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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Victorian Poetry and English Dialect, Dr. Martin Dubois; William Barnes Society Talk; Lancashire Dialect Poetry.

A fascinating talk by Dr. Martin Dubois at the William Barnes Society on 11th April, on Victorian Poetry and English Dialect, with a special focus on Edwin Waugh, the popular Lancashire dialect poet, and on G. M. Hopkins' use of dialect words. Dr Dubois highlighted the outpouring of vernacular poetry in the Victorian age.

Here's a powerful verse from Inversnaid that I had almost forgotten:

"What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet".

In the previous verse, Hopkins uses the phrase "degged with dew". "Degged" is a Lancashire dialect word.

In Felix Randal, Hopkins writes: "Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!"

Dr. Dubois pointed out that Hopkins also used dialect words like "fettle" (Felix Randal) and "twindles" (Inversnaid).

Three verses from Eawr folk , a Lancashire song by Edwin Waugh:

My Uncle Sam's a fiddler; an'

I fain could yer him play

Fro' set o' sun till winter neet

Had melted into day;

For eh,—sich glee—sich tenderness—

Through every changin' part,

It's th' heart that stirs his fiddle,—

An' his fiddle stirs his heart!

An', when he touches th' tremblin'-


It knows his thowt so weel,

It seawnds as if an angel tried

To tell what angels feel;

An', sometimes, th' wayter in his e'en

That fun has made to flow,

Can hardly roll away, afore

It's bleat wi' drops o' woe.

Then, here's to Jone, an' Ab, an' Ned,

An' Matty,—an' er Joe,—

An', my feyther, an' my mother; an'

Er t'other lads an' o';

An' thee, too, owd musicianer,—

Aw wish lung life to thee,—

A mon that plays a fiddle weel

Should never awse to dee!

Talking to Tim Laycock about early recordings of English folk-songs, he told me about these 1908 recordings made by Percy Grainger.

Unto Brigg Fair
Joseph Taylor and Other Traditional Lincolnshire Singers
Recorded in 1908 by Percy Grainger

Leader LEA 4050 (LP, mono, UK, 1972)

Another note

Joseph Taylor, Sprig O' Thyme (YouTube)

More poems and songs by Edwin Waugh

Dr. Dubois also cited a letter from Hopkins to Robert Bridges of 14-21 August 1879, on the subject of  Barnes' dialect poetry and his "Westcountry instress", the smell of oxeyes and applelofts. 

Available here (Oxford Scholarly Editions, on subscription):

William Barnes Society, online news (2017 events programme)

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