Poets & Poetry of Blackburn (6)

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-XXIII-

WiIliam Whitaker.

 

This local writer,—best known, perhaps, by his pen-name, "Aker-Whitt,'' (a transposition of his surname, plus an extra "t ,")—was a native of Wiswell, near Whalley.

    When I first made his acquaintance, about 1882, he was re-siding at No. 40, Greaves-street, Blackburn; working at his trade as a painter; and contributing—as he had done for many years, even then—to the columns of the "Blackburn Times" and other Lancashire journals.

    Considering his large literary output, and his long and intimate association with Billington, and other Blackburn poets, Whitaker appears to have written, or at any rate to have published, comparatively little verse.  Moreover, much of the verse which he did publish consisted of political and other satires, in the composition of which he excelled.  He wrote a fair amount of this kind of verse for the "Times" in the late sixties,—the years of Abram's most militant Radicalism, but, although those political pieces show great literary ability, they can scarcely be regarded as suitable for inclusion in such a work as the present.

    I think it would be in or about 1870 that he published the first version of the local poem from which are taken the lines first quoted in this chapter.  The complete poem contained nearly 200 lines—not far short of an ordinary newspaper column—but, although I have recently made careful search for this earlier version, I have been unable to find it.  My anxiety to re-read the original poem arose from a strong impression that it was finer than the later version, which appeared in Whitaker's "Tewit Nook" sketches in 1888, and which is therein stated to have been re-written from memory.  Failing, however, the original, I was glad to rob "Tewit Nook" of the following interesting extracts:—


FROM....

"RISHTON MOOR AND NORDEN WOOD.''


It was one February night,
When I fell in a woeful plight;
The social circle and the song
In Blackburn kept me far too long.
I needs must trudge a weary space,
For Harwood was my dwelling-place.
I took the way that homeward led,
When better folks were gone to bed.
The bell within St. Mary's tower,
Had chimed the solemn midnight hour,
Ere I had pass'd the borough's bound,
To find the darkness so profound.
The Whitebirk sentinel—the lamp—
The last light of the silent camp—
Threw me a friendly parting ray
To cheer me on my lonesome way.
O'er Rishton Moor the sleety blast
Full in my face blew fierce and fast;
Its fury vented round the form
Of this poor pilgrim of the storm.
.            .            .            .            .            .
I girt my loins—took heart of grace,
And plodded o'er the heath apace;
I knew the way that I must take
Was by the shore of Rishton Lake.
And when I trod its sedgy strand,
That sea in miniature was grand;
Its waters, storm lash'd into wrath,
Dash'd madly o'er my margin path;
The rolling waves and angry surf
Left their white foam upon the turf,
A moment there I chose to dwell,
And watch the sea-like billows swell.
Meanwhile the storm was o'er and past:
The moon peep'd through the clouds at last
Her silver crescent's tender beams
Fell on the lake in shimmering gleams.
Then Memory's retrospective eye
Reverted to the days gone by,
When as a boy I came to slide
When frost congealed these waters wide,
Until this mimic ocean main
Became a smooth and glassy plain.
Long has it been a choice resort
For skating and for curling sport.
'Twas here I first tried on my skates,
To test my skill and tempt the fates.
I thought then of that mournful day,
When youthful throngs—the fair and gay—
Careered upon its frozen deep,
With joy awake and care asleep.
But ah! Grim Death had laid a snare
To snatch his victims unaware.
A crash! a shriek!—let this suffice—
Four lives were quenched beneath the ice!
And two of them were lovers true,
Whose nuptial day was near in view!
Their loves and lives were so entwined
One could not well be left behind,
To part them, even Death was loth,
He sealed their bond and took them both,
In death unsevered, may they be
United in eternity.
Ah! who could contemplate that scene
With heart unmoved and mind serene?
Then wild Imagination wrought
A lurid spell upon my thought;
The white foam rolling at my feet
Became at once a winding sheet;
For ghostly Superstition threw
An eerie glamour o'er the view.
In that dread hour of solemn night,
Beneath the pale Moon's shadowy light,
I saw drowned corpses, and could trace
The features of an upturned face.
A waking dream it was indeed—
A nightmare of a hideous breed.
I left the solitary shore,
And trudged upon my way once more.
And halted not until I stood
Within the shades of Norden Wood.

In Norden Wood, as legends tell,
A hunchback hermit once did dwell:
A wizard he was said to be,
But none could tell his pedigree,
And none could tell his age or name,
Or when or whence to there he came.
All that was well and truly known
Was that he lived there all alone,
Secluded in the woody dell.
His hut was built beside a well;
But how he did himself maintain
Is what no mortal can explain,
Since from mankind he kept aloof,
And seldom left his lowly roof.
Belated travellers by night
Have seen the glimmer of his light.
But that was in the days of yore,
According to the country lore,
Which says the Devil did impart
To him some dark unholy art.
.            .            .            .            .            .
But while that theme was in my mind
I left old Norden Wood behind,
Then soon I mounted up the ridge
That brought me on to Lidget Bridge;
And then with joy did I espy
St. Hubert's spire against the sky.
I ceased o'er my sad state to brood,
I felt in no lugubrious mood,
I even could afford to smile,
So near my welcome domicile.


    To have copied "Rishton Moor and Norden Wood" in full would have been to deprive ourselves of space for other examples of its author's work; but the complete poem is well worthy of perusal, if only for its account of old local customs and superstitions.  Most readers, however, will like best its pathetic lines on the sad drowning fatality which took place on that sorrowful Sunday afternoon in January, 1870.

    Most of Whitaker's dialect work is to be found in his numerous prose sketches; but here is a solitary example in verse:—


YON LAD OF EAWRS.


Eawr Jim wer' th' blithest lad i' th' teawn
    Afoor last Kesmas time;
Sin' then he's seemed to wither deawn
    I' th' mornin' of his prime.
He then wer' rooasy, brisk, an' steawt,
    Bud neaw he's pale an' thin;
His clooas, as wanted lettin' eawt,
    Neaw wants some tekkin in.

Next month he'll make up twenty-one,
    An' aw s' be preawd to see
Mi lad come eawt a gradely mon,
    Nod like one beawn to dee.
He used to crack a funny jooak,
    An' sing a merry stave;
Bud neaw he seldom speyks to fooak—
    He's solemn as a grave.

He use' to hev an appetite
    For owt i' th' shape o' meyt;
Bud neaw it's nau'but just a bite
    O' same'at nice he'll eyt.
He ceawrs an' nibbles at his nails,
    An' looks soa lost i' thowt,
An' when aw ax him whod he ails,
    He says, "Nowt, mother, nowt."

Bud then aw know he'll nod complain
    Soa long as he con bide;
An' still aw know th' poor lad's i' pain
    As lies somewheer inside.
He's nod consumptive, aw'll be beawnd,
    For he's noa cough, nod he—
He's off a breed 'ad's just as seawnd
    An' healthy as con be.

Id's nod his wark as troubles him
    An' meks him sigh soa deep—
Bad weft nor twist ne'er caused eawr Jim
    To looas a wink o' sleep.
Some weyvers ged powfagg'd, noa deawt,
    Wi' nasty, powsy wark,
Bud weyvin' ne'er puts him abeawt,
    He's awlus up to th' mark.

We'd best ca' th' doctor in—aw'm sure
    He'll try his best a' skill;
If yon poor lad he'll nau'but cure
    Aw'll ne'er begrudge his bill.
Id's hard to see him waste away—
    Eawr own dear flesh an' blood—
Though mony a time aw've heeard tha say
    As physic does noa good.

Neaw, Sally, dorn'd thee fret thysel'
    Sooa mitch abeawt eawr Jim;
As weel as th' doctor aw can tell
    Wad's put him eawt o' trim.
He's under th' spell o' same young witch—
    He feels id deep an' keen;
Hoo's gan his heartstrings sitch a twitch
    Bi th' magic of her e'en.

Aye! thad's his ailment, aw'll engage
    He's lovestruck is yon lad;
When aw wur just abeawt his age
    Tha med ma feel as bad.
Bud aw pluck'd up, tha knows, mi lass,
    An' towd tha like a man;
An' tha wer nooather steel nor brass,
    Eawr hearts soon fused i' one.

If he'll pluck up an' goa hissel'
    An' cooart her i' th' reet way,
Tha'll see him soon come eawt o' th' shell,
    Soa bloomin' breet, an' gay.
He's th' only one—if truth wer known—
    As hoo'd trust wi' her heart;
But if th' lad wants her for his own
    He'll hev to play his part.


    Our third selection, like the first, is taken from "Tewit Nook," where it is sung, in response to a demand for a song "wi' a rivin' chorus," by a merry fellow named Joe, who introduces it as follows:—

    "Aw'll give yo' one wi' a chorus double-jointed—a chorus wi' a vengeance. . . . . It's noather gradely comic nor sentimental; bud id's a sneezer. . . . . Aw reckon id's a skit on an owd schoo' maister as doesn'd live i' this part o' th' country neaw."


PETER PEDANT, PEDAGOGUE,

O
R "WORDS TO THAT EFFECT."


