F.W. Moorman.

Yorkshire Dialect Poems (1673-1915) and traditional poems online

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Produced by Dave Fawthrop


By F.W. Moorman

Traditional Poems

with an Historical Introduction
F. W. Moorman
(Professor of English Language, University of Leeds)

Published for the Yorkshire Dialect Society
by Sidgwick and Jackson, Ltd., 1916, 1917

The Yorkshiremen Serving their
Country in Trench or on Battleship
I respectfully dedicate
this collection
of Songs from the Homeland

Preface to Etext Edition
Preface (To the Second Edition)
A Yorkshire Dialogue between an awd Wife a Lass and a butcher .
An Honest Yorkshireman. Henry Carey
From "Snaith Marsh" Anonymous
When at Hame wi' Dad Anonymous
I'm Yorkshire too Anonymous
The Wensleydale Lad Anonymous
A Song 1. Thomas Browne
A Song 2. Thomas Browne
The Invasion: An Ecologue Thomas Browne
Elegy on the Death of a Frog David Lewis
Sheffield Cutler's Song Abel Bywater
Address to Poverty Anonymous
The Collingham Ghost Anonymous
The Yorkshire Horse Dealers Anonymous
The Lucky Dream John Castillo
The Milkin'-Time J. H. Dixon
I Niver can call Her my Wife Ben Preston
Come to thy Gronny, Doy Ben Preston
Owd Moxy Ben Preston
Dean't mak gam o' me Florence Tweddell
Coom, stop at yam to-neet Bob Florence Tweddell
Ode to t' Mooin J. H. Eccles
Aunt Nancy J. H. Eccles
Coom, don on thy Bonnet an' Shawl Thomas Blackah
My awd hat Thomas Blackah
Reeth Bartle Fair John Harland
The Christmas Party Tom Twistleton
Nelly o' Bob's John Hartley
Bite Bigger John Hartley
Rollickin' Jack John Hartley
Jim's Letter James Burnley
A Yorkshire Farmer's Address to a Schoolmaster George Lancaster
The Window on the Cliff Top W. H. Oxley
Aar Maggie Edmund Hatton
T' First o' t' Sooart John Hartley
Pateley Reaces Anonymous
Play Cricket Ben Turner
The File-cutter's Lament to Liberty E. Downing
A Kuss John Malham-Dembleby
Huntin' Song Richard Blakeborough
Spring F. J. Newboult
Heam, Sweet Heam A. C. Watson
Then an' Nae E. A. Lodge
Owd England Walter Hampson.
Love and Pie J. A. Carill
I's Gotten t' Bliss George H. Cowling
A Natterin' Wife George H. Cowling
O! What do ye Wesh i' the Beck George H. Cowling

Traditional Poems
Cleveland Lyke-wake Dirge 1
Cleveland Lyke-wake Dirge 2 Sir Walter Scott's version
A Dree Neet
The Bridal Bands
The Bridal Garter
Nance and Tom
The Witch's Curse
Ridin' t' Stang
Elphi Bandy-legs
Singing Games
Stepping up the green grass
Sally made a pudden
Sally Water, Sally Water
Diller a dollar
Hagmana Song
Round the Year
New Year's Day
Lucky-bird, lucky-bird, chuck, chuck, chuck!
On Can'lemas, a February day
A Can'lemas crack
If Can'lemas be lound an' fair,
February Fill-Dike
February fill-dyke
Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday, palm away;
Good Friday
On Good Friday rist thy pleaf
Royal Oak Day
It's Royal Oak Day,
Harvest Home and the Mell-Sheaf
We have her, we have her,
Here we coom at oor toon-end,
Weel bun' an' better shorn
Blest be t' day that Christ was born,
Guy Fawkes Day
A Stick and a stake,
Awd Grimey sits upon yon hill,
I wish you a merry Kessenmas an' a happy New Year,
Cleveland Christmas Song
A Christmas Wassail
Sheffield Mumming Song
Charms, "Nominies," and Popular Rhymes
Wilful weaste maks weasome want
A rollin' stone gethers no moss
Than awn a crawin' hen
Nowt bud ill-luck 'll fester where
Meeat maks
The Miller's Thumb
Miller, miller, mooter-poke
Down i' yon lum we have a mill,
Hob-Trush Hob
"Hob-Trush Hob, wheer is thoo?"
Gin Hob mun hae nowt but a hardin' hamp,
Nanny Button-Cap
The New Moon
A Setterday's mean
I see t' mean an' t' mean sees me,
New mean, new mean, I hail thee,
Eevein' red an' mornin' gray
Souther, wind, souther!
Friday Unlucky
Dean't o' Friday buy your ring
An Omen
Blest is t' bride at t' sun shines on
A Charm
Tak twea at's red an' yan at's blake
A gift o' my finger
Sunday clipt, Sunday shorn
A Monday's bairn 'll grow up fair
A cobweb i' t' kitchen,
Snaw, snaw, coom faster
Julius Caesar made a law
A weddin', a woo, a clog an' a shoe
Chimley-sweeper, blackymoor
The Lady-bird
Cow-lady, cow-lady, hie thy way wum,
The Magpie
I cross'd pynot,(1) an' t' pynot cross'd me
The Bat
The Snail
Sneel, sneel, put oot your horn,
When all the world shall be aloft,
When lords an' ladies stinking water soss,
The River Don
The shelvin', slimy river Don

