The Death of Œnone, and Other Poems

The Church-Warden and the Curate

Alfred Tennyson

This is written in the dialect which was current in my youth at Spilsby and in the country about it.

EH? good daäy! good daäy! thaw it beän’t not mooch of a daäy,
Nasty, casselty1 weather! an’ mea Haäfe down wi’ my haäy!2

How be the farm gittin on? noäways. Gittin on i’deeäd!
Why, tonups was Haäfe on ’em fingers an’ toas,3 an’ the mare brokken-kneeäd,
An’ pigs didn’t sell at fall,4 an’ wa lost wer Haldeny cow,
An’ it beäts ma to knaw wot she died on, but wool’s looking oop ony how.

An’ soä they’ve maäde tha a parson, an’ thou’ll git along, niver fear,
Fur I beän chuch-warden mysen i’ the parish fur fifteen year.
Well—sin ther beä chuch-wardens, ther mun be parsons an’ all,
An’ if t’öne stick alongside t’uther5 the chuch weänt happen a fall.

Fur I wur a Baptis wonst, an’ ageän the toithe an’ the raäte,
Till I fun6 that it warn’t not the gaäinist7 waäy to the narra Gaäte.
An’ I can’t abeär ’em, I can’t, fur a lot on ’em coom’d ta-year8
I wur down wi’ the rheumatis then—to my pond to wesh thessens theere—
Sa I sticks like the ivin9 as long as I lives to the owd chuch now,
Fur they wesh’d their sins i’ my pond, an’ I doubts they poison’d the cow.

Ay, an’ ya seed the Bishop. They say’s ’at he coom’d fra nowt—
Burn i’ traäde. Sa I warrants ’e niver said haäfe wot ’e thowt,
But ’e creeäpt an’ ’e crawl’d along, till ’e feeäld ’e could howd ’is oän,
Then ’e married a greät Yerl’s darter, an’ sits o’ the Bishop’s throan.

Now I’ll gie the a bit o’ my mind an’ tha weant be taakin’ offence,
Fur thou be a big scholard now wi’ a hoonderd haäcre o’ sense—
But sich an obstropulous10 lad—naay, naay—fur I minds tha sa well,
Tha’d niver not hopple11 thy tongue, an’ the tongue’s sit afire o’ Hell,
As I says to my missis to-daäy, when she hurl’d a plaäte at the cat
An’ anoother ageän my noäse. Ya was niver sa bad as that.

But I minds when i’ Howlaby beck won daäy ya was ticklin’ o’ trout,
An’ keeäper ’e seed ya an roon’d, an’ ’e beal’d12 to ya ‘Lad coom hout’
An’ ya stood oop naäkt i’ the beck, an’ ya tell’d ’im to knaw his awn plaäce
An’ ye call’d ’im a clown, ya did, an’ ya thraw’d the fish i’ ’is faäce,
An’ ’e torn’d13 as red as a stag-tuckey’s14 wattles, but theer an’ then
I coämb’d ’im down, fur I promised ya’d niver not do it ageän.

An’ I cotch’d tha wonst i’ my garden, when thou was a height-year-howd,15
An’ I fun thy pockets as full o’ my pippins as iver they’d ’owd,16
An’ thou was as peärky17 as owt, an’ tha maäde me as mad as mad,
But I says to the ‘keeäp ’em, an’ welcome’ fur thou was the Parson’s lad.

An Parson ’e ’ears on it all, an’ then taäkes kindly to me,
An’ then I wur chose Chuch-warden an’ coom’d to the top o’ the tree,
Fur Quoloty’s hall my friends, an’ they maäkes ma a help to the poor,
When I gits the plaäte fuller o’ Soondays nor ony chuch-warden afoor,
Fur if iver thy feyther’ed riled me I kep’ mysen meeäk as a lamb,
An’ saw by the Graäce o’ the Lord, Mr. Harry, I ham wot I ham.

But Parson ’e will speäk out, saw, now ’e be sixty-seven,
He’ll niver swap Owlby an’ Scratby fur owt but the Kingdom o’ Heaven:
An’ thou’II be ’is Curate ’ere, but, if iver tha meäns to git ’igher,
The mun tackle the sins o’ the Wo’ld,18 an’ not the faults o’ the Squire.
An’ I reckons tha’ll light of a livin’ some-wheers i’ the Wowd19 or the Fen,
If tha cottons down to thy betters, an’ keeäps thysen to thysen.
But niver not speäk plaäin out, if tha wants to git forrards a bit,
But creeäp along the hedge-bottoms, an’ thou’ll be a Bishop yit.

Naäy, but tha mun speäk hout to the Baptises here i’ the town,
Fur moäst on ’em talks ageän tithe, an’ I’d like the to preäch ’em down,
Fur they’ve bin a-preächin’ mea down, they heve, an’ I haätes ’em now,
Fur they leäved their nasty sins i’ my pond, an’ it poison’d the cow.

1.    ‘Casselty,’ casualty, chance weather.    [back]

2.    ‘Haäfe down wi’ my haäy,’ while my grass is only half-mown.    [back]

3.    ‘Fingers and toes,’ a disease in turnips.    [back]

4.    ‘Fall,’ autumn.    [back]

5.    ‘If t’öne stick alongside t’uther,’ if the one hold by the other. One is pronounced like, ‘own.’    [back]

6.    ‘ Fun,’ found.    [back]

7.    ‘Gaäinist,’ nearest.    [back]

8.    ‘Ta-year,’ this year.    [back]

9.     ‘Ivin,’ ivy.    [back]

10.    ‘Obstropulous,’ obstreperous—here the Cureate makes a sign of deprecation.    [back]

11.    ‘Hopple’ or ‘hobble,’ to tie the legs of a skittish cow when she is being milked.    [back]

12.    ‘Beal’d,’ bellowed.    [back]

13.    ln such words as ‘torned’ (turned), ‘hurled,’ the r is hardly audible.    [back]

14.    ‘Stag-tuckey,’ turkey-cock.    [back]

15.    ‘Height-year-howd,’ eight-year-old.    [back]

16.    ‘Owd ‘ hold.    [back]

17.    ‘Peärky’ pert.    [back]

18.    ‘Wo’ld,’ the world. Short o    [back]

19.    ‘Wowd,’ Wold.    [back]

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