Poets & Poetry of Blackburn (9)

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-XL-

Thomas Chippendale.

 

In the glowing days of youth, when a humble but fervent worshipper at the great shrine of Poesy, I used to secure my "Blackburn Times" at the earliest possible moment on every publishing day; often with a tremulous anxiety 'to learn the fate of some piece which, earlier in the week, I had dropped into that capacious, but closely-packed, letter box at the corner of "Fish Lane," and Corporation Street.

    On one such Saturday morning,—to be accurate it was on the second of December, 1882,—I opened the paper and found, not one of my own crude rhymes, but the following lovely song, signed "T. Chippendale," and dated from "8, Inkerman Street, Blackburn"—


THE RUINED OAK TREE.


O'er yon daisy-fleck'd lea, stood a sturdy oak tree,
    Near the cot where my father was born—
Like a sentinel stood, keeping guard o'er the wood,
    Where the throstle sang loud in the morn;
It sheltered the kye from the scorching July,
    Was a home for the robin 'mid snow,
But the lightning's fell blast struck the veteran at last,
    And its vigour and beauty laid low.

Round the rugged old stem, when the harvest-time came,
    Whilst I swung on its leaf-mantl'd boughs,
The swart reapers have sat, for a rest and a chat
    With the dewdrops of toil on their brows:
All its branches are gone; the bare trunk stands alone;
    Still its form brings fond memories to me,
For of childhood's bright chains one link yet remains
    In the wreck of that ruined oak tree.

On my couch I have laid while December winds swayed
    That old tree I'd oft climbed in the spring,
And I've pitied the bird when its plaints I have heard,
    Which for shelter must trust to its wing;
Now, splintered and maimed, the tanner hath claimed
    The oak's hoary hide, long ago,
Whilst its boughs, one by one—like our friends—are all gone!
    'Tis old age lonely gleaming through snow.


    I had not seen any of Chippendale's poetic work previously; but "The Ruined Oak Tree" convinced me that in him Blackburn possessed not only a poet, but—what is at times a rarer possession—a song writer, of more than ordinary merit.

    "O that a song would sing itself to me," exclaimed Longfellow in one of his many noble sonnets.  Here was a song which "sang itself" into my heart at once, where it has held its place, and been a source of delight through all the changes of twenty eventful years.

    The reference in Billington's poem to—"Chip's single song, and his 'goose'—which was good"—stirred within me a strong desire for further acquaintance with his poems; but, notwithstanding my enquiries, many years elapsed before I came across, the favourite dialect poem—


PLUCKIN' TH' PA'SON'S GEESE.