Original Transcriber's Note:

This is a mixture of the First and Second editions as noted.

The name of the author has been inserted after every title, so that it
will be included when poems are copied individually.

The footnotes have been renumbered and placed at the bottom of each
individual poem.

The sequence of the poems in the second edition has generally been
adhered to, and the contents list has been built on this basis. The
Indexes have been omitted because of the lack of pagination in etext.
Computer searches also make them redundant,

Dave Fawthrop


Several anthologies of poems by Yorkshiremen, or about Yorkshiremen, have
passed through the press since Joseph Ritson published his Yorkshire
Garland in 1786. Most of these have included a number of dialect poems,
but I believe that the volume which the reader now holds in his hand is
the first which is made up entirely of poems written in "broad
Yorkshire." In my choice of poems I have been governed entirely by the
literary quality and popular appeal of the material which lay at my
disposal. This anthology has not been compiled for the philologist, but
for those who have learnt to speak "broad Yorkshire" at their mother's
knee, and have not wholly unlearnt it at their schoolmaster's desk. To
such the variety and interest of these poems, no less than the
considerable range of time over which their composition extends, will, I
believe, come as a surprise.

It is in some ways a misfortune that there is no such thing as a standard
Yorkshire dialect. The speech of the North and East Ridings is far
removed from that of the industrial south-west. The difference consists,
not so much in idiom or vocabulary, as in pronunciation - especially in
the pronunciation of the long vowels and diphthongs.(1) As a consequence
of this, I have found it impossible, in bringing together dialect poems
from all parts of the county, to reduce their forms to what might be
called Standard Yorkshire. Had I attempted to do this, I should have
destroyed what was most characteristic. My purpose throughout has been
to preserve the distinguishing marks of dialect possessed by the poems,
but to normalise the spelling of those writers who belong to one and the
same dialect area.

The spelling of "broad Yorkshire" will always be one of the problems
which the dialect-writer has to face. At best he can only hope for a
broadly accurate representation of his mode of speech, but he can take
comfort in the thought that most of those who read his verses know by
habit how the words should be pronounced far better than he can teach
them by adopting strange phonetic devices. A recognition of this fact
has guided me in fixing the text of this anthology, and every spelling
device which seemed to me unnecessary, or clumsy, or pedantic, I have
ruthlessly discarded. On the other hand, where the dialect-writer has
chosen the Standard English spelling of any word, I have as a rule not
thought fit to alter its form and spell it as it would be pronounced in
his dialect.

I am afraid I may have given offence to those whom I should most of all
like to please - the living contributors to this anthology - by
tampering in this way with the text of their poems. In defence of what I
have done, I must put forward the plea of consistency. If I had
preserved every poet's text as I found it, I should have reduced my
readers to despair.

