Durham & Tyneside Dialect Group / exit

The Pitman's Pay;
Or, A Night's Discharge to Care.

BY THOMAS WILSON

from the first collected edition of 1843

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PART ONE

I sing not here of warriors bold,
  Of battles lost or victories won,
Of cities sack'd or nations sold,
  Or cruel deeds by tyrants done.

I sing the Pitman's plagues and cares,
  Their labour hard and lowly lot,
Their homely joys and humble fares,
  Their pay-night o'er a foaming pot.

Their week's work done, the coally craft,
  These horny-handed sons of toil,
Require 'a right gude willie-waught',
  The creaking wheels of life to oil.

See hewers, putters, drivers too,
  With pleasure hail this happy day--
All clean wash'd up, their way pursue
  To drink and crack, and get their pay.

The BUCK, the BLACK HORSE, and the KEYS,
  Have witness'd many a comic scene,
Where's yel to cheer, and mirth to please,
  And drollery that would cure the spleen.

With parchéd tongues, and geyzen'd throats
  They reach the place where barleycorn
Soon down the dusty cavern floats,
  From pewter-pot or homely horn.

The dust wash'd down, then comes the care
  To find that all is rightly bill'd;
And each to get his hard-earn'd share,
  From some one in division skill'd.

The money-matters thus decided,
  They push the pot more briskly round:
With hearts elate and hobbies strided,
  Their cares are all in nappy drown'd.

"Here, lass," says JACK, "help this agyen,
  It's better yel than's i' the toun;
But then the road's se het it's tyen,
  It fizz'd, aw think, as it went doun."

Thus many a foaming pot's requir'd
  To quench the dry and dusky spark;
When ev'ry tongue, as if inspir'd
  Wags on about their wives and wark--

The famous feats done in their youth,
  At bowling, ball, and clubby-shaw--
Camp-meetings, Ranters, Gospel-truth,
  Religion, politics, and law.

With such variety of matter,
  Opinions, too, as various quite,
We need not wonder at the clatter,
  When ev'ry tongue wags - wrong or right.

The gifted few in lungs and lare
  At length, insensibly, divide'em;
And from a three-legg'd stool, or chair,
  Each draws his favour'd few beside him.

Now let us ev'ry face survey,
  Which seems as big with grave debate,
As if each word they had to say
  Was pregnant with impending fate.

Mark those in that secluded place,
  Set snug around the stool of oak,
Labouring at some knotty case,
  Envelop'd in tobacco smoke.

These are the pious, faithful few,
  Who pierce the dark decrees of fate:
They've read the Pilgrim's Progress through,
  As well as Boston's Fourfold State.

They'll point you out the day and hour
  When they experienc'd sin forgiven --
Convince you that they're safe, and sure
  To die in peace, and go to heaven.

The moral road's too far about--
  They like a surer, shorter cut,
Which frees the end from every doubt,
  And saves them many a weary foot.

The first's commensurate with our years,
  And must be travell'd day by day;
And to the 'new-born' few appears
  A very dull and tedious way.

The other's length always depends
  Upon the time when we begin it:--
Get but set out before life ends,
  For all's set right when once we're in it.

They're now debating which is best:
  The short-cut votes the other's double--
For this good reason, 'mongst the rest,
  It really saves a world of trouble.

He that from goodness farthest strays,
  Becomes a saint of first degree;
And RANTER JEREMIAH says,
  "Let bad ones only come to me."

Old EARTHWORM soon obeys the call,
  Conscious, perhaps, he wanted mending;
For some few flaws from Adam's fall,
  Gloss'd o'er by cant and sheer pretending.

Still stick to him afield or home,
  The Methodistic brush defying;
So that the Ranter's curry-comb
  Is now the only means worth trying.

In habits form'd since sixty years,
  The hopes of change won't weigh a feather:
Their power so o'er him domineers,
  That they and life must end together.

See on their right a gambling few,
  Whose every word and look display
A desperate, dark, designing crew,
  Intent upon each other's pay.

They're racers, cockers, carders, keen
  As ever o'er a tankard met,
Or ever bowl'd a match between
  The POPPLIN WELL and MAWVIN'S YETT.