My first young love was Adaline,
    A lovely maid romantic;
I called her my sweet heroine,
    Until she drove me frantic.
I told her how my passion glow'd,
    And filled my soul with rapture;
But she no smile on me bestow'd,
    Her heart I fail'd to capture.

But scornfully she said to me,
"Mad youth! impetuosity
Denotes your love's precosity.
I do not like audacity,
So cease your pertinacity.
Or words to that effect, said she.

My second flame was Caroline,
    I deem'd her quite perfection.
I called her everything divine,
    And dreamt not of rejection,
Until I craved a fervent kiss
    Of sweet celestial flavour—
A seal of love—a pledge of bliss—
    A token of her favour.

Then sneeringly she said to me:
"Young man, your great verbosity
Will drive me to ferocity;
I do not like loquacity,
And you've too much mendacity;"
Or words to that effect, said she.

My next was blooming Geraldine,
    Who had such witching glances.
I called her bright, soul-star benign,
    And such poetic fancies.
I told her that my heart was true,
    With her I'd feel contented.
Alas! how vainly did I sue—
    My offers she resented.

And peevishly she said to me:
"Poor man! your grand pomposity
Is quite a curiosity.
Wait till my perspicacity
Can pierce your dull opacity;"
Or words to that effect, said she.

I next went courting Betsy Jane,
    With sentimental notions;
She seemed to think me quite insane
    When speaking my emotions.
I told her coolly I admired
    Her nose—her main attraction,
And that I would, if she desired,
    Take matrimonial action.

But shrewishly she said to me:
"Old man, your cold callosity
In me finds reciprocity ;
You have not the sagacity
To hide your own rapacity;"
Or words to that effect, said she.

At last I went to Martha Bee,
    An old maid rather faded.
I said I meant to wed if she
    Would only be persuaded.
She was both fat and forty-five—
    Had lived for years in clover;
Right thriftily she'd stored her hive
    Until her prime was over.

So cheeringly she said to me:
"Good man, your luminosity
Allays my animosity,
But I'll show my pugnacity
If you evince voracity;"
Or words to that effect, said she.

Now Martha's hoarded store of pelf
    Brought many marriage offers;
She shrewdly judged 'twas not herself
    They courted, but her coffers.
But as for me, well, she could see
    I had no eye to money,
Although I thought the busy bee
    Was better for the honey.

But cordially she said to me:
"Your impecuniosity
I'll meet with generosity,
While you maintain veracity,
And cling with firm tenacity;"
Or words to that effect, said she.

Thus fortune favoured me at last,
    So oft the sport of Cupid,
Life's stream, so ruffled in the past,
    Now flows calm and pellucid.
For Destiny decreed the plan
    That we two should be married,
As Martha says, I'm just the man
    For whom she single tarried.

Now frequently she says to me:
"Dear John, your ponderosity
Decreases your velocity;
But keep up your vivacity;
You're in the right capacity;"
Or words to that effect, says she.

 

______________________________

 
-XXIV-

James Chadburn.

 

The reverend gentleman whose name heads this chapter was born in King-street, Blackburn, an May 18th, 1839.  His father was a provision merchant (chiefly wholesale); and, after leaving King-street, the family carried on business at 28, Darwen-street; "residing," as our poet puts it, "above their business premises, as was the good custom of fifty years ago."

    "We had," he continues, "a large warehouse behind, reached by an entry from Darwen-street—an entry which divided our premises from next door, and which I have no doubt still exists.  I believe Mr. Waring, tailor, followed us."

    Being desirous of entering the Nonconformist ministry, James Chadburn left home, in 1861, for Airedale College, into which institution he entered after a successful examination in Latin, Greek, and Mathematics.  He settled in Middlesborough-on-Tees, in his first pastorate, in 1866.  He married, in 1868, the daughter of G. G. Tetley, Esq., J.P.  In 1871 he was called to succeed Dr. George Smith at Trinity Chapel, Poplar, one of the most important London churches; and for eighteen years was in the forefront of Metropolitan Nonconformity.  Owing to the failure of Mrs. Chadburn's health, he resigned his pastorate at Poplar, and removed to Sutton, Surrey, where he is now living in retirement.

    The three early poems which first follow,—along with others published in the Blackburn journals between 1857 and 1861,were written over a nom-de-plume; and it is probable that without the assistance of my friend Mr. Henry Yates—an early companion of Mr. Chadburn—I should never have identified their author:—


IN MEMORIAM.


How fair a thing is Friendship! and how sweet
    And holy on mankind its influence!
How varied are its virtues! how replete
    With good its every form!   As the night-trance
Of Earth is broken by the bright sun-glance
    Of glorious morn, when robed in light
He walks the heavens, so Friendship's dawn at once
    Doth glorify and gladden much which might
    Have lain for ever hid in uncongenial night.

Not maiden May, when with her sire the Sun
    All regally she rides the radiant heaven
And flingeth flowers the blooming earth upon,
    That laughs with joy—nor June, to whom is given
The riper beauties of the Spring—nor even
    Old Autumn, with his long and stilly nights
And glorious sunsets, when through glory-riven
    Clouds Sol's rays beam—nor Winter's cope of lights
    Can vie with Friendship's form or yield the same delights.

In what bright colours memory doth paint
    The face of
ONE now living with the dead;
Her high and noble forehead marked by faint
    Traces of Care's dull carriage-wheels—('twas said
That Life and Sorrow at her birth were wed)—
    Her dark hair tinged with grey, as Night's clouds are
Ere Morn doth tread the hill-tops; Time had made
    Her bright eyes dim, as distance doth a star;
    But her pure soul defied Misfortune's hand to mar.

That was and is possessed of youth eternal,
    Dispensing good to each and all around
From stores infinite as the might supernal
    That placed her here, making it holy ground
Whereon she stood.   The friendless ever found
    A helping hand and counsel wise and good;
And though her only monument's a mound
    Of earth, yet many a spot in memory's wood
    Will be a pilgrim-shrine to suffering's brotherhood.

For she was ever generous and kind,
    "And guileless beyond Hope's imagining";
And 'twas for that all loved her, that her mind
    Was young and fresh as daisy-dappled Spring.
At her approach dark Sorrow took the wing,
    And life regained its freshness;—its lost charm;
And Joy and Gladness formed a fairy-ring
    Around her loved ones, where, secure from harm,
    No more had they to fear dark Ruin's dread alarm.

Shade of my friend, if ever thou dost hover
    Near me to mark thy favourite's weal or woe—
If by God-gifted power thou dost discover
    My thoughts, my aspirations, dreams, I know
Thou wilt commend, for thou the seed didst sow.
    First taught by thee, I hoped to scale Time's tower
And boldly laugh at Death's destroying blow,
    And fight my way to Fame's star-studded bower,
    Where I might sit serene above the storms that lower.

"Though these were but the transient dreams of youth,
    And I have found life a reality,
Yet I do love to think of then, when Truth
    And Joy and Innocence (earth's Trinity)
Were all I knew, and them combined in thee.
    But thou art not, and I am now alone,
And I will hang my harp upon a tree
    Above thy grave, where it will sigh a tone
    That speaks of one well loved, although the name's
             unknown.

 


I'D RATHER HOLD THAT MEN ARE TRUE.


I'd rather hold that men are true,
    And suffer from their cold deceiving,
Than have that dreary creed of thine—
    An universal disbelieving.

I'd rather weep a thousand woes,
    From man's unfaith or woman's folly,
Than have the surly consciousness
    Of an escape through doubting wholly.

I'd rather from a youth of trust
    Inherit hours of bitter rueing,
Than, like to thee, have none of love
    Lest hope should be my heart's undoing.

I'd rather join my brother man,
    And aid him in his onward moving,
Than dwell aloof in selfishness,
    And live unloved and die unloving.

 


LINES.


Lay her where the sunbeams rest,
Longest on earth's mother-breast;
Let no lettered tombstone tell
Of the worth we know too well;
O'er her raise a simple mound
With wild daisies blowing round;
And the flowers shall truly speak
Meanings we should vainly seek.

And we, bending at His throne,
God's omniscient goodness own,
Who hath given and taken from
Us, unto her rightful home,
One we vainly sought to hold
With us in a loving fold,—
And pray we for equal faith
To companion us in death.


    I deeply regret that I possess no complete copy of Mr: Chadburn's "Death of Cromwell," which I have often heard mentioned as one of the best of his early efforts.  I have some extracts from it; but they were selected by a hostile and biassed critic; and therefore cannot be trusted to give a just idea of the merits of the entire poem.  And now that I have obtained its author's address,—literally at the last moment, and after enquiries extending over three years,—I learn that the manuscript volume, containing both his earlier and later poems, cannot now be found.  This losing of manuscripts, which seems quite common among our Blackburn poets, may be a sign of a healthy freedom from egotism, an the part of the writers; but it is extremely unfortunate from a literary point of view: since we know for certain that many noble poems have perished in this way.

    The poems next given have been written out for me, from memory, by their venerable author; and I am sure that all true lovers of poesy will be glad that he has been able thus to recall them:—


THE WOODLAND SPIRIT.