Aw wer allus a chap as wer feeord,
    An' aw ne'er liked bein' i' th' derk,
Though I lived just at bottom o' th' owd churchyard
    Where mi feyther wer sexton an' clerk.
But one neet aw happened to go to a spree,
    (In fact id wer last Kesmas E'en),
Where aw danced an' sung until id wer late
    Wi' a wench as lives deawn across t' green;
Hoo wer rayley a varra nice-lookin' lass,
    An' her ways they wer gradely an' kind;
When aw axed her iv aw mut see her safe hooam
    Hoo said ut hoo dudent much mind.
Soa across Gonder Green we booath on us went,
    An' aw soon med everythin' reet;
For hoo sed iv hoo'd nau'but a hofe ov a chance
    Hoo'd meet me come next Sunda' neet.
We wer some an' dropt on when we landed hooam,
    For her feyther he stood at th' heawse door;
An' he sed as he'd try to ratch my yers
    Iv aw went theer ony moore.
Sooa across t' churchyerd aw wer fain to pike,
    An' aw soon went through th' owd gate;
But yo wodent ha' thowt a chap wer abeawt,
    Wi' mo creepin' away so quate;
Aw'd nearly getten to th' tother side,
    When aw thowt aw yeard a grooan,
An' then aw see there wer some'at white
    At back ov an owd gravestooan.
Aw tried to sheawt, but aw wor so feeard
    That aw couldn'd raise a seawnd;
Mi legs wer like two rotten stumps,
    For they leet mo drop on th' greawnd.
An' theer aw lee for a hofe an heawr,
    An' hardly took mi breeoth,
Whol th' greawnd, id wor so damp an' cowd,
    Aw wer varra near starv'd to deeoth.
At last aw seemed to hear a voyce,
    An' begun a lookin' reawnd;
Then aw thowt aw see a lung white bag
    Teemin' snow-flakes onto t' greawnd.
An' neaw th' owd moon, fro' th' back ov a cleawd,
    Popt eawt so clear an' breet
That aw see'd Soft Jacky set on a grave—
    A chap as wornd gradely reet.
An' wed dun yo' think he wer dooin'?
    He wer pluckin' two fine geese;
An' aw yerd him say, as nar aw crept,
    "They'll weigh ten peawnd a-piece."
Aw sez, "Owd lad, where's ta getten them?"
    He looked, eh! so fawse, an' laffed;
Then he said, "Aw catcht 'em booath asleep
    I' th' middle o' th' Pa'son's croft.
"Aw've nod bin varra weel ov late;
    "Mi teeth wor loysin' their use:
"An', tha knows, its Kesmas to-morn—
    "Sooa aw thowt aw'd try some goose."
Aw sez, "Iv tha's stown th' Owd Pa'son's geese,
    "Wod med tha pluck 'em here?"
Then he pointed deawn wheer th' feathers lay,
    On his waistcoat dropt a tear,
Whol he sez, "Deawn theer mi mother lies;
    "Aw'll see as hoo teks no harm,
"For neaw, when t' neets is long an' cowd,
    "Them feathers 'll keep her warm."
So aw left Soft Jacky sat on th' grave,
    An' went reet hooam to bed;
But aw dudn'd sleep so much thad neet,
    For aw thowt o' wod Jacky hed said.
Aw ne'er towd nobody wod aw'd sin,
    For aw couldn't think Jacky a sinner;
An' if th' Owd Pa'son hed getten to know
    He'd ha' robbed th' poor lad ov his dinner.
Heaw he stamped an' raved when he fun' id eawt!
    Then away he went for t' police,
An' swore somebody hed bin i' t' Croft,
    An' stown his two best geese.
But th' policeman smiled an' said he thowt
    As a fox hed committed the theft;
It hed etten 'em booath i' th' owd churchyard.
    An' there wer nowt but feathers left.
Th' Owd Pa'son answered, "No doubt, no doubt;
    That fox I must try to catch;"
Then he gave Soft Jacky booath meyt an' drink
    His powtry-yard to watch.
One Sunday at Church i' th' pulpit he stood,
    While th' Bible afoor him lay,
An' lookin' reawnd at fooak as wer there,
    These words to them he dud say—
"I freely forgive all who've done me wrong;
    God grant you His blessings of peace."
Sheawts Jacky, "Gu lad!   Aw thowt as tha wod
    O th' time aw wer eightin' thi geese."


    This laughable Lancashire piece has long enjoyed great popularity locally; and surely every "gradely" reader will agree that it deserves to be still more widely known.

    Here is another of our author's brief but charming lyrics:—


SONG: THE COT IN THE DELL.


There's a sweet sylvan cot nestles low in yon dell,
Surrounded by streamlet, by woodland and fell;
And, through those green valleys from mountain to main.
That's the part which this heart never leaves but with pain:
That's the part my fond heart ever cleaves to again.

There's a maiden as fair as the snow on the hill,
With the rose peeping through, and as pure as the rill,
Which sparkles like diamonds to rival her eyes;
From the fell in that dell where secluded she lies,
She's the queen of that green holme—a true Paradise.


    It is not easy, now that poor "Chip" has passed away, to do justice to his very meritorious poetry; because his songs and lyrics are, for the most part, only to be found among his numerous "Country Tales and Sketches," where they are given (as being sung by different country characters), along with dialect and other songs by earlier writers.  In his modesty, Chippendale shrank from giving his own name as that of the author of some of the songs; hence the difficulty of ascertaining with certainty which poems are his own and which are merely quoted.  Were I to include in this chapter a few of the lyrics which I have strong reason to think are his, I could make a much finer selection; but, of course, I am giving here only such pieces as I know to be his work.  Of these latter, probably the finest is this stirring and noble ballad:—


THE LADS OF RIBBLESDALE.


How oft I've heard of Tiber's stream where Rome's fair city stands,
And oft I've heard of the glorious Rhine, away in foreign lands;
While Beranger and Lamartine can many a 'soul inspire
With songs of vine-clad mountains on the banks of Rhone and Loire.

For years proud London's mighty arms have hugged old Father Thames,
And Shakespeare left sweet Avon's banks wreathed with eternal gems;
While Falconer praised Killarney's Falls, Sam Lover and Tom Moore
Immortalised the many streams that grace old Erin's shore.

Some climb the hills and castles in the pleasant vale of Wye,
And by the Tweed some think of wars oft fought in days gone by;
While other hearts with rapture throb to nature's purest tune
Sung by the Prince of Scottish Bards along the banks of Doon.

Still Craven lads, lift up your heads, there's yet another stream
You've played beside in infancy and seen in midnight dream;
Where gallant men from Cæsar's land deserted beauteous Rome,
And on the Ribble's fertile banks were proud to make a home.

