A Night With The Brother Of “Mine Host” Or “Who Could Have Thought It?” Grimshaw Park, Blackburn.
By Wm. Billington.

One night when I had lingered late
Among a set of social souls,
A worthy friend and trusty mate
Whose kindness still my heart controls,
Asked me to go and have a peep,
At his snug cot, and sup and sleep.
‘Tis true I’d had a drop too much,
Though neither fearing ghosts nor ghouls,
I thought, to sleep among the [slutch]
Where the street-walking strumpet strolls,
Would soil the honour of a poet,
If e’er the world should come to know it.
Therefore I thought it best to take
The proffered kindness of my friend;
So, half asleep and half awake,
We arm in arm our way did wend,
Till, safe within his cottage door,
We trod the carpet-covered floor.
A fire was blazing, bright as truth,
And rosy children ranged around,
Which flung my fancy back on youth,
When with delight my life was crowned;
Delight, which Time doth steal away,
For joys depart with childhood’s day.
We feasted full of sumptuous fare
And vintage of the very best;
His smiling spouse did soon prepare
A couch whereon a king might rest,
Where to my raptured soul was given
A foretaste of the joys of Heaven!
For soon asleep, a dream I dreamed:
I thought we all once more had met;
And Crawshaw, too, reciting, seemed
In Pemberton’s, till cheeks were wet,
And tongues were hushed, hearts listening all ---
You might have heard a feather fall.
And when his task was deftly done,
The trumpet of his fame was blown;
He called on ‘Mr. Billington
To ‘give us something of his own!’
And he gave something very good,
But what, I hardly understood.
Then on the sofa I did squat,
And whiff’d away at my cigar!
We talked of “dow times” and all that ---
The cotton crop and Yankee war!
Till [Sumner] Sam the next piece gave,
‘Twas Critchley Prince’s “Factory Slave.”
The key-note with which he did start,
The tender pathos of whose tone
Keen thrilled thro’ every feeling heart,
For each one felt the case his own;
And all the Artiste did applaud,
And Prince with praises loudly laud.
John Baron stood reciting next,
Till all the building echoed round;
The “Balaclava Charge,” his text,
Made the unvaulted roof resound,
And Dicky’s parlour door to shake,
At which I started, wide awake!
The knocker-up was at the door!
A voice rang out, “It’s half-past five!
The factory bells did clang and roar,
And, like a bee from out its hive
I sprang at once out of my bed,
And dress’d for work, I thither fled!
But left not till I’d taken leave
Of him whose kindness shone so bright,
And promised I would one day weave
In verse what had occurred that night.
So when I next a visit pay
To Dick, we’ll spend a glorious day.

Title:A Night with the Brother of "Mine Host" of "Who Could Have Thought It?" Grimshaw Park, Blackburn

Author:W. M. Billington

Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:July 30, 1864

Keywords:domesticity, gender, war, work


This 72 line poem is written in six-line stanzas in the rhyme scheme of ABABCC, which is surprisingly difficult to achieve with distinction, particularly with the short line length allowed by iambic tetrameter. However, Billington was a skilled poet and capable of maintaining a charming narrative tone throughout, with the first person form address here represented as a story told by the poet himself of events which had recently occurred. In that sense this appears as closer to reportage than lyric poetry, but of course only the participants in the events could attest to its truth or otherwise.

The political events of the day are touched upon with reference to the ‘cotton crop and Yankee war’, but this is really an account of social conviviality which reveals the closeness between the major poets in this part of Lancashire including Jonathan Critchley Prince and John Baron, both of whom featured heavily in the poetry columns of local newspapers during this period. As social context to literary history this is invaluable.- SR