In conclusion, I should - like to thank the contributors to this volume,
and also their publishers, for the permission to reproduce copyright
work. Special thanks are due to Mr. Richard Blakeborough, who has placed
Yorkshiremen under a debt, by the great service which he has rendered in
recovering much of the traditional poetry of Yorkshire and in giving it
the permanence of the printed page. In compiling the so-called
traditional poems at the end of this volume, I have largely drawn upon
his Wit, Character, Folklore, and Customs of the North Riding.

F. W. Moorman

1. Thus in the south-west fool and soon are pronounced fooil
and sooin, in the north-east feeal and seean. Both the
south-west and the north-east have a word praad - with a
vowel - sound like the a in father - but whereas in the south-
west it stands for proud, in the north-east it stands for

Preface (To the Second Edition)

The demand for a second edition of this anthology of Yorkshire dialect
verse gives me an opportunity of correcting two rather serious error's
which crept into the first edition. The poem entitled "Hunting Song" on
page 86, which I attributed to Mr. Richard Blakeborough, is the work of
Mr. Malham-Dembleby", whose poem, "A Kuss," immediately precedes it in
the volume.

The poem on page 75, which in the first edition was marked Anonymous and
entitled "Parson Drew thro' Pudsey," is the work of the late John
Hartley; its proper' title is "T' First o' t' Sooar't," and it includes
eight introductory stanzas which are now added as Appendix II.

Through the kindness of: Fr W. A. Craigie, Dr. M. Denby, and Mr. E. G.
Bayford, I have also been able to make a few changes in the glossarial
footnotes, The most important of these is the change from "Ember's" to
"Floor" as the meaning of the word, "Fleet" in the second line of "A
Lyke-wake Dirge." The note which Dr. Craigie sen't me on this word is so
interesting that I reproduce it here verbatim:

"The word fleet in the 'Lyke-wake Dirge' has been much misunderstood, but
it is certain1y the same thing as flet-floor; see the O.E.D. and E.D.D.
under. FLET. The form is not necessarily 'erroneous,' as is said in the
O.E.D., for it might represent ,the O.N. dative fleti, which must have
been common in the phrase a fleti (cf. the first verse of 'Havamal').
The collocation with 'fire' occurs in 'Sir Gawayne' (l. 1653): 'Aboute
the fyre upon flet.' 'Fire and fleet and candle-light' are a summary of
the comforts of the house, which the dead person still enjoys for 'this
ae night,' and then goes out into the dark and cold."

F. W. Moorman


The publication of an anthology of Yorkshire dialect poetry seems to
demand a brief introduction in which something shall be said of the
history and general character of that poetry. It is hardly necessary to
state that Yorkshire has produced neither a Robert Burns, a William
Barnes, nor even an Edwin Waugh. Its singers are as yet known only among
their own folk; the names of John Castillo and Florence Tweddell are
household words among the peasants of the Cleveland dales, as are those
of Ben Preston and John Hartley among the artisans of the Aire and Calder
valleys; but, outside of the county, they are almost unknown, except to
those who are of Yorkshire descent and who cherish the dialect because of
its association with the homes of their childhood.

At the same time there is no body of dialect verse which better deserves
the honour of an anthology. In volume and variety the dialect poetry of
Yorkshire surpasses that of all other English counties. Moreover, when
the rise of the Standard English idiom crushed out our dialect
literature, it was the Yorkshire dialect which first reasserted its
claims upon the muse of poetry; hence, whereas the dialect literature of
most of the English counties dates only from the beginning of the
nineteenth century, that of Yorkshire reaches back to the second half of
the seventeenth.