On cock-fight, dog-fight, cuddy-race,
  Or pitch-and-toss, trippet-and-coit,
Or on a soap-tail'd grunter's chase,
  They'll risk the last remaining doit.

They're now at cards and GIBBY GRIPE
  Is peeping into HARRY'S hand;
And ev'ry puff blown from his pipe
  His party easily understand.

Some for the odd-trick pushing hard--
  Some that they lose it pale with fear--
Some betting on the turn-up-card--
  Some drawing cuts for pints of beer.

Whilst others brawl about JACK'S brock,
  That all the Chowden dogs can bang;
Or praise LANG WILSON'S 'piley cock',
  Or DIXON'S feats upon the swang.

Here TOM, the pink of bowlers, gain'd
  Himself a never-dying name,
By deeds wherein an ardour reign'd
  Which neither age nor toil could tame.

For labour done, and o'er his doze,
  Tom took his place upon the hill;
And at the very evening's close,
  You faintly saw him bowling still.

All this display of pith and zeal
  Was so completely habit-grown,
That many an hour from sleep he'd steal,
  To bowl upon the hill alone.

The night wears late -- the wives drop in
  To take a peep at what is doing;
For many would not care a pin
  To lose at cards a fortnight's hewing.

Poor WILL had just his plagues dismiss'd,
  And had 'Begone, dull care' begun,
With face as grave as Methodist,
  And voice most sadly out of tune;

But soon as e'er he NELLY saw,
  With brows a dreadful storm portending,
He dropt at once his under jaw,
  As if his mortal race was ending;-

For had the grim Destroyer stood,
  In all his ghastliness, before him,
It could not more have froze his blood,
  Nor thrown a deadlier paleness o'er him.

His better half, all fire and tow,
  Call'd him a slush--his comrades raff--
Swore that he could a brewing stow,
  And after that sipe all the draff.

WILL gather'd up his scatter'd powers--
  Drew up his fallen chops again--
Seiz'd NELL, and push'd her out of doors--
  Then broke forth in this piteous strain:-

"O! NELL, thou's rung me mony a peal,
  Nyen, but mysel could bide thy yammer;
Thy tongue runs like wor pully wheel,
  And dirls my lug like wor smith's hammer.

Thou'll drive me daft, aw often dreed,
  For now aw's nobbut varry silly,
Just like a geuss cut i' the heed,
  Like JEMMY MUIN or PREACHER WILLY.

Aw thought wor NELL, when NELLY DALE,
  The varry thing to myek me happy;
She curl'd maw hair, she tied maw tail,
  And clapt and stroked maw little CAPPY.

But suin as e'er the knot was tied,
  And we were yok'd for life, together--
When NELL had laugh'd, and Minny cried--
  And aw was fairly i' the tether--

Then fierce as fire she seiz'd the breeks,
  And roun' maw heed flew stuils and chairs;
Maw tail hung lowse, like candle weeks,
  An awd pit ended CAPPY'S cares.

Just like wor maisters when we're bun,
  If men and lads be varry scant,
They wheedle us wi' yel and fun,
  And coax us into what they want.

But myek yor mark, then snuffs and sneers
  Suin stop yor gob and lay yor braggin';
When yence yor feet are i' the geers,
  Maw soul! they'll keep your painches waggin'.

Aw toil maw byens, till through maw clay
  They peep to please maw dowly kyevel;
Aw's at the coal wall a' the day,
  And neetly i' the waiter level.

Aw hammer on till efternuin,
  Wi' weary byens and empty wyem;
Nay, varry oft the pit's just duin
  Before aw weel get wannel'd hyem.

But this is a' of little use,
  For what aw de is never reet:
She's like a 'larm-bell i' the house,
  Ding-dongin' at me, day and neet.

If aw sud get ma wark ower suin,
  She's flaid to deeth aw've left some byet;
And if aw's till the efternuin
  Aw's drunk because aw is se lyet.

Feed us and cleed us weel, she may,
  As she gets a'ways money plenty;
For every day, for mony a pay,
  Aw've hew'd and putten twee-and-twenty.

'Tis true aw sometimes get a gill,
  But then she a'ways hez her grog;
And if aw din't her bottle fill,
  Aw's then a skin-flint, sneck-drawn dog.

