(Original) The Beddin’s Goan
Title:The Beddin's Goan
Author:W. A. Abram
Publication:The Blackburn Times
Date:November 29, 1862
Keywords:dialect, domesticity, gender, politics, poverty
In a broadly ballad rhythm of four and three alternating iambs, this poem is arranged in five of the octet eight-line stanzas which were common for Lancashire dialect poetry of this time. The orthography (spelling system) here is wilfully obscure, with almost every common word spelt in a non-standard way in order to attempt to represent a regional accent. The speaker is a wife, presumably addressing her husband (‘Robbut’), but this address is really a device to enable an account of the family’s woes as they must sell off all their possessions in order to pay off their debts. Each stanza finishes with a variation on a statement to the effect that the family’s bedding has ‘goan’, which acts as a refrain.
The use of the sale of the bedding to represent the last straw of poverty here is very significant. The onset of winter was especially feared in stricken towns, and the loss of the bedding signifies a desperate vulnerability, especially in conjunction with the hunger and illness already being suffered. The speaker is suffering from a respiratory complaint, perhaps bronchitis, and wonders if she will even live long enough to benefit from relief or charity only briefly alluded to (‘th’ koind hert’).