I stood within a woodland glen, ere Summer's days were flown;
With thoughts subdued by solitude to a sadly sober tone.
The sheltering shade upon me fell, like a father's benison;
And I blessed the cause that gave repose from the ardent gazing sun.

When yellow Autumn's ripening hand had touched the corn with gold,
Again I stood within the wood, beneath my friend of old.
But rude winds stole his leaves away, while seeming to caress;
And along the slopes they lay like hopes withered by slow distress.

I said, when surly Winter came, "The tree is now no more:
Its day is passed; for the icy blast has pierced it to the core."—
When verdant Spring had come again to glorify the field,
Entranced I saw each agèd bough with bursting green buds filled.

And I spake, in the fulness of my joy, aloud in that silent glen,
"Full braver art thou, good tree, I trow, than the boastful hearts of men.
Spring's rushing flood, hot Summer's drought, red Autumn's thunder-cloud,
And Winter's blast have over-passed; yet thou art here unbowed.

"And I will learn from thee to live through trouble's trying hour,
Till Winter bring the verdant Spring, with sheen and shade and shower."
Then, low as a rivulet's murmuring, replied a voice to me,—
"Thou hast read aright my teaching: write my silent homily."

 


MAUD.


As I have heard a clear melodious voice
    Blend with an instrument so perfectly
That when the voice began and trumpet ceased
    You could not say;

Or as within a level line of light
    The red and blue and green commingle so
Harmoniously that the result is seen
    A colourless pure glow:

So chords my mind with thine, thou sweetest one!
    So interfused my feelings, hopes, and thought
With thine; and our two lives to unity
    Rounded and wrought.

 


LIFE.


There is a nobler and a truer life
    Than this we keep by breathing; 'tis
    Deeper; and holier in its mysteries.

Grander; a perfect power incarnate
    Mighty as Summer, silent as light, and
    Guided harmoniously by God's own hand.

And with its inspiration men have built
    Their days into a monument, and given
    To earth, the immortality of Heaven.

 


SONNET.


Dear Friend, perhaps when you are far away
In your new home built under other skies;
And I sit here with slowly darkening eyes
And failing heart; the memory of some day
Out of the days that we have spent together
Will spring to life; and you may tread again
Say Norfolk's sands, in June's trancendent weather,
Lifting your lips to mine in love's sweet pain.
Or in the gloaming of another May
Some twentieth evening, you'll kneel down and say
"My soul with his once went to Heaven this day."
And I shall hear you o'er the wind-swept seas;
Catch your low murmur in the evening breeze,
And my rapt soul will fill with perfect peace.

 


THE POET'S CALL.


In the deep and solemn night.
    When the dark was over all,
I heard a voice say "Write,"
    And felt the poet's call.

Then I, "Men heed me not,
    Or mock my lay with scorn;
For well they know, I wot,
    That I am lowly born."

But the spirit spake again,
    Bidding me look abroad
On the earth, athirst for rain
    Crying aloud to God.

Then pointed to a bank
    Of clouds together driven,
And soon the dry earth drank
    The blessed rain of Heaven.

And the spirit spake again,
    "The sun was born of Heaven,
But the lowly earth the rain
    Unto the sky hath given."

And I knew the meaning meant,
    And could not now refrain
From making covenant
    To speak its thoughts to men.

For I felt a poet's call
    Like God's election came
To every child of thrall
    That felt the inherent flame.

And I sware to keep my heart
    From all unholy thought,
So my life might be a part
    Of whatsoe'er I wrote.

And I sware to hate all wrong
    And aid the holy right,
And leave to men in song
    A legacy of light.

And when a sang has sprung
    Like a flame from out my heart,
At the hearing of a wrong,
    Or the healing of a smart,

Or the winning of a fight,
    When the brave had yielded hope;
Then I know the spirit bright
    From beyond the starry cope.

______________________________

 
-XXV-

Henry Yates.

 

In the "Poets' Corner" of the "Darwen News," on May 24th, 1890, there appeared a Lancashire dialect poem, the author of which was stated to be unknown.  On the previous Monday evening, according to the Editor's introductory note, this poem had been given, as a reading, by Mr. Joshua Williamson, at a meeting of the Darwen Literary Society; and the reader—himself a true poet and an accomplished scholar—had compared the piece very favourably with a well-known song, on a similar subject, by Edwin Waugh.  It was subsequently discovered that the verses thus read were the work of Mr. Henry Yates, of Blackburn, and that they had been originally published in the "Blackburn Times" so, far far back as 1877.  They were entitled:—


STOP AT HOOAM TO-NEET.


It's thirty yer this varra day
    Sin' thee an' me wur wed;
An' wod a thirty yer it's seemed!
    An' wod a life we've led!
Come, lad, just draw thi cheor up, do,
    An' rest thi weary feet;
Let's hev a bit a' gradely talk,
    An' stop at hooam to-neet.

Come, hang thi cap up; shut thad door,
    An' smook thi pipe wi' me;
An' led me try if aw con smook
    An' look as nice as thee.
Aw'm geddin owder neaw, theaw knows;
    Mi e'en are woss for seet;
Aw want a bit o' comfort, lad;
    Just stop at hooam to-neet.

Neaw, come, aw know tha hesn'd lost
    Thi owd an' comely ways;
They're nobbut covered o'er wi' th' dirt
    O' these unchristian days;
Thi heart's as good as e'er id wor,
    Tho' mine is nod as leet,
But theaw con mek id leeter, mon;
    Just stop at hooam to-neet.

Aw know aw've often moithered thee
    Wi' this lung tongue o' mine;
Aw've preyched an' swaggered o' mi breed,
    An' skitted thee an' thine;
But, then, it's o for want o' thowt—
    Aw'm t' silliest wife i' t' street,
But t' silliest wife can mend a bit;
    Will t' stop at hooam to-neet?

Foaak's nooan so long to live, nor nowt,
    They needn't be so queer;
Life's nobbut like a sunshine sheawer,
    Wi' t' breetness here an' theer;
An' tho' we've sin a deol o' t' gloom,
    An' time's nod passed so sweet,
We 's happen hev a bit moor sun;
    Just stop at hooam to-neet.

Aw're lookin' t' drawers up yesterday
    For summat nice to read,
An' aw fun' thad book tha bowt for Sal,
    Just t' week befoor id dee'd.
Aw cried to think o' them past times,
    Till t' book wur soppin' weet;
Aw've herdly getten o'er id yet;
    Just stop at hooam to-neet.

Aw'll do mi share, if tha'll do thine,
    Tor't mekkin th' owd hooam seem
Like wod id wor when we wer wed—
    When we wer young an' weam.
Aw've brewed this week, too, does ta know?
    An' t' pewter pint's as breet
As ever mornin' wor i' May;
    So stop at hooam to-neet.

An' fro this time let thee an' me
    Booath tug an' poo one way;
For foin' eawt brings noather milk
    Nor sugar far eawr tay.
We cornd do mich, cornd thee an' me,
    But we con do what's reet;
An' theaw shall mek t' beginnin', lad,
    Do stop at hooam to-neet.


    "These verses no doubt reflect the sentiments of many a wife in our own town," wrote the Darwen editor in 1890.  Aye; and not only in Darwen, and in Blackburn, but in every town and village throughout Lancashire, is there many a weary heart whose sorrow they express, and many a home which the lesson they teach is able to make brighter.


"We always may be what we might have been,"


sang sweet Adelaide Procter; and this consoling and inspiring truth underlies every stanza of "Stop at Hooam To-neet," and lifts it, notwithstanding its homely and humble garb,—to a place among those true and living poems which appeal to every heart.

    Turn we now to a still humbler, but very characteristic Lancashire piece, entitled—


NEVER MIND 'EM.


Never heed wod foos may say,
        Fate will find 'em
Tumblin' o'er thersels some day—
        Never mind 'em.
Never grieve an' add to trouble,
Id but meks yo'r sorrows double;
Every path's id share o' stubble—
        Never mind 'em.

T' dirt as nasty fooak will throw
        Does but blind 'em.
If fops to-day are "all the go,"
        Never mind 'em.
Honest fooak con ged ther own;
Fruit will grow if t' seed be sown:
Winter storms are soon med known—
        Never mind 'em.

If yo'r sheaves are scattered loce,
        Set to an' bind 'em.
Rooks an' enemies are foce,
        Never mind 'em.
Gether o yo'r harvest in,
Werk an' dunnot mek a din;
An' if yo'r nebbers skit an' grin,
        Never mind 'em.

Werk yo'r contracts eawt like men
        If yo've signed 'em.
If yo loyse bi th' jobs, wod then?
        Never mind 'em.
Werk for t' best, for t' best is sure,
Whether yo werk for t' rich or poor;
An' if misfortunes knock at th' door,
        Never mind 'em.


    There you have a bit of Lancashire philosophy to which downright old "Dicky" Hacking would have heartily subscribed; though it is to be feared that there are very few left, in these days, who care to "work their contracts out like men" in the face of monetary loss.

    Here is a fine portrait of a good old hand-loom weaver, and generally "handy man," known as:—


OWD PETER.