In one sense it may be said that Yorkshire dialect poetry dates, not from
the seventeenth, but from the seventh century, and that the first
Yorkshire dialect poet was Caedmon, the neat-herd of Whitby Abbey. But
to the ordinary person the reference to a dialect implies the existence
of a standard mode of speech almost as certainly as odd implies even.
Accordingly, this is not the place to speak of that great heritage of
song which Yorkshire bequeathed to the nation between the seventh century
and the fifteenth. After the Caedmonic poems, its chief glories are the
religious lyrics of Richard Rolle, the mystic, and the great cycles of
scriptural plays which are associated with the trade-guilds of York and
Wakefield. But in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the
all-conquering Standard English spread like a mighty spring-tide over
England and found no check to its progress till the Cheviots were
reached. The new "King's English" was of little avail in silencing
dialect as a means of intercourse between man and man, but it checked for
centuries the development of dialect literature. The old traditional
ballads and songs, which were handed down orally from generation to
generation in the speech of the district to which they belonged, escaped
to some extent this movement towards uniformity; but the deliberate
artificers of verse showed themselves eager above all things to get rid
of their provincialisms and use only the language of the Court.
Shakespeare may introduce a few Warwickshire words into his plays, but
his English is none the less the Standard English of his day, while
Spenser is sharply brought to task by Ben Jonson for using archaisms and
provincialisms in his poems. A notable song of the Elizabethan age is
that entitled "York, York, for my Monie," which was first published in
1584; only a Yorkshireman could have written it, and it was plainly
intended for the gratification of Yorkshire pride; yet its language is
without trace of local colour, either in spelling or vocabulary. Again,
there appeared in the year 1615 a poem by Richard Brathwaite, entitled,
"The Yorkshire Cottoneers," and addressed to "all true-bred Northerne
Sparks, of the generous society of the Cottoneers, who hold their
High-roade by the Pinder of Wakefield, the Shoo-maker of Bradford, and
the white Coate of Kendall"; but Brathwaite, though a Kendal man by
birth, makes no attempt to win the hearts of his "true-bred Northern
Sparks" by addressing them in the dialect that was their daily wear. In
a word, the use of the Yorkshire dialect for literary purposes died out
early in the Tudor period.

As already stated, its rebirth dates from the second half of the
seventeenth century. That was an age of scientific investigation and
antiquarian research. John Ray, the father of natural history, not
content with his achievements in the classification of plants, took up
also the collection of outlandish words, and in the year 1674 he
published a work entitled, A Collection of English Words, not generally
used, with their Significations and Original, in two Alphabetical
Catalogues, the one of such as are proper to the Northern, the other to
the Southern Counties. Later he entered into correspondence with the
Leeds antiquary, Ralph Thoresby, who, in a letter dated April 27, 1703,
sends him a list of dialect words current in and about Leeds.(1)

Side by side with this new interest in the dialect vocabulary comes also
the dialect poem. One year before the appearance of Ray's Collection of
English Words the York printer, Stephen Bulkby, had issued, as a humble
broadside without author's name, a poem which bore the following title: A
Yorkshire Dialogue in Yorkshire Dialect; Between an Awd Wife, a Lass, and
a Butcher. This dialogue occupies the first place in our anthology, and
it is, from several points of view, a significant work. It marks the
beginning, not only of modern Yorkshire, but also of modern English,
dialect poetry. It appeared just a thousand years after Caedmon had sung
the Creator's praise in Whitby Abbey, and its dialect is that of
northeast Yorkshire - in other words, the lineal descendant of that speech
which was used by Caedmon in the seventh century, by Richard Rolle in the
fourteenth, and which may be heard to this day in the streets of Whitby
and among the hamlets of the Cleveland Hills.

The dialogue is a piece of boldest realism. Written in an age when
classic restraint and classic elegance were in the ascendant, and when
English poets were taking only too readily to heart the warning of
Boileau against allowing shepherds to speak "comme on parle au village,"
the author of this rustic dialogue flings to the winds every convention
of poetic elegance. His lines "baisent la terre" in a way that would
have inexpressibly shocked Boileau and the Parisian salons. The poem
reeks of the byre and the shambles; its theme is the misadventure which
befalls an ox in its stall and its final despatch by the butcher's
mallet! One might perhaps find something comparable to it in theme and
treatment in the paintings of the contemporary school of Dutch realists,
but in poetry it is unique. Yet, gross as is its realism, it cannot be
called crude as a work of poetic art. In rhyme and rhythm it is quite
regular, and the impression which it leaves upon the mind is that it was
the work of an educated man, keenly interested in the unvarnished life of
a Yorkshire farm, keenly interested in the vocabulary and idioms of his
district, and determined to produce a poem which should bid defiance to
all the proprieties of the poetic art.

