There’s nobuddy knows wod we’n gooan through Sin’ th’ factories stopt at fost,
An’ heaw mitch life’s bin wasted too,
An’ heaw mitch brass we’n lost;
Aw trys sometimes to reckon up,
Bud keawntin connud mend id;
When aw sit deawn wi nowt to sup—
Aw wod this war wur ended.
A boddy’s lifetime’s nod so lung—
Nod them as lives to th’ lungest;
Sooa dusend id seem sadly wrung
For th’ healthiest an’ strangest
To give three wul years’ pith an’ pride
To rust an’ ruin blended,
An’ ravin up o’ th’ loss beside?—
Aw wod this war wur ended!
A dacent chap ull do his best,
An’ eawt o’ wod he’s earnin’
Ged th’ owdest son a trade, an’ th’ rest
O’ th’ lads a bit o’ learnin’;
Bud iv he’s eawt o’ wark; wey then, Unschollard, unbefriended,
His childer grow up into men—
Aw wod this war wur ended!
As times has bin, aw owt some “tin”
For shop stuff ut Lung Nailey’s,
An’ cose aw cuddent pay’t, yo sin,
He’s gooan an’ sent th’ bum bailies;
They’n sowd us up, booath pot an’ pooak,
An’ paid th’ owd scoor off splendid;
They just dun wod they will wi fooak.—
Aw wod this war wur ended.
Neaw aw feer noather dun nor bum,
Wi o their kith an’ kin—
They’ll fotch nowt eawt o’ th’ heawse, by gum! Becose there’s nowt left in;
Aw’m welly weary o’ mi life,
An’ cuddend, if aw’d spend id,
Ged scran for th’ kids, mysel’, an’ th’ wife.— Aw wod this war wur ended!
Some forrud foos rant reet hard,
An’ toke a deal o’ nonsense;
Bud let um gabble tell theyr terd,
Id’s reet enuff i’ one sense;
They waste their brass an’ rack their brains,
Yet, be nod yo offended,
They’ll ged their labour for their pains,
Bud th’ war’s nod theerby ended!
Some factory maisters tokes for t’ Seawth
Wi’ a smooth an’ oily tongue,
Bud iv they’d sense they’d shut their meawth,
Or sing another song;
Let liberty nod slavery
Be fostered an’ extended—
Four million slaves mun yet be free,
An’, then t’ war will be ended.

Title:Aw Wod This War Wur Ended

Author:William Billington

Publication:Manchester University Press

Published in:Manchester


Keywords:poverty, war


Note - this version is from Brian Hollingworth's 1977 collection, Songs of the People, which used Billington's revised 1883 text. The October 10th 1863 version in the Blackburn Times, which is the earliest version we found, contains a final stanza (see below) which is not abolitionist.[The following is taken from the liner notes for Faustus’s CD ‘Cotton Lords’ (see Resources), which includes a musical adaptation of this text]: This piece by the famous Blackburn poet William Billington was originally written in quite heavy dialect and is composed in a fairly close ‘ballad meter’, which in poetic terms means alternating four and three beat lines in iambic pentameter. The rhymes also alternate, and this is one of Billington’s more song-like poems. The density of the dialect is deliberate in that there is an attempt to shore up the authenticity of this as a representation of working-class expression. Lines such as ‘Some forrud foos ull rant reet herd’ (‘Some forward fools will rant right hard’) cleverly incorporate dialect terms and pronunciations with more traditional poetic devices such as alliteration. Not only does this poem blend the usual personal account of financial hardship with commentary on the geopolitical situation, but it provides an example of the ways that different publication contexts can affect the decisions a poet makes in terms of the ideological position of the text. There are two versions of the last stanza of this poem, with the first newspaper publication reading like this: Some tokes for t’ North, an’ some for t’ South, Wi’ o smooth an’ oily tung, Bud iv they’d sense they’d shut their meawth, For boath on ‘em’s i’ t’ wrung! An’ it’s nooan reyt to let em feyt, --- If t’ world hes wisdom --- lend id, To set these two crookt people streyt, An’ then t’ war ud be ended! And the second version, published long after the Cotton Famine in Billington’s collection Lancashire Songs, with Other Poems and Sketches in 1883, reads like this: Some factory maisters tokes for t’Seawth Wi’ a smooth an’ oily tongue, Bud iv they’d sense they’d shut their meawth, Or sing another song; Let liberty nod slavery Be fostered an’ extended- Four million slaves mun yet be free, An, then t’ war will be ended. There is a clear difference here, with the first version much more equivocal regarding the nature of the American conflict, and suggesting that there are divided loyalties among ordinary people in Lancashire. The second version introduces a wholly new abolitionist message, and directs censure at the factory owners, suggesting a class divide in North-South support which is entirely absent in the first. If the second version was really first published in 1883, then its historical revisionism is all the more questionable, as it is attributed with an 1862 composition date. The second, abolitionist, version of this text 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. For this reason Faustus and I agreed that we would proceed with this version for the musical setting, but make people aware of the alternative. Another decision we made with regard to this piece is to ‘Anglicise’ it; in effect, to translate it from its original dialect form in order to make it more accessible to modern audiences. This is not intended to deny its original form in any way but we felt a musical setting in dialect would be a distraction in this case from the detail and sentiment of the piece. William Billington was one of the most popular Lancashire dialect poets of the Victorian period and there are plenty of recordings of people reciting his work in the original dialect.