Owd Peter wer a gradely mon,
    As ever breathed a pray'r;
His record stood abeawt A1,
    For wod wer reet an' square.
An' tho' he're noan a scholar, mich,
    Nor blest wi' world-wide fame.
He're moore content than ony sich
    Wi' handles to ther name.

He put his picks in straight an' fair,
    An' ne'er his duty shirk'd;
No mooter fell to Peter's share
    Fro' ony sooart he werk'd.
Th' owd putter-eawt could trust him weel,
    An' when t' brisk times wer gone,
Peter could use his troddle heel,
    An' mek a potterin'-on.

His heyd wer full o' wise owd saws,
    As med fooak wonder oft;
He'd back eawt o th' Diviner laws
    Till every heart felt soft.
He'd simples, cordials, balsams, gums,
    For every ailment sent,
An' fooak forgeet ther brittle thrums,
    Wherever Peter went.

He med fooak's wills an' gave advice,
    To keep 'em eawt o' law;
He'd draw a tooth, an' just as nice,
    He'd draw a plan an' o.
An' tho' some sleighters co'd him numb,
    He allus leet 'em see,
They med mistakes wi' t' rule o' thumb,
    But ne'er wi' t' Rule o' Three.

He'd toffy, nicknamed Swaggerin' Dick,
    For th' lads to race up th' hill;
He'd cheesecakes (kussins) rare an' thick,
    For t' wenches' sweet goodwill.
He'd maxims goad far t' gradely poor—
    Directions wod to do—
But he never sent 'em fro' his door
    Beawt fillin' t' meyl-bags, too.

But t' other day they frill'd him up,
    Th' fost time sin' he wer wed;
An' yesterday they hill'd him up,
    I' th' churchyard's narrow bed;
An' tho' he's doffed his weel-worn shoon,
    Beawt Fashion's empty din;
We know his namesake up aboon
    Hes ta'en owd Peter in.


    But Henry Yates is something more than a writer of homely and heart-touching dialect—


"As the weaver plied the shuttle, wove he too the mystic ryhme";


and our author has produced in this latter department, love lyrics and other sweet songs, which are models of chaste and scholarly English.  Take, for instance, these beautiful stanzas—


ONLY FOR THEE.


Only for thee, when life was young,
    Did I, when dark clouds crossed my path,
    So fiercely battle with my wrath,
And write for thee my first brief song.

That song, though commonplace and coy,
    Will aye remain ornate and grand,
    And through my life go hand in hand
With that which doth not brook alloy.

Only for thee, in Spring-time, too,—
    That thou wert happy in its birth,
    My soul leaped high in joyous mirth,
As blue-eyed Summer came in view.

The memories of all those Springs,—
    The balm upon my heart and thine,
    Will bring us rest at last divine,
Away from evanescent things.

Only for thee, in Summer's noon,
    When Nature in her pulseless rest,
    And all within her bounds seemed blest,
Did I demur, so great the boon.

Thine influence is pure as aye,—
    The Summer sun just as of old
    Gilds Nature with her shimmering gold,
In Flowers' great resurrection day.

Only for thee, when all the flowers
    Lay drooping on their slender stems,—
    In Autumn's time like fragile gems,—
I wept to see thy ruined bowers.

Those bowers are sending forth to-day
    Their crocus buds and daffodils;
    Just as of old the robin trills,
As if thou wert not far away.

Only for thee, in Winter's frost
    On Hope's fair castellated steep,
    I gazed, and saw a world asleep,
And thee to earth for ever lost.

The sereness of that hoary time,
    Hath left its impress on my heart;
    And day by day I feel the smart,
As if to love thee were a crime.

O, memory of an age of bliss!
    O hope that lent its blessed hues:
    O, life whose frailty still pursues
The long-ago, and lives in this!

Once more, for thee, I turn my face
    From darkness to the light of life;
    And gather from this weary strife
That Morning cometh on apace.

For thee, to the remotest day,
    My song will praise, my prayer shall be;
    Until this throbbing spirit, free,
Shall find thee near or far away.

The calm thou knowest I shall feel,—
    The rest vouchsafed to thee, I know,
    Will pass in time to me; and so
My prayer is answered while I kneel.


    "Very beautiful, but a trifle vague," was the remark of a friend to whom I read "Only for Thee " some months ago.  Yes; but these personal utterances of the heart's most sacred affections are always "vague" in certain passages, and intentionally so: there would be a kind of indelicacy about them if they were otherwise.  No such objection can possibly be made to this lyric on the golden month of:—


JUNE.


                O wedded June!
                What hearts in tune,
Under thy scented mantle lie!
                What poets made,
                'Neath thy green shade;
Born just for thee, and then to die!

                O June, so rare,
                Thy bosom fair,
Makes old men young, and young men old;
                And each, of course,
                Shouts 'till he's hoarse—
"Awake!   The earth is turned to gold!"

                O June, so blest!
                O June, caressed
By suns, and stars, and flowers so sweet;
                Why live to-day,
                Then fade away;
Leaving such fragrance at our feet?

                O June of sighs,
                What passion lies
Under thy pulseless, ardent heat!
                Love cannot tire.
                When all aspire
To be disciples at thy feet!

                O June so brief.
                Man's fond belief
That everything is good and great
                Is born of thee.
                Why dost thou flee?
Art thou not proud of thine estate?

                O June, to thee
                Our prayer shall be,—
That thou our hearts wilt aye atune.
                The stamp of God
                Is on thy sod.
O roseate month, O lovely June!


    Before concluding our study of Henry Yates's poetry, we may as well give here,—like a speech in the midst of a concert,—a brief account of his career.  Like Edwin Waugh, Henry Yates is a moorland minstrel; for he was born, on February 17th, 1841, at the Summit, beyond Littleborough, under the shadow of Blackstone Edge, where his father,—Henry Yates the elder, was engaged on the Summit railway tunnel.  From the Summit our poet was taken, while very young, to the top of Cranberry Moss: his father becoming chief centre-setter for the Spring Vale or Sough tunnel.  On the completion of this tunnel, Henry the elder became first a stoker and then a locomotive driver on the railway, and in the latter capacity formed a strong friendship with Joseph Markland, George Stephenson's contemporary and friend.

    In 1848 the Yates's removed to Blackburn, to a new house in Fox-street, which street was then part of the old Town's Moor.  Young Henry was immediately sent to the Nova Scotia British School, where he got the groundwork of a very useful education.  At that school he passed under a succession of masters, the most painstaking and sympathetic, of whom, he says, was Mr. John Handley.  Henry also attended a night school, kept by a Mr. Littleton, of the old Baptist Chapel at Islington.

    On the death of the poet's mother, in 1856, the family removed to one of the first houses built in Islington fields.  Here the youthful author's first poems were written, and that they were also real is evident from the fact that his neighbours,—familiar, like true Blackburnians, with the time-honoured name of Bard,—bestowed upon their own young singer the title of "Bard of Islington."  Our author soon became acquainted with James Chadburn, William A. Abram, George and Robert Abram, and Jesse Slater,—all of the old Literary Club in Fleming Square.  Becoming an honorary member of this club, Yates contributed occasionally to its manuscript magazine, which was entitled "The Blackburn Literary Club Magazine," and of which several bound volumes were at one time carefully preserved.

    Mr. Yates next began to write for Ernest King, in the "Blackburn Weekly Times."  About this time John Critchley Prince was in Blackburn, and he almost monopolised the "poets' corner" of the newspaper: even Billington being often "crushed out."  "The Darkest Hour," one of Prince's most cheering lyrics, was originally published in the "Blackburn Weekly Times."

    While Ernest King was absorbed in politics, W. A. Abram supervised the "poets' corner," in which Richard Rawcliffe ("Giles Catchup") soon found a place.  Rawcliffe's coming to Blackburn led to a friendship between him and Yates which was only interrupted by the former's death on the 11th of December, 1886.  The word "interrupted" is here used advisedly, in view of the following beautiful stanzas written by Yates since that date—


WHEN WE MEET AGAIN.


When we meet again, old friend,
    What shall I say to thee?
How wilt thou frame thy loving lips
    In what thou say'st to me?
            Shall I hold thy hand,
            In the glorious land,
    When we meet again?

When we meet again, dear friend,
    Will thy lyre be still in tune?
Will it waken the echoes of the spheres,
    As it did in the olden June?
            Shall our lyres make chords,
            And our hearts make words,
    When we meet again?

When we meet again, tried friend,
    Will it be in groves of flowers,
Such as blest our young lives many times,
    In the well-remembered hours?
            Shall we pass them by,
            With the old-time sigh—
    When we meet again?

When we meet again, my friend,
    Will the sun-swathed purple hills
Be too steep to climb with our toilworn feet,
    Will our frames be cold to thrills?
            Will the way be fair,
            In the ambient air,
    When we meet again?

When we meet, O friend of youth—
    Will the songs of other days
Be the link to bind our souls again—
    Will they form our grateful praise?
            Shall we discord hate
            In our high estate,
    When we meet again?

'Twill be always spring-time there:
    When we meet we may not guess
At the poor on earth who, stifling, die,
    Nor their wintry wilderness.
            We shall tread through dew,
            And our youth renew,
    When we meet again.