King Stephen marched an Ribble banks a rebel band to find;
King John held court in Ribblesdale ere he the "Charta" signed;
King Edward First and Edward Third at Preston longed to stay
And view the stream where John o' Gaunt passed many a happy day.

Then stern old Scotia's hardy sons our vaunted strength withstood,
By fiery Bruce the Ribble then was stained with human blood;
Then Henry Fourth to Clitheroe came a charter to bequeath;
Then Henry Sixth near Ribble hid, 'mid danger, want, and death.

King James came down to Ribblesdale to hunt for witch and deer,
And after Worcester's famous fight Charles Second dwelt down here;
And Cromwell said his bravest troops, that turned the Stuarts pale,
Were the bold unbeaten Bowland boys that dwelt in Ribblesdale.

Then here's success to Craven lads, who love their native soil,
May rich have heart to freely give, the poor have strength to toil;
May peace and comfort claim each cot that stands within the vale,
Which the Roman, King, and cottar loved, historic Ribblesdale.


    Though personally acquainted with Chippendale, I possessed, until recently, scarcely any biographical information about him.  Hence, I wrote to his friend, Mr. Robert West Whalley, who, after giving me some interesting facts, referred me to Mr. John Pickup, now residing at Glasgow, and it is chiefly from Mr. Pickup's letter to myself that the following paragraphs are taken.

    Thomas Chippendale was born at Waddington, near Clitheroe.  As a boy he assisted his father, who was employed as a gardener, bee-keeper, and general "handy man."  Tom's schooling was such as any ordinary country lad, of working parents, would receive.

    He afterwards learnt cotton weaving at Clitheroe, and when his parents were both dead he removed to Blackburn, bringing with him a younger brother and sister, both of whom he had to provide for.  This was about 1870.  He was in and out of the mill during the next few years, and ultimately, about 1878, took an insurance agency, with which he was very successful.  At this time he was a leading supporter of the Olympic Football Club.

    In 1887 he began to write a series of "Country Tales and Sketches" for the old "Blackburn Standard," and it was in the first of these that "The Lads of Ribblesdale" appeared.  These sketches were afterwards published in book form, and he wrote other similar stories for the same journal the following year.

    He left Blackburn in 1889 for Nelson, and resided at 52, Water Street there, resuming his old occupation as a weaver.  In 1897 he went to Edinburgh, and his friend, Mr. Pickup, found him a good situation in Dundee.  There, however, he was unsuccessful, and became greatly depressed.  Mr. Pickup took him back to Edinburgh, in the hope that friendly companionship would cheer him; but his health broke down, and he became anxious to return to his wife and family at Nelson.  Mr. Pickup accordingly sent him home, where he died in or about May, 1899.

    Mr. Pickup agrees with Mr. West Whalley and many other friends in describing "Merry Chip" as a most genial and kind-hearted companion; and concludes his letter by saying, "I knew 'Chip' well, and I can say of him what Hobhouse said of his friend Byron, 'He had failings—many failings, certainly—but he was untainted with any of the baser vices; and his virtues, his good qualities, were all of a high order."

______________________________

 
-XLI-

John Thomas Baron.

("Jack o' Ann's.")


Two Spirits sat beside me in the silence of the night,
Luminous each and lovely, in a haze of roseate light;
One azure-eyed and mild, with hair like the burst of morn,
And one with raven tresses, and looks that scorch'd with scorn;
And yet with gleams of pity, to comfort the forlorn.

And the one, blue-eyed, said, "Poet, who singest to the crowd,
Sing high and ever higher, sing jubilant and loud,—
In the highways and the byways, in the forest and the mart,—
The song of hope and gladness, to cheer the poor man's heart;
And prove that Faith is Fortune, and Love the better part."

CHARLES MACKAY.

 

The lofty counsel contained in the second of the above stanzas has been right loyally obeyed by the true poet, and deservedly popular writer, whose name and nom-de-plume head this chapter.  John Thomas Baron was born at 42, Chapel Street, Blackburn, an March 1st, 1856.  His parents were John and Ann Baron; and they had a younger son, named William, who also is a poet; and with whom we shall deal in a future chapter.  It is worthy of note that each of the poet-brothers, in choosing his dialect nom-de-plume, used the name of one of his parents: John Thomas becoming "Jack o' Ann's," and William "Bill o' Jack's."

    In 1859, through the father's ill-health, the family removed to Blackpool, and resided for some time at Napier House, 28, Chapel Street.  From there the little "Jack o' Ann's" was sent to the Infants' department of the National School in Bank Hey Street—just behind the spot where the Tower now stands.  The fee paid for his education was the very modest one of a penny a week; and that it was not paid for a very long period is evident from the fact that at nine years of age he had to leave school—and that finally—in order to assist in looking after his baby brother—the future "Bill o' Jacks."