She buys me, tee, the warst o' meat,
  Bad bullock's liver, houghs and knees,
Teugh, stinkin' tripe, and awd cow's feet,
  Shanks full o' mawks, and half-nowt cheese.

Of sic she feeds the bairns and me--
  The tyesty bits she tyeks hersel',
In which ne share nor lot hev we,
  Exceptin' sometimes i' the smell.

The crowdy is wor daily dish,
  But varry different is their MINNY'S;
For she gets a' her heart can wish,
  In strang-lyac'd tea and singin' hinnies.

Maw canny bairns luik pale and wan,
  Their bits and brats are varry scant:
Their mother's feasts rob them o' scran -
  For wilfu' waste makes woefu' want.

She peels the taties wiv her teeth,
  And spreads the butter wiv her thoom:
She blaws the kyel wi' stinking breeth,
  Where mawks and caterpillars soom!

She's just a movin' heap o' muck,
  Where durts of a' description muster;
For dishclout serves her apron nuik
  As weel as snotter-clout and duster!

She lays out punds in manadge things,
  Like mony a thriftless, thoughtless bein';
Yet bairns and me, as if we'd wings,
  Are a' in rags an' tatters fleein'.

Just mark wor dress-- a lapless coat,
  Wi' byeth the elbows steeking through--
A hat that never cost a groat--
  A neckless sark-- a clog and shoe.

She chalks up 'scores' at a' the shops
  Wheriver we've a twel'month stayed;
And when we flit, the landlord stops
  Maw sticks till a' the rent be paid.

Aw's ca'd a henpeck'd, pluckless calf,
  For letting her the breeches weer;
And tell'd aw dinnet thresh her half,
  Wi' mony a bitter jibe and jeer.

'Aw think', says DICK, 'aw wad her towen,
  And verra suin her courage cuil:
Aw'd dook her in wor engine pown,
  Then clap her on repentance' stuil.

If that should not her tantrums check,
  Aw'd peel her to the varry sark;
Then 'noint her wi' a twig o' yeck,
  And efter myek her eat the bark.'

Enough like this aw've heard thro' life;
  For ev'ry body hez a plan
Te guide a rackle ram-stam wife,
  Except the poor tormented man."

Will could not now his feelings stay,
  The tear roll'd down his care-worn cheek:
He thrimmel'd out what he'd to pay,
  And sobbing said, "My heart'll break!

Here NANNY, modest, mild, and shy,
  Took NEDDY gently by the sleeve--
"Aw just luik'd in as aw went by--
  Is it not, thinks te, time to leave?"

"Now, NAN, what myeks th' fash me here--
  Gan hyem and get the bairns to bed:
Thou knaws thou promis'd me ma beer,
  The verry neet before we wed."

"Hout, hinny, had thy blabbin' jaw,
  Thou's full o' nought but fun and lees;
At sic a kittle time, ye knaw,
  Yen tells ye ony-thing to please.

Besides, thou's had enough o' drink,
  And mair wad ony myek thee bad:
Aw see thy een begin to blink--
  Gan wi' me, like a canny lad."

"O, NAN, thou hez a witchin' way
  O' myekin' me de what thou will;
Thou needs but speak, and aw obey;
  Yet there's ne doubt aw's maister still.

But tyest the yel, and stop a bit--
  Here tyek a seat upon ma knee;
For 'mang the hewers i' wor pit,
  There's nyen hez sic a wife as me.

For if ma 'top' comes badly down,
  Or owt else keeps me lang away,
She cheers me wi' the weel-knawn-soun'--
  'Thou's had a lang and weary day.'

If aw be naggy, NANNY'S smile
  Suin myeks me blithe as ony lark,
And fit to loup a yett or stile--
  Ma varry byens forget to wark.

Maw NAN-- maw bairns-- maw happy hyem-
  Set ower hard labour's bitter pill:
O, Providence! but spare me them,
  The warld may then wag as it will.

She waits upon me hand and foot--
  I want for nowght that she can gie me;
She fills maw pipe wi' paten' cut--
  Leets it, and hands it kindly to me.

She tells me all her bits o' news,
  Pick'd up the time aw've been away;
And frae maw mouth the cuttie pous
  When sleep owercomes maw weary clay.

However poor or plain wor fare,
  The better bits come a' to me:
The last o' coffee's NANNY'S share,
  And mine the hindmost o' the tea.

And when the warld runs sair agyen us,
  When wark is slack and money duin,
When want has a' but ower-tyen us,
  She a'ways keeps maw heart abuin.

Se weel she ettles what aw get,
  Se far she a'ways gars it gan,
That nyen can say we are i' debt,
  Or want for owther claes or scran.

And though myest twenty years are past
  Sin' NANNY left her mother's hyem,
Ower me and mine, frae frust te last,
  Her care has a'ways been the syem.

Then drink about-- whe minds a jot?
  Let's drown wor cares i' barleycorn:
Here, lass, come bring another pot,
  The 'caller' dizn't call te-morn."

"Nay, hinny NED, ne langer stay -
  We mun be hyem to little NEDDY -
He's just a twelvemonth awd to-day,
  And will be cryin' for his Deddy.

Aw'll tyek thee hyem a pot o' beer,
  A nice clean pipe, and backy te e: -
Thou knaws aw like te hae thee near--
  Come, hinny, come! gan hyem wi' me."

Like music's soft and soothing powers
  These honey'd sounds drop on his ear:
Or like the warm and fertile showers
  That leave the face of nature clear.

Here was the power of woman shown,
  When women use it properly:
He threw his pipe and reck'ning down--
  "Aw will, aw will, gan hyem wi' thee."

At home arriv'd right cheerfully
  She set him in his easy chair--
Clapt little NEDDY on his knee,
  And bid him see his image there.

The mother pleas'd-- the father glad,
  Swore NEDDY had twee bonny een:
"There ne'er was, NED, a finer lad;
  And, then he's like thee as a bean.

Aw've luick'd for WILSON a' this day,
  To cut the pig down 'fore it's dark;
But he'll be guzzlin' at the 'pay',
  And windin' on about his wark.

What lengths aw've often heard him gan,
  Sweerin' - and he's not fond o' fibbin--
He'll turn his back on ne'er a man,
  For owther killin' pigs or libben'.

Still JACK'S an honest, canty cock,
  As iver drain'd the juice o' barley;
Aw've knawn him sit myest roun' the clock,
  Swattlin' and clatterin' on wi' CHARLEY.

Now, Deddy, let me ease yor airm;
  Gie me the bairn, lay down yor pipe,
And get thy supper when it's warm--
  It's just a bit o' gissy's tripe.

Then come to me, maw little lammy!
  Come, thou apple o' my e'e!
Come, maw NEDDY, te thy Mammy--
  Come, maw darlin'- come to me!"

Here! see a woman truly blest
  Beyond the reach of pomp and pride!
Her infant happy at her breast--
  Her husband happy by her side.

Then take a lesson, pamper'd wealth,
  And learn how little it requires
To make us happy when we've health,
  Content, nd moderate desires.

"Thy faither, NED, is far frae weel:
  He luicks, poor body, varry bad;
A' ower he hez a cawdrife feel,
  But thinks it's but a waff o' cawd.

Aw've just been ower wi' somethin' warm,
  Te try to ease the weary cough,
Which baffles byeth the drugs and charm,
  And threetens oft to tyek him off.

He says, 'O NAN, maw life thou's spar'd--
  The good it's duin me's past believin':
The Lord will richly thee rewaird--
  The care o' me will win thee heeven.'

Now as his bottle's nearly tume,
  Mind think me on when at the town
To get the drop black-beer and rum,
  As little else will now gan down.

We mebby may be awd worsels,
  When poverty's cawd blast is blawin';
And want a frien' when nature fyels,
  And life her last few threeds is drawin'.

Besides, the bits o' good we de
  The verry happiest moments gi'e us;
And mun, aw think, still help a wee
  At last, frae awfu' skaith to free us.

Let cant and rant then rave at will
  Agyen good warks, aw here declare it,
We'll still the hungry belly fill,
  Se lang as iver we can spare it."

Here, then, we'll leave this happy pair,
  Their 'home affairs' to con and settle--
Their 'ways and means', with frugal care,
  For marketing next day to ettle.

ON to Pitman's Pay Part Two