And our meeting, face to face,
    Assurance deep will take
That never again thro' ages long,
    Shall we part for His dear sake.
            We shall never weep,
            We shall need no sleep
    When we meet again.


    Mr. W. A. Abram had a high opinion of this poem, as indeed he had of many of Yates's lyrical productions.

    To return to the days of Ernest King: When that energetic editor called John Walker from the factory, and started him on his journalistic career, he proffered to render a similar service to Henry Yates.  But, alas! our author had to decline the offer on account of partial deafness: his right ear having been left almost totally useless by fever.  This difficulty of hearing has much impeded his progress; and is one of the causes of his having had to continue his early employment as a weaver through the greater part of his life.

    In addition to their poems, Henry Yates and "Giles Catchup" contributed to the "Blackburn Times," in its early days, many Lancashire sketches.  These appeared alternately week by week, and were very popular.  Mr. Yates has also contributed to the "Preston Guardian," "Preston Chronicle," "Preston Herald," "Ben Brierley's Journal," "Cassell's Saturday Journal," "Darwen News," and some other publications, including those of Messrs. Raphael Tuck and Sons.  Since March, 1893, Mr. Yates has also been a contributor to the "Blackburn Weekly Standard and Express," among his articles for that journal being a twelvemonths' series of sketches, entitled "Sparks fro' th' Hob End"; an illustrated series of papers on "Halls and Residences in and near Blackburn"; and a weekly column of dialect verse and prose under the pen-name of "Tansy Tuft."  Several of his lyrics have been successfully set to music by Mr. George Barton.  Two of them—"Hope's Shatter'd Idol," and "When Spring Flies O'er"—were sung at a musical evening at the Blackburn Technical School about two years ago; every song given on that occasion being the work of a local writer, and composer.

    Mr. Yates has several times spoken to the present writer, with more than ordinary gratitude, of the kindness of one of his former employers, Mr. Alderman Henry Harrison, President of the Blackburn Chamber of Commerce, who has often befriended him, and has given him many excellent books.

    At sixty one years of age, Henry Yates, after a life which has had its full share of toil and sorrow, is still full of hope.  Listen to—


A POET'S REVERIE.


Calmly I sit within a shade of bliss,
    The music of blest voices coming thro'
The glorious intertwining of the leaves,
    As only children's and birds' songs can do;
And I am happy there is still some joy,—
    And I am happy there is yet a theme—
A link to bind the poet to the child,
    Making our world so like a fairy dream.

Now looking back thro' mists of many years,
    I hear the anthem, and the organ swells;
While o'er the brook and up the old stile-path,
    Comes the faint melody of distant bells.
I see the homestead and the quaint old church;
    And the old valley where the waters wind—
A fiery sunset settling over all,
    Then a soft flood of amber light behind.

What if the heart's emotions have been spurned?
    What if the tears have fallen very fast?
The embers of dead loves are blown away,
    The fires are quenched, and there is peace at last.
An hour of weeping, and the time goes by,
    And man his one life's lesson humbly learns;
The while there cometh on the wings of time
    The golden age for which the spirit yearns.

Patiently sitting in my calm retreat,
    I turn me to the rising of the sun;
Watching and waiting the approaching hour,
    When the last sand in life's glass shall be run.
So let me linger, hopefully and true;
    For while sweet spirits beckon o'er the tide,
The future hath no terrors for the bard;
    For Hope is mine, and Hope is glorified!


    Nor has our poet lost, in his advancing years, any of his old ardour in the pursuit of—


WISDOM.


At fifteen, aw thowt aw wer wise;
    At twenty, ther wer nooan 'at could teych me,
        An' aw danced, an' wer glad,
        Aw could lick mi own dad,
    An' who could expect then to reych me?
Aw threw eawt advice reet an' left—
    Ther wer nowt but one mortal then livin'
        As could teych, do yo' see,
        An' thad mortal wer me—
    Aw wer sure mi advice wer wo'th givin'.

At thirty, aw bended a bit,
    An' alleawed 'at mi feyther could reason;
        He'd once or twice shown,
        He could just howd his own,
    An' gain a bit, too, in a seoson;
But mi dad hed an owd-fashioned way,
    I' clearin' his heels o'er a barrier,
        Till aw owned up wi' pride,
        Ther wer sense on his side,
    An' whoever wur th' hare, he wer th' harrier.

At forty, aw poo'd in a lot,
    For aw felt like a bit of a bigot;
        Mi dad's native sense,
        Med me feel dull an' dense,
    When he turned on his learned owd spigott,
Then aw learned heaw to listen betimes,
    As he chucked eawt mi words to be etten;
        An' aw knew things wer slow,
        'At mi dad duddn't know,
    Beside wod he'd known an' forgetten.

At fifty, aw're scrattin' mi yure,
    An' wond'rin' wheer wisdom lay hidden;
        Aw'd bin on a wrong track;
        'Twer a weary way back,
    To t' place wheer conceit hed bin ridden;
But t' journey wer teed to be done
    Throo mony a long windin' an' turnin';
        Aw'd to turn back to th' view,
        Wheer students pass throo,
    An' scholars pay toll for ther learnin'.

At sixty, aw'm shapin' mi way,
    Tort learnin' some bits o' goad knowledge;
        For aw've passed mi fost schoo',
        Wheer they learn every foo',
    Heaw to study i'th' world's wider college;
Ther's a sooarts o' quicksands an' shoals,
    Fro' t' time 'at one's rock'd i' one's kayther;
        But it's mon's grand surprise,
        When he wins a fast prize,
    An' he feels he's as fause as his feyther.


    In striking contrast to these charming dialect verses, comes the stately poem entitled:—


DESIRE AND DESTINY.


A warrior wished for the tented fields,
    And the morning's coming fray;
With no thought of sin, if he might but win,
In the ruin and crime, and the mighty din
    Of battle, a star that day.

And his wish came home in the by and by,
    And he rode in the tented fields;
But not from the fray, and the blood that day,
For he fought with Death, and when Death holds sway
    Man fights, but he always yields.

A statesman sat in his "easy chair";
    'Twas uneasy I ween for him;
And he penned a despatch in the midnight watch
Which should liberty stifle—rebellion hatch;
    Whilst the people looked starved and grim.

The despatch bore fruit in the by and by,
    And Liberty's knell was rung;
But the people awoke ere the morning broke,
For they heard the knell, and they felt its yoke,
    And they changed the knell to a song.

A Maestro longed for a golden lyre,
    That should music make, and sweet;
Whose every sound, thro' th' centuries' round,
Should a pilgrim make, and at last be found,
    Heard at Jehovah's feet.

But the Maestro changed each lyre he touched,
    For their notes were of ill accord.
And he laid the last by with despairing sigh,
Till a vision told him his aim, tho' high,
    Should be crowned with its due reward.

A poet sang of eternal Spring,
    And wished for no grim decay
Such as Autumn brings on her fateful wings,
But a world whose freshness should leave no stings—
    A world of perpetual day.

And the poet kept singing, and never tired,
    As he looked to the rising sun;
And he lightened the goad of many a load,
Which the people bore, as thro' life they strode,
    Till his noble work was done.

And Peace comes, winding her holy way,
    With Liberty at her side,
Joining the throng in triumphant song,
With the Maestro's music to keep them strong;
    And poesy for her guide.


    It is a thousand pities that Henry Yates has never yet published any of his poetry in volume form.  I have by me many beautiful songs, vigorous dialect poems, noble pieces in blank verse, and wise philosophical stanzas,—all from his pen: so many, in fact, that to make choice of a few, where good examples are so numerous, has not by any means been an easy task.  Making, from his store of printed poems, all the omissions that the strictest critic would suggest, there would remain enough, and more than enough, to fill a goodly volume.  That such a volume may be issued, during the lifetime of its author, is,—in the interests not only of local but of general literature,—greatly to be desired.

    We will conclude with one more example of our poet's genius: all the more appropriate because it sums up, in a few noble stanzas, his life's—


PHILOSOPHY.


Be wise, and learn
    To be still wiser in thine own great sphere;
Only the worthy earn
    A worthy name, and deep contentment here:
He is not wise who covets wisdom's rod;
The greater problems are reserved for God.

He is not wise who talks,
    Or mystifies himself in maze of thought;
Only the man who walks
    Where duty calls him to where deeds are wrought
The fire burns on where fire is needed, then
The crucible of Nature shows her men.

Nor ingots in a finely balanced scale,
    With pompous lord and cross-bred charioteer—
To advertise the station, will avail
    To blind the world from purpose set and clear.
All scales are false, if justice hold them not;
Ingots sometimes are golden—sometimes not.

The sway of worlds, held sacred to a few
    Who count their wisdom as of great import,
May not allure where faith is sound and true;
    That which to them seems great, to me seems sport:
There is a system, and a fixed plan—
To show where God is, and where man is man.

To delve into the mysteries of Him,
    And find one portion with an instrument,
Will only serve to make the eyes more dim—
    More callous to the great Omnipotent:
If every pulse a million years could beat,
The wisdom of this world would but retreat.