    Soon after this the family returned to Blackburn for the winter season; and "Jack" became an errand boy for Mr. A. Welding, saddler, who then occupied a shop next door to the old gas offices in Darwen Street.  In the following spring the Barons were again at Blackpool, where "Jack" worked for two years at Dick's shoe establishment in Lytham Street.  While he was thus employed his mother died, after a very short illness, on May 23rd, 1869.  Thus did our poet, at the susceptible age of 13, experience his first great sorrow, in the loss of that priceless blessing—of which he sings so sweetly:—


A MOTHER'S LOVE.


There is a flame, more pure and holy
    Than that which burns at Beauty's shrine;
'Tis shared alike by great and lowly,
    And once—ah, once!—'twas mine.
It lingers sweet in recollection,
    And haunts us wheresoe'er we rove—
The gleaming pole-star of affection;
    It is—a mother's love!

It lights the toiler's lowly dwelling,
    And beams in princely palace-halls;
Its warmth all earthly love excelling,
    Where tenderly it falls.
It lives beyond Life's brief existence,
    The gem of Memory's treasure-trove;
And flashes far thro' time and distance—
    A mother's gentle love.

What were the world without its presence?
    A wilderness of darkling fears;
'Tis Nature's best, sublimest essence,
    That brightens, charms, and cheers.
It is fond woman's guerdon, given
    By sister seraphs high above;
Its peer alone hath place in heaven—
    O sacred mother's love!


    I have written—as it is usual to speak—of the loss, by death, of a mother's love.  But there is a sense in which that gift of heaven, when once it has blessed our hearts, can never be wholly lost.  The good mother dies; and only in dreams—dreams "wild with all regret"—does the child ever again hear on earth the music of her gentle voice.  But her influence—her holy and uplifting influence—remains, thank God, for ever.

    Listen now to this tender lyric:—


BY THE WAVE.


I have watched the rose of beauty
    Bloom on many a winsome cheek;
I have caught the tender glances
    That make sturdy manhood weak;
But my heart was ever faithful—
    Memory makes me yet her slave—
To my mother, who sleeps soundly
    In the churchyard by the wave.

When the wintry winds are howling,
    And stark trees moan in the storm,
While the scarlet-vested robin
    Huddles close in shelter warm;
When the crystal snow is drifting
    Pure as memory on her grave,
Ocean's mighty requiem echoes
    O'er the churchyard by the wave.

When the peaceful glow of summer
    Brightens ocean, earth and skies,
How the rippling wavelets whisper
    Lovely hymns of Paradise.
Then a great hope burns within me,
    And for rest with her I crave;
Far away from care and sorrow—
    In the churchyard by the wave.


    The death of the mother led to the breaking up of the Barons' seaside home; and an Whit-Monday, 1870, "Jack" returned to his native town, where he has ever since resided.  Before the end of that Whit-Week he had obtained employment at Dickinson's Bank Tap Foundry, where he learnt the trade of iron turner and fitter.  He began to write Poetry during his apprenticeship; his earlier published efforts appearing in various amateur magazines.  "Young Folks" and the local "Dick Snowdrop's journal" also received contributions from his pen.

    His first poetic contribution to a newspaper appeared in the "Blackburn Times" in October, 1876.  He also wrote for the "Blackpool Gazette," "Preston Chronicle," "Oldham Chronicle," "Blackburn Standard," and other newspapers and magazines.

    From among Mr. Baron's early poems I have chosen the one which next follows.  It was first printed, at Blackburn, an November 17th, 1877, and was the subject of warm praise from the "Lancashire Laureate," Edwin Waugh, who said he hoped the young author would long be spared to produce poetic work of such high quality.


ART AND SONG.


Young Art had travelled far and wide a lovely spot to find,
To picture, when his gaze espied one pleasing to his mind.
It was a landscape bright and fair, arrayed in sunny dress,
Teeming with Nature's beauty rare—a spot of loveliness
A sloping dell, where flow'rets sweet of scent and colour grew;
A rippling stream gushed at his feet; the grass was gemm'd with dew;
A rustic hamlet showed between the intervening trees;
And ripening grain of golden sheen swayed gently with the breeze.
Far in the distance, towering high, stood vast empurpled hills,
Their tops hid in the hazy sky—their bases washed by rills;
Upon his right, embosomed, lay a broad and tranquil lake—
A scene which made young Art feel gay, and bade his genius wake.
His brush and palette forth he drew, and with a skilful hