Songs of the Ridings
The Hungry Forties
Thou wants my vote, young man wi' t' carpet-bags,
Weel, sit thee down, an' hark what I've to say.
It's noan so varry oft wer kitchen flags
Are mucked by real live lords down Yelland(1) way.
I've read thy speyks i' t' paper of a neet,
Thou lets a vast o' words flow off thy tongue;
Thou's gotten facts an' figures, plain as t' leet,
An' argiments to slocken(2) owd an' young.
But what are facts an' figures 'side o' truths
We've bowt wi' childer' tears an' brokken lives?
An' what are argiments o' cockered youths
To set agean yon groans o' caitiff(3) wives?
'Twere "hungry forties" when I were a lad,
An' fowks were clemmed, an' weak i' t' airm an' brain;
We lived on demick'd(4) taties, bread gone sad,
An' wakkened up o' neets croodled(5) wi' pain.
When t' quartern loaf were raised to one and four,
We'd watter-brewis, swedes stown out o' t' field;
Farmers were t' landlords' jackals, an' us poor
Tewed in Egyptian bondage unrepealed.
I mind them times when lads marched down our street
Wi' penny loaves on pikes all steeped i' blooid;
"It's breead or blooid," they cried. "We've nowt to eat;
To Hell wi' all that taxes t' people's fooid."
There was a papist duke(6) that com aleng
Wi' curry powders, an' he telled our boss
That when fowk's bellies felt pination's teng,(7)
For breead, yon stinkin' powders they mun soss.(8)
I went to wark when I were eight yeer owd;
I tended galloways an' sammed up coils.
'Twere warm i' t' pit, aboon 't were despert cowd,
An' clothes were nobbut spetches,(9) darns an' hoils.
Thro' six to eight I worked, then two mile walk
Across yon sumpy(10) fields to t' kitchen door.
I've often fainted, face as white as chalk,
Then fall'n lang-length upon wer cobble-floor.
My mother addled seven and six a week,
Slavin' all t' day at Akeroyd's weyvin'-shed:
Fayther at t' grunstone wrowt, while he fell sick;
Steel filin's gate intul his lungs, he said.
I come thee then no thank for all thy speyks,
Thou might as weel have spared thisen thy pains;
I see no call to laik at ducks an' drakes
Wi' t' bitter truth that's burnt intul our brains.
"Corn laws be damned," said dad i' forty-eight;
"Corn laws be damned," say I i' nineteen-five.
Tariff reform, choose, how, will have to wait
Down Yelland way, so lang as I'm alive.
If thou an' thine sud tax us workers' fooid,
An' thrust us back in our owd misery,
May t' tears o' our deead childer thin thy blooid,
An' t' curse o' t' "hungry forties" leet on thee.
1. Elland. 2. Satiate 3. Infirm 4 Diseased.
5. Bent double 6. Duke of Norfolk 7 Sting.
8. Sip. 9. Patches 10. Swampy.
The Local Preacher
Ay, I'm a ranter, so at least fowks say;
Happen they'd tell t' same tale o' t' postle Paul.
I've ranted fifty yeer, coom first o' May,
An' niver changed my gospil through 'em all.
There's nowt like t' Blooid o' t' Lamb an' t' Fire o' Hell
To bring a hardened taistril(1) to his knees;
If fowks want more nor that, then thou can tell
'Em straight, I've got no cure for their disease.
I willent thole this New Theology
That blends up Hell wi' Heaven, sinners wi' saints
For black was black when I turned Methody,
An' white was white, i' souls as weel as paints.
That's awlus t' warp an' t' weft o' my discourse,
An' awlus will be, lang as I can teach;
If fowks won't harken tul it, then, of course,
They go to church and hear t' owd parson preach.
His sarmon's like his baccy, sweet an' mild;
Fowk's ommost hauf asleep at t' second word.
By t' Mass! they're wick as lops,(2) ay, man an' child,
When I stan' up an' wrastle wi' the Lord.