So great His kingdom, and so little man—
    So great His universe and system still—
I ween man's blessings little else than ban,
    And count as fickle man's most stable will.
Only the faith that leads one to the Cross
Is worth the holding—other things are dross.

To be a hero for an hour or two,
    Where time flies on appallingly in speed,
Seems paltry, when the goal I have in view
    Burns brightly on and 'suages every need.
To feel myself content in hope and trust,
I feel myself uplifted from the dust.

Let my poor share be anything to own
    In this world's blessings; let me pray and find
The erring one not wholly guilty shown—
    The struggling one with mastery of mind;
The bold made humble, and the humblest blest—
Philosophy includes not all the rest.

______________________________

 
-XXVI-

Luke Slater Walmsley.



 

Although Mr. Walmsley modestly shrinks from claiming the title of Poet, I am quite sure that he deserves a place here on account of his excellent character-sketches, in blank verse, of deceased Blackburn worthies.  That these pen-pictures have generally been "speaking likenesses" may be gathered from the following lines on—


RICHARD SHACKLETON.


A good man gone.   A Patriarch indeed
Is gathered to his fathers,—rest in peace.
He lived unspotted the allotted span
Of three score years and ten, ennobled in
The simple Knighthood of an upright life.
No cracks or crooked fissures marred his course,
No darksome whispers e'en of things unsaid.
His word his bond; straight in his "yea" and "nay",
Where conscience bade him staunch as adamant,
His home was peace and pure simplicity.
For half a hundred years he walked our streets,
Moved in our marts, mixed in the civic strife;
Yet in this blaze—in front of men—his name
Shines forth, unchallenged, as a Righteous Man.
.            .            .            .            .            .            .            .
                        —Such never die but live
Perennial; their lives their monuments.
And yet, ah, yet—we are but flesh—we grieve
No more his form, familiar, slim, and quick,
To see, in quaint cut garb; (last of his race).
No more at "'lection times," hurrahing crowd
Around, to hear him tell of "Forty years ago,"
Of battles fought, of vict'ries won—vict'ries
Which none now count defeats.   We should not mourn;
Heart-broke and weary, welcome rest he knows.
No earthly wreath his burial decked, but one
He wears, which fadeth not,—"The Crown of Life."


    Not less true to life are the following "In Memoriam" lines on a former custodian of the Blackburn Free Library:—


DAVID GEDDES.


But t' other day I spied him in the street,
And like a sturdy Highlander he strode.
How passing strange it seems to lay him low;
Alas, to-morrow still more strange 'twill seem.
A man of solid parts, wide read withal
In letters, science, arts, with aptitude
For quaint bye-paths of lore and skill.
He shrank from ostentation's loud display.
A man of ways and will his own, and odd
Congenialities.   Sly humour's touch
He knew both word and act, to give and take.
A wise and happy mate in country stroll—
At home 'mong rocks and woods and birds, fossils
And ferns and curious things.   Yet, better still,
Unselfish, generous, kind, patient, true;
Him close to know was to esteem—aye, love.
And oft—when Memory's on her pensive wing
Strong men the furtive tear will brush aside.


    But perhaps the piece, which shows Mr. Walmsley at his best as an Elegist, is the following heartfelt tribute to his friend—


JOHN WALKER.


Our harps upon the willows hang: how shall
We strike a song in this strange land of death?

This morn I sit and wait upon my heart
To give its mood and feeling bodiment,
But only this sad psalm-wail do I hear.
I break the bread and lift the cup at eve,
And still the same low plaintive echo comes
Across my heart, and leaves it mute in grief.
O Death! what art thou?   Cruel seemst thy face;
In front thou art a monster pitiless,
With tooth and claw, like some wild ravening beast,
That tears its victim's heart and sucks: I'd hate
Thee if I dare.   Stay, stay!   O, heart!   That rush
Is but thy mood and not thy deeper self.
Aye, weep:   A softer mood will come with tears
And holier and truer—let them flow.

Heroic soul, in stress of pain so patient
In weakness cheery.   Like a soldier maimed,
Yet keeping step and shoulder with strong men.
Brave spirit! all thy battles o'er—how long,
By patient watch and skilful parry, didst
Thou keep thy foes at bay!   They triumph now—
Thou liest low.

Death is no king—a wily phantom he—
To him who lives his truth and sells it not.

Death is no King; he cannot vanquish Love,
And "God is Love."   How prove?   By syllogism
I may not, but I know that when my soul
Flies highest, nestles there, I holiest am,
And strongest, calmest, best.   In every age
And clime man's heart owned this: Is soul-sense nought?
Faith bridges much, if not the All of mystery;
Negation but confounds the darkness worse.
This lower æon of our destiny
Is but a fragment of the eternal one.
All through the unfolding ages truth ne'er shone
Full orbed, it ever dawns in fuller light.
Ah, well! 'tis easy thus to muse, but hard
To sing of him that's gone.
                                     Aye, aye, I know.
"Perplext in faith" he was, "but pure in deed;"
Faith's fuller sight seems oft life's accident.
If God be just, pure, true, and good, and loves
Men so, our friend is not unloved by Him.

I knew him in our "elocution" days
Our 'teens, when lads stride Hamlet and King Lear.
In friendship sure, in cloud and sunshine same;
A hopeful, genial soul who helped you on.

'Twas but the other month he hailed us up,
For country jaunt; a merry lot, he most.
Along sweet Hodder's leafy banks we bent:
Half boyish in his glee and glad of heart
To greet old chums, and haunts, and smell the woods.
Brim full of tale and pun, he joked and poked
And "carried on," just his old sunny self.
Sure no man better loved pure Nature's face,
Her every mood, by wave, or brook, or moor.
The poet's sense and sight ran through his veins:
He saw the hidden soul behind the veil.
A wise companion, too (this I well know)
Among the Arts—a critic with a reason.
Old village or cathedral town he liked,
Quaint nooks, effects, and pretty bits of views.
A politician every inch of him,
Yet courteous, just and tolerant to foes.
Life pledged 'gainst drink, he manful stood his part.
He always took the people's side: the weak,
The poor, the lone, the erring, found him friend.
At tale of wrong his soul took fire—down went
The glove for fight.   Proud of his native land,
He spent his life in hastening on that day
When greed and vice and ignorance shall quail—
That better day of broader love 'mong men.


    The mention of John Walker's name recalls to memory another poem, written after a visit, with him, to one of his favourite spots.  Here are same extracts from it:—


SILVER HOW.


Who's been to Silver How?   Sweet Silver How!
Who, or what thou be, worker hand or head;
If poor, then work the harder, longer, aye
E'en pinch thy pipe or stomach for a moon.
Quick, hie to Silver How, sweet Silver How.
If thou hast "eyes to see," thou art a king;
So know thyself, and take thy cheer at toil;
Good usury 'twill yield for thy denying.
If rich—well, haste the more for that; bathe deep
Thy heart from Silver How; an angel good
May move its mystic healing for thy sake,
And save thee—richer getting-poorer growing.
Where is't?   An easy climb from Grasmere head.
Of course, there're roads abundant, and to taste.
If thou be troubled with ambitious legs,
Our route (four chums) will give them scope, and ease
Their friskiness.   Bowness to Ambleside,
Thence Langdale Head, here baited for the night
Within the inn that nestles by the Pikes.
Line well thy pouch at breakfast.   Loiter not
To Dungeon Ghyll, thence Stickle tarn and Easdale,
O'er sterile rock we strode, slopes bleak and bare;
Now leapt a spongy bog, or foiled a dip,
Each did his own surveying, and so lost
(For we'd disdained the track) his mate betimes.
.            .            .            .            .            .            .            .
At length, from chasm, crag, and bog we 'merge,
And spy a cairn, the crown of yonder mount
Our destination and reward.   Soon gained,
Reward, 'teens over-paid, rolls into view.
In front stretch billowy fields of dale and hill,
With mountains, glinting lakes, and wooded slopes,
All blent in one wide, glorious harmony.
The Queen of Lakes her winding length unveils;
In sinuous grace she lies 'mid leafy marge.
Broad reaches brightly gleam of Coniston;
Here Loughrigg tarn; while there the Elter bends;
The Old Man looms with Weatherlam athwart
The horizon line; the Langdale group to right,
Helvellyn to the left, majestic stands.
Yet here—the near left foreground—shines serene
The purest gem in this bejewelled scene.
The village chimes their Sabbath call send forth;
The Rothay warbles soft by Wordsworth's grave,
And breaks its sedgy outlet to the mere;
The vivid lime, the sombre pine, and beech
Of purple, all their vernal beauty lend.
'Mid arching terraces and bowery dames,
Grasmere and Rydal pose, perfect, unique;
And isles of green the crystal surface stud,
Sure, Nature hath her dainty moods, wherein
She fashioneth her art fastidiously;
Exquisite touches this, re-postures that,
Till symmetry and grace and sweetness reign.
'Twas thus with this fair scene—her masterpiece.
Haw shall I fitly emblem it?   'Twere vain!
Yet, as I gazed, I thought of infants, pure
As heaven, reposing, cradled and enriched
And fringed by rarest lace, as mothers do
In lavishment of love, to babes, their pride.
Then seemed they like twin sisters, linked in love;
Crown diamonds, richly set in emeralds.
Adieu! sweet Silver How.   Farewell thy charms;
Oh, let this memory dwell with me, and bless.
Attend me ever, as doth sweet perfume,
Or soft refrain of song; all joys enhance;
In sorrow come to soothe.   If e'er I wish
To chain same hovering dream or image of
The Golden Gates, I'll come to Silver How.


