries
To think ut betther days mun come;
Bo th’ sun may set, an’ th’ sun may rise,
No sthreak o’ leet we find awhoam.
When o’ above wur blue an’ breet,
An’ o’ below, wur sweet an’ fair,
Aw’ve sat o’ th’ harstone mony a neet,
An’ plans for th’ future built i’ th’ air.
To th’ future neaw aw durno look,
Wi growin’ ills it is so dark;
Mi castle buildin’ neaw i’ th’ nook
Runs back to th’ days when aw’r i’ wark.
Aw want to see thoose days agen,
To see folks earn what e’er they need;
O God, to think ut wortchin’ men
Should be poor things to pet an’ feed!
Ther’s some to th’ bastile han to goo,
To live o’ th’ rates they’n help’d to pay;
An’ some get dow to help em thro’,
An’ some are ta’en or sent away.
An’ private pets some are like me,
O’ folks ut watch o’er what they give;
Ut oather send or come to see
What mwost we need ut we may live.
An’ o’ is theirs shushwheer we look,
Aye, deawn to th’ twothri things one wears;
An’ th’ feighr to warm th’ owd heawse, an’ cook,
An’ even th’ mayt we eat is theirs.
We tak whate’er they han to give,
Wi thankful heart an’ oppen hond;
An’ this is th’ road we han to live,
Poor propt up things ut conno stond.
An’ to an’ fro one walks i’ th’ loane,
Fro th’ break o’day far into th’ dark,
Wi’ mony a soik an’ mony a moan,
An’ heart-sick longin’ afther wark.
An’ bent wi o’ these heavy sthrokes
We hang eawr yeads when eawt i’ th’ leet,
An’ this depending uppo folks
Oft makes us blush i’ th’ dark o’ th’ neet.
Day afther day wi nowt to do
Bo int’ eawr deep’nin’ sthrem o’ care,
Keep wadin’ fur, ne’er gettin’ thro’,
Ull stifle hope an’ breed despair.
Whot is ther here ut one should live,
Or wish to live, weigh’d deawn wi’ grief,
Thro’ weary weeks and months, ut give
Not one short heawr o’ sweet relief?
A sudden plunge, a little blow
At once ud eend mi care an’ pain!
An’ why noa do’t?—for weel aw know
Aw lose bo ills, if nowt aw gain.
Aye, why noa do’t?—it ill ud tell
O’ thoose wur left beheend, aw fear:
It’s wrong at fust to kill mysel,
An’ wrong to lyev mi childer here.
One’s like to tak some thowt for them—
Some sort o’ comfort one should give;
So one mun bear, an’ starve, an’ clem,
An’ pine, an’ mope, an’ fret, an’ live.


Author:Joseph Ramsbottom

Publication:Manchester University Press

Published in:Manchester


Keywords:charity, class, dialect, domesticity, gender


Like most of Joseph Ramsbottom’s poems in his 1864 collection Phases of Distress this poem is presented in iambic tetrameter octaves, though it maintains a conversational register, and gives a strong sense of an individual voice. This is another dialect poem which is effectively a dramatic monologue. There is an interesting formal effect in the penultimate stanza, when there is a clever variation on the common poetic/rhetorical device of anaphora – where each line begins with the same word or words (think of Churchill’s ‘We will fight them on the…’). Here a similar effect is reached through alliteration (A, At, An, Aw) in the last four lines of the stanza, achieving the same build up of tension and emphasis.

‘Frettin’’ is particularly interesting for its explicit foregrounding of the emotional effects of the crisis, and adds ‘fret’ (and in the last line ‘pine’ and ‘mope’) to ‘panic’ and ‘distress’ as descriptive emotional indicators of the prevailing social mood. Ramsbottom is adept at capturing the affective registers of the people of the region and his ‘characters’, poetic speaking voices which are often not clearly identified, are never less than believable. This is one of eleven Cotton Famine poems which feature in Brian Hollingworth’s Songs of the People: Lancashire dialect poetry of the industrial revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977), the most significant anthology of such works during the twentieth century.

- SR.