Nay, I'm not blamin' parson, I'll awant(3);
Preachin's his trade, same way as millin's mine.
I' trade you've got to gie fowks what they want,
An' that is mostly sawcum(4) meshed reet fine.
Tak squire theer; he don't want no talk o' Hell,
He likes to hark to t' parable o' t' teares ;
He reckons church is wheat that's gooid to sell,
But chapil's nobbut kexes,(5) thorns, an' brears.
Squire's lasses, they can't do wi' t' Blooid o' t' Lamb
They're all for t' blooid o' t' foxes, like our Bob.
The Lord Hissen will have to save or damn
Church fowks wid out me mellin' on(6) His job.
But gie me chapil lasses gone astray,
Or lads that cooms home druffen of a neet,
An' I'll raise Cain afore I go away,
If I don't gie 'em t' glent o' t' Gospil leet.
I'll mak 'em sit on t' penitential stooils,
An' roar as loud as t' buzzer down at t' mill;
I'll mak 'em own that they've bin despert fooils,
Wi' all their pride o' life a bitter pill.
I've mony texts, but all to one point keep,
Same as all t' becks flow down to one saut sea:
Damnation an' salvation, goats an' sheep-
That's t' Bible gospil that thou'll get thro' me.
1. Reprobate. 2. Lively as fleas. 3. Warrrant.
4. Sawdust. 5. Dried stems of weeds 6. Meddling with
The Miller By The Shore
( An East Coast Chanty )
The miller by the shore am I,
A man o' despert sense;
I've fotty different soorts o' ways
O' addlin' honest pence.
Good wheat and wuts and barley-corns
My mill grinds all t' day lang ;
Frae faave 'o t' morn while seven o' t' neet
My days are varra thrang.
I mill a bit, I till a bit,
I dee all maks 'o jobs,
Frae followin' ploos and hollowin' coos
To mendin' chairs and squabs.(1)
Oh! folks they laugh and girn at me,
I niver tak it ill;
If I's the Jack 'o ivery trade,
They all bring grist to t' mill.
I tend my hunderd yakker farm,
An' milk my Kyloe kye.
I've Lincoln yowes an' Leicester tups
An' twenty head 'o wye.(2)
I've stirks to tak to Scarbro' mart,
I've meers for farmers' gigs;
And oh! I wish that you could see
My laatle sookin' pigs.
I mill a bit. ...
When summer days graws lang an' breet,
Oot cooms my "Noah's Arks,"
Wheer city folk undriss theirsels
An' don my bathin' sarks.(3)
An' when they git on land agean,
I rub' em smooth as silk;
Then bring' em oot, to fill their weeams,
My parkin ceakes an' milk.
I mill a bit. ...
I pike(4) stray timmer on the shore,
An' cuvins(5) on the scar;
I know wheer crabs 'll hugger up,(6)
I know wheer t' lobsters are.
I've cobles fishin' oot i' t' bay,
For whitings, dabs and cods,
I've herrin' trawls and salmon nets,
I've hooks and lines and rods.
I mill a bit. ...
On darksome neets, back-end 'o t' yeer,
I like another sport;
I row my boat wheer t' lugger lies,
Coom frae some foreign port;
A guinea in a coastguard's poke
Will mak him steck his een ;
So he says nowt when I coom yam
Wi' scent and saccharine.
I mill a bit. ...
1. Settles. 2. Heifers. 3 .Shirts.
4. Pick up 5 Periwinkles
6. Crowd together
The New Englishman
I've lived all my life i' Keighley,
I'm a Yorkshire artisan;
An' when I were just turned seventy
I became an Englishman.
Nat'ralised German! nay, deng it!
I'm British-born, same as thee!
But I niver thowt mich to my country,
While(1) my country thowt mich to me.
I were proud o' my lodge an' my union,
An' proud o' my town an' my shire;
But all t' consans o' t' nation,
I left to t' parson an' t' squire.