    Our last example consists of some beautiful lines from a poem descriptive of a cycling holiday-journey through a district dear to every Blackburnian:—


At base of weathered, moss-tinged wall I spied
The gold-faced coltsfoot, proud, with bearded stem,
And in the sloping wood the deep green blades
Of hyacinths, while in a magic gleam
A hundred branches black and bare, shot brown
With film o'erspread of amber-tressèd palms
And pod-shaped tips of green.   My heart grew warm.
'Twas as a shooting slide; the sun withdrew,
And leaping in the wood, I dropped upon
Hoarse, crackling heaps of bracken, dead and sere,
While as I trod nought was but rustling swish
Of faded leaf, unmusical and thin,
Chill Winter's sapless harvest.
.            .            .            .            .            .            .            .
                          —Dost mind that morn—
The sun in playful mood of hide-and-seek—
When, wheeling towards old Whalley's ruined fane,
In view the glorious sweep of Ribblesdale,
Gold-flecked, gem-laced, on breast of soft pearl-grey,
Upland, the glinting towers of Stonyhurst,
While grand old Pendle reared his looming humps,
Like mighty beast on guard, couchant and grim?
Oh, but the memory mere doth speed the blood!
And e'en that fairer scene by Whitewell lanes—
Vallambrosa we titled them—where grew
Rood lengths of wild rose, chaste as maiden lips
Was each, in mass—a glowing dream of fresh,
Pure native loveliness, guileless as Eden;
The sun-glad fragrant air an odorous bath,
While sweet bird-song harped sense and soul a-tingle.
Oh! 'twas that eve we dreamed of fairyland.
.            .            .            .            .            .            .            .
The hedges knit and ope in myriad eyes,
Unwombing hundred hues of wavy leaf;
Loose float the fresh-born scents of moss and wood,
The broad earth shakes with wondrous movement, like
The dry bones of the vale touched by God's hand.
We pine for leafy reach by Hodder's bank,
For restful dell and bowery lane, for pool
Rush-grown the iris loves, for king-cupped ditch
And hum of blossomed hedge.   We long, we long
To kiss the face of Nature's wildlings sweet,
And sniff the heather breeze o'er buoyant moor.


    Mr. Walmsley is a native of Blackburn; having been born in Nova Scotia in 1841.  "My father," he writes, "was a 'tackler' at Commercial Mills when I was born. . . . It was at the Nova Scotia day school I got my early training of the mind, and at its Sunday school that of the heart.  I do not remember learning to read, or to write my name; so early was I taught.  What I owe to this school I cannot weigh and cannot repay.  Many a time now, when I hear an old hymn and tune, sweet echoes come to me of the happy Sundays there and the homely Christian folk.  Henry Yates was a schoolmate; and, ever since, pleasant have been our occasional meetings.  At about ten I was sent to Garstang's academy in Paradise Lane,—now the Jews' Synagogue.  This was then considered second to no school in Blackburn for imparting to boys a superior education to fit them for a business life.  William Eccles and Sons, owners of Commercial Mills, bought Wensley Fold Mill, and my father, went there as manager.  We removed near there to live; and I continued to attend the academy.

    "The meadows and lanes about Witton Park and church; the river, then fairly pure,—its banks pleasant with leaf and grass; these,—with Longshaw Lane and the Aqueduct, near Nova Scotia,—are evergreen spots in my memory.

    "At about sixteen or seventeen I awoke to the fact that I was—with all my schooling—an ignorant boy.  Along with other youths—John Walker among them—I joined a class for the study of English grammar and belles-lettres.  We met in the cottage of a member, with Poet Billington as teacher.  Never shall I forget his opening lecture!  Billington was a model teacher, and gave us a thorough grip of grammar and a passable knowledge of rhetoric, and led us on to an abiding love of the sweet pastures of English literature.  I am under lasting gratitude to him.

    "I then became a member of the Mechanics' Institute, and also of its elocution and oratorical class, the unsparing criticisms of which did me a world of good.  Apprenticeship ended, I was flung full on the field of the Battle of Life.  Well was it for me that thus early I met Billington, and went to the Mechanics' Institute.  From the tastes there implanted I have derived inspiration and consolation through all the after-years.

    "The house of my Grandfather, Luke Slater,—then by the Old Church steps,—was, in the early years of last century, an open house for hearing read the newspapers and literature of the day; and William Cobbett, Sam Bamford, the poet, "Orator" Hunt, and John (afterwards Sir John) Bowring were occasional callers.  My mother quite well remembered them and often spoke of them."

    Up to recent years Mr. Walmsley has been an earnest worker among young men at Chapel Street Sunday School, and was for many years Secretary to its Band of Hope.  He has also been an ardent temperance and social reformer; and, in connection with his well-known business, has done much for the welfare of Art, especially in its connection with Lancashire history.

______________________________

 
-XXVII-

James Shorrock.

 

Love of Nature and sympathy with suffering are very prominent characteristics of this author, who was born in the quiet village of Halton West, in the Craven district of the West Riding of Yorkshire, on June 27th, 1841.  His father, Thomas Shorrock, though known as a Yorkshireman, belonged to a Lancashire family who at one time carried on the business of Tanners and Fellmongers near Leyland, and afterwards at Radburn, or Clayton Green, between Leyland and Blackburn.

    At six years of age James Shorrock was sent to an infants' school kept by a widow named Mrs. Thompson, of whose kindness he still retains grateful memories.  He left her school when he was only nine; but for two years was not sent to another; being occupied sometimes in "shepherding"; at other times with his uncle's team of horses; or in wayward boyish wanderings about the countryside.  At eleven he was sent to Long Preston school; and had to tramp the three miles between it and his home every morning and evening.  He attended that school for 18 months only; poverty compelling his parents, at the end of that period, to obtain for him some remunerative employment.  He had therefore to enter the Squire's service as stable-boy and errand-boy combined; and in that capacity his liking for horses and his love of country rambles both found ample gratification.  At fourteen, however, he had to turn to a much more laborious occupation in the saw-pit, among the wielders of the old-fashioned "up and down" hand saw.

    At fifteen he was out on his beloved moors again; becoming herd-boy and shepherd-boy to two brothers, of whose amusing peculiarities he still has lively recollections.  "One brother," he relates, "got into a fierce and towering rage, while the other went into a three-days' sulk, because I had changed the sheep from one pasture to another on a Friday; and if a man with light hair simply passed through a field on that particular day of the week, some one of the cattle, the brothers averred, would be sure to die.  Their modes and methods, too, were, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, unalterable."

    At sixteen James Shorrock left the superstitious brethren, and began to learn his father's trade of joiner.  At eighteen he came to Blackburn, where he completed his apprenticeship to cabinet making; in which business he is still engaged.

    When about twenty years of age he joined Mr. W. Nichol's class at James Street Sunday School, and also the Mutual Improvement Class connected with that school.  Before coming to Blackburn he had made himself acquainted with the poetry of Cowper and Eliza Cook; and he here added a knowledge of the works of Prince, Waugh, Brierley, and many other authors.  Less than two years after this, having shown one or two of his own poems to a well-known local journalist renowned for his literary severity, young Shorrock received in return such a withering condemnation that his youthful hopes were crushed; and he wrote no more poetry for many years afterwards.

    In June, 1887, however, Mr. Shorrock, through the influence of the late Mr. Richard Kilshaw, published simultaneously in the "Blackburn Times" and the "Alliance News" a pathetic temperance poem entitled "Our Foe in This Land of the Free," which had been suggested by seeing a drunken woman conveyed to prison.  Another poem of the same class, which was warmly praised by the late Dr. Lees and was often recited by Mr. Kilshaw, is entitled "Dick the Match Boy."  It is unfortunately too long far inclusion in this chapter, but, like many of his other pieces, it is full of compassion for the suffering and the fallen.  Here is a briefer piece of the same type and period:—


A WORD FOR THE WAIFS.


O speak a kind word to the lost one,
    With heart overburdened with care,
To the one who has fallen a victim,
    And is ready to sink in despair;
Give the help and the hand of a brother
    To him who is ready to sink,
Speak comfort and hope to the mother
    Or sister degraded by drink.

O speak a kind word to the fallen,
    To the wrecked on the ocean of life,
To those from whom have been stolen
    The chances they held in the strife.
Speak words that will comfort and cheer them,
    Speak words that will cause them to think
Of the price they have paid, and the sorrows
    That follow this traffic in drink.

O speak a kind word to the cheerless,
    Depraved and confirmed in their crime,
Although they be callous and tearless
    There's hope you may reach them in time;
Within them there's virtue still hiding,
    And talents that some day may shine,
For there's remnant of hope still abiding
    Says the author of proverbs divine.