Eleven years later - in 1684 - appeared two more poems, in a dialect
akin to but not identical with that of the above and very similar in
theme and treatment. These are A Yorkshire Dialogue in its pure Natural
Dialect as it is now commonly spoken in the North Parts of Yorkeshire,
and A Scould between Bess and Nell, two Yorkshire Women. These two poems
were also published at York, though by a different printer, and in the
following year a second edition appeared, followed by a third in 1697. To
the poems is appended Francis Brokesby's "Observations on the Dialect and
Pronunciation of Words in the East Riding of Yorkshire," which he had
previously sent to Ray,(1) together with a collection of Yorkshire
proverbs and a "Clavis," or Glossary, also by Brokesby. The author of
these two poems, who signs himself" G. M. Gent" on the title-page, is
generally supposed to be a certain George Meriton, an attorney by
profession, though Francis Douce, the antiquary, claims George Morrinton
of Northallerton as the author.

"G. M." is a deliberate imitator of the man who wrote the Dialogue
Between an Awd Wife, a Lass, and a Butcher. All that has been said about
the trenchant realism of farmlife in the dialogue of 1673 applies with
equal force to the dialogues of 1684. The later poet, having a larger
canvas at his disposal, is able to introduce more characters and more
incident; but in all that pertains to style and atmosphere he keeps
closely to his model. What is still more apparent is that the author is
consciously employing dialect words and idioms with the set purpose of
illustrating what he calls the "pure Natural Dialect" of Yorkshire; above
all, he delights in the proverbial lore of his native county and never
misses an opportunity of tagging his conversations with one or other of
these homespun proverbs. The poem is too long for our anthology,(2) but
I cannot forbear quoting some of these proverbs:

"There's neay carrion can kill a craw."
"It's a good horse that duz never stumble,
And a good wife that duz never grumble."
"Neare is my sarke, but nearer is my skin."
"It's an ill-made bargain whore beath parties rue."
"A curst cow hes short horns."
"Wilfull fowkes duz never want weay."
"For change of pastures macks fat cawves, it's said,
But change of women macks lean knaves, I'se flaid

The excellent example set by the authors of the Yorkshire Dialogues was
not followed all at once. Early in the eighteenth century, however,
Allan Ramsay rendered conspicuous service to dialect poetry generally by
the publication of his pastoral drama, The Gentle Shepherd (1725), as
well as by his collections of Scottish songs, known as The Evergreen and
Tea Table miscellanies. Scotland awoke to song, and the charm of Lowland
Scots was recognised even by Pope and the wits of the coffee-houses. One
can well believe that lovers of dialect south of the Tweed were thereby
moved to emulation, and in the year 1736 Henry Carey, the reputed son of
the Marquis of Halifax, produced a ballad-opera bearing the equivocal
title, A Wonder, or An Honest Yorkshireman.(3) Popular in its day, this
opera is now forgotten, but its song, "An Honest Yorkshireman" has found
a place in many collections of Yorkshire songs. It lacks the charm of
the same author's famous "Sally in our Alley," but there is a fine manly
ring about its sentiments, and it deserves wider recognition. The
dialect is that of north-east Yorkshire.

In 1754 appeared the anonymous dialect poem, Snaith Marsh.(4) This is a
much more conventional piece of work than the seventeenth- century
dialogues, and the use which is made of the local idiom is more
restricted. Yet it is not without historic interest. Composed at a time
when the Enclosure Acts were robbing the peasant farmer of his rights of
common, the poem is an elegiac lament on the part of the Snaith farmer
who sees himself suddenly brought to the brink of ruin by the enclosure
of Snaith Marsh. To add to his misery, his bride, Susan, has deserted
him for the more prosperous rival, Roger. As much of the poem is in
standard English, it would be out of place to reprint it in its entirety
in this collection, but, inasmuch as the author grows bolder in his use
of dialect as the poem proceeds, I have chosen the concluding section to
illustrate the quality of the work and the use which is made of dialect.

From the date of the publication of Snaith Marsh to the close of the
eighteenth century it is difficult to trace chronologically the progress

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Online LibraryF.W. MoormanYorkshire Dialect Poems (1673-1915) and traditional poems → online text (page 1 of 9)