Class-war were t' faith that I Iived for,
I call'd all capit'lists sharks;
An' "T' workin' man has no country,"
Were my Gospel accordin' to Marx.
When I'd lossen my job back i' t' eighties,
An were laikin' for well-nigh two year,
Who said that an out-o'-wark fettler
Were costin' his country dear?
Owd England cared nowt about me,
I could clem(2) wi' my barns an' my wife;
Shoo were ower thrang wi' buildin' up t' empire
To build up a brokken life.
"Ivery man for hissen," shoo said,
"An' t' dule can catch what he can;
Labour's cheap an' trade's worth more
Nor t' life of a workin' man."
When t' country were chuff,(3) an' boasted
That t' sun niver set on her flags,
I thowt o' wer back-to-back houses,
Wer childer i' spetches(4) an' rags,
When t' country drave by i' her carriage,
Wi' flunkies afore an' behind,
I left her to bettermy bodies,
An' I gav her a taste o' my mind.
But when shoo were liggin' i' t' gutter,
Wi' a milit'rist mob at her throit,
"Hands off her!" I cried, "shoo's my mother:"
An' I doffed my cap an' my coit.
I'd gien ower wark at seventy,
But I gat agate once more;
"I'll live for my country, not on her"
Were my words on t' fettlers' floor.
Shoo's putten her trust i' us workers,
We'll save her, niver fear;
Feight for her, live for her, dee for her,
Her childer that loves her dear.
Eight o' my grandsons has fallen,
My youngest lad's crippled i' t' arm;
But I'll give her choose-what(5) shoo axes,
Afore I'll see her tak harm.
T' war is a curse an' a blessin',
If fowks could understan';
It's brokken my home an' my childer,
But it's made me an Englishman.
1. until 2. Starve 3. Arrogant
4. Patches 5. Whatever
The Two Lamplighters
I niver thowt when I grew owd
I'd tak to leetin' lamps;
I sud have said, I'd rayther pad
My hoof on t' road wi' tramps.
But sin I gate that skelp(1) i' t' mine,
I'm wankle(2) i' my heead;
So gaffer said, I'd give ower wark
An' leet town lamps atsteead.
At first, when I were liggin' snug
I' bed, warm as a bee,
'T were hard to rise and get agate
As sooin as t' clock strake three.
An' I were flaid to hear my steps
Echoin' on ivery wall;
An' flaider yet when down by t' church
Ullets would skreek and call.
But now I'm flaid o' nowt; I love
All unkerd(3) sounds o' t' neet,
Frae childer talkin' i' their dreams
To t' tramp o' p'licemen' feet.
But most of all I love to hark
To t' song o' t' birds at dawn;
They wakken up afore it gloams,
When t' dew ligs thick on t' lawn.
If I feel lonesome, up I look
To t' sky aboon my heead;
An' theer's yon stars all glestrin' breet,
Like daisies in a mead.
But sometimes, when I'm glowerin' up,
I see the Lord hissen;
He's doutin' all yon lamps o' Heaven
That shines on mortal men.
He lowps alang frae star to star,
As cobby(4) as can be;
Mebbe He reckons fowk's asleep,
Wi' niver an eye to see.
But I hae catched Him at his wark,
For all He maks no din;
He leaves a track o' powder'd gowd(5)
To show where He has bin.
He's got big lamps an' laatle lamps,
An' lamps that twinkles red;
Im capped to see Him dout 'em all
Afore I'm back i' bed.
But He don't laik about His wark,
Or stop to hark to t' birds;
He minds His business, does the Lord,
An' wastes no gaumless words.
I grow more like Him ivery day,
For all I walk so lame;
An', happen, there will coom a time
I'll beat Him at His game.
Thrang as Throp's wife, I'll dout my lamps
Afore He's gotten so far;
An' then I'll shout - "I've won my race,
I've bet Him by a star."
1. Blow 2. Unsteady 3. Strange, eerie
4. Active 5. The Milky Way