O speak ye kind words to the lost ones,
    To the waifs on the waters of life,
To the homeless, the cheerless, the tossed ones,
    And all who have sunk in the strife;
Bid hope in their bosoms to brighten,
    Bid sorrow and sadness depart,
Remember, life's burden you lighten
    By cheering the desolate heart.


    This sympathy with suffering,—indicated at the outset as one of James Shorrock's leading characteristics,—is not confined to the great human family.  It extends also to the poor dumb creatures whose sufferings we are so apt, in our selfishness, to forget.  The first of our two examples of this latter trait was suggested by an incident which occurred opposite Mr. Shorrock's shop in Darwen Street:—


A PLEA FOR THE HORSES.


Hold! hold! with that whip, my dear fellow,
    Be steady, I say, with that rein,
Your poor horse is striving and straining
    Don't wantonly strike him again.
He winces; it's torture to bear
    Your lashes, so keen and acute;
Could he speak, he would boldly declare
    That you, and not he, are the brute.

Bear with him: he's patient and kindly,
    And willing is he to obey;
Don't lower your manhood so deeply,
    Don't act like a coward, I pray.
That load is too much for your horse, man,
    Poor creature! he's panting, you see.
Just set him at ease for a minute,
    And listen; dear fellow, to me.

Is there in the bosom of manhood
    So lumpish, so leaden a thing
As a heart that can feel not and know not
    That man of all creatures is King?
Did the God of the universe will it,—
    That we, who His image should wear,
Should wreak such a heathenish vengeance
    On creatures consigned to our care?

Awake to a sense of your manhood,
    All ye of the whip and the rein;
And temper with mercy each action
    To those with no voice to complain.
Give patience a place in your bosom,
    Let kindness be part of your soul;
For gifted with these we are chosen
    God's creatures to use and control.

Away with our pretence of being
    A people of leading and light,
Unless we can learn the grand precept
    To temper with mercy our might.
It's cowardly thus to be cruel;
    But kingly it is to be kind:
'Tis Patience that's parent to Mercy,
    And Mercy ennobles the mind.

 


THE TROOPER TO HIS CHARGER.


Aye, bring to me the Trooper bold, with sword and helmet bright;
The warrior from a well-won field, the hero of a fight.
I'll ask him where his comrades are,—his partners in the field,
Who bravely stood 'mid fire and blood, nor knew, nor cared, to yield.
"Aye," cried the gallant Trooper, "the story soon I'll tell;
Some fought for Queen and Country and like gallant heroes fell:"
Then, pointing to his charger, he doffed his helmet bright,
"There stands my staunchest comrade; there's a hero from the fight."


    Mr. Shorrock has not published many pieces in the Lancashire dialect; but amongst the few he has printed I like best the following hearty and amusing tribute:—


TO JACK O' ANN'S.


Well done, my worthy singing brid; tha'rt first amung us o,
Thi muse is never idle, and thi wit is never slow.
Each time tha'rt fresh as ever, and thy theme is always new,
And tha loves to hear another brid send forth his music, too.
Each week i' th' Times I look to see wod next tha hes to say,
An' th' owd rib keeps glentin' ower whol hoo's storrin' th' sup o' tay.
"Just read those lines yo're lookin' at, aw'm sure yo'll nod be long"
An' hoo winnot eyt her breakfast till hoo's herd thi weekly song.
Soa sing an' shine, my worthy one, mek life's rough path more cheery;
Tha's won thi spurs, owd mon, this year, by mekkin id less dreary.
Tha's bin throughout this closing year i' full an' tuneful note:
In short tha's beat all record, and, bi th' mon, thas't hev my vote.
Tha's touched on many subjects, and of many persons sung,
And other brids of lesser nooat, and not sich strength of lung.
Hev listened wi' a pleasure, hev read each week thi rhymes,
For tha seems to add a lustre to eawr good owd Blegburn Times.
Fro' th' Akadoc to Furthergate, fro' Witton to Cob Wo',
They've heeard thi weekly warble, an' tha's fairly cheered us o;
Tha's sung of other brother bards, an' other chums likewise;
At coartin' doo's an' weddin's, too, tha's hed thi weekly shies;
At kessenin's, too, tha's hed a doo, an' towd, i' hooamly rhyme
Wot gam there's bin, wot seets tha's sin, an' heaw tha shared each time;
An' tha's even gi'en a picture of a voyage, nod on t' "say" (sea),
But deawn bi th' Ew'd an' Livesey, an' further on that way,
I' one o' thoose grand vessels 'at oft a-coylin' goa,
Bi th' Whittle Springs to Wigan, an' back ageon an' o.
Tha's clothed i' homely Lanky style thi tales o' factory life,
An' heaw some struggle for a crust, an' bear their part i' th' strife,
An' nod forgetten Bobby, for, bi th' mon, tha leet id slip
When tha rhymed abeawt two dooarsteps an' a lantern an' a ship.
Aw, couldn't name one hofe o' t' songs tha's sung within this year,
Soa I wish thee health an' happiness, an' plenty Christmas cheer;
Long may tha live to breeten life's rough an' rugged road,
An' lend a cheer to others, an' help to leeten t' load.
May Billy's worthy mantle upon thi shouthers rest,
An' Prince's lustre lend thee true poetic fire an' zest.
Owd Blegburn's preawd o' sich like sons, as sing i' hoamly style—
I'll dry up neaw for th' present, an' listen for awhile.


    From among the many poems expressive of his love for mountain, moorland, woodland, and fell, I have chosen the three examples which follow.  The "weather-beaten steeple" named in the first piece is that of Long Preston Church, where Mr. Shorrock's father, sister and other relatives are buried:—


THE DAFFODILS.


When the fever-heat of hurry, in the serried scenes of life,
Makes me weary of the worry, and the turmoil and the strife.
I would wander by the woodland, near the moorland or the fell,
Where the daffodils are blooming in the quiet lonely dell.

When the hoary frosts of winter leave the forest bleak and bare,
And there's scanty food or shelter for the hungry, timid hare.
I would ramble by the river where the sheltered daisies peep,
And the daffodils are blooming, near the ancient ivied keep.

When the stress of life hath worn me that I weary of the town,
And its many spires and gables seem to meet me with a frown,
I would seek a quiet leisure far away from haunts of men,
Where the daffodils are blooming, in the hollow of a glen.

Near a weather-beaten steeple, whence I've heard the welcome chime,
And whose whitened walls bear witness to the crumbling touch of Time.
There's a corner in that acre where the snowdrops seem to weep,
And the daffodils are blooming where the loved ones are asleep.

 


GOLDEN AUGUST.


Again the golden harvest is bending in the breeze,
The windswept brackens rustle and wave beneath the trees.

The sportsman treads the moorland, the grouse are on the wing,
And the choruses of reapers make the smiling valleys ring.

There is music in the hedgerows, and there's melody in trees,
With the kissing of the breezes and the murmur of the bees.

There's a whisper in the fir tree when her plumy branches sway,
Like the sighing of the ocean in the heaving of her spray.

Now a mist o'erhangs the meadows at the break of early dawn,
And the pearly dewdrops glisten in the grasses of the lawn.

When the lazy mists are melted and the sun is soaring high,
There's a glow of mellow grandeur in the hazy summer sky.

The sun smiles on the woodland with its bramble-matted floor,
And he warms the mighty mountain and the heather-scented moor;

There's a sea of golden glory when he's sinking out of sight,
And a coolness that's refreshing in the quietude of night.

Let us wander in the forest, where the briar and the sloe
Bear a harvest for the songsters, and the brambleberries grow.

There's a richness all around us when the August sun hath shed
His lustre o'er the landscape, and the leaves are turning red.

Come with me along the mountain, let us climb its craggy steep,
Where the larches seem to tremble and the mountain ash to weep;

Let us tread its stony summit, once the kingly eagle's rest,
Where the snows of countless winters have mantled o'er its crest.

And we'll view the smiling valley with its wealth of fruit and grain,
For the August sun is shining over valley, hill, and plain.

 


AUTUMN.


'Tis Autumn, the winds are beginning to murmur,
    The swallows have fled, and the reaping is o'er;
The mist and the cold, chilly frost of the morning,
    Deck meadow and copse with a silvery hoar.

The sun floods the East with a splendour, at rising,
    And lustre unequalled illumines the sky;
Who is it that loves not the golden-hued Autumn?
    So rich is its grandeur, O why should it die?.

I lave thee, Old Autumn, when noontide is o'er us
    The sun gilds the clouds with a beauty untold;
There's a charm in the West, when as eventide's nearing
    He sinks to his rest 'neath a curtain of gold.

I love thee, Old Autumn, and, like thee, I'm nearing
    The winter of life, with its shadow and shade;
Let me drink of thy pleasures, and share in thy glories,
    The beauties of sunlight that never shall fade.


    I must not omit to mention, in conclusion, that Mr. Shorrock adds to his many other activities the Vice-Presidencies of both the Blackburn Burns Club and the Athenian Club; and has long taken a prominent and enthusiastic part in the Shakespearian celebrations held annually by the latter society an the 23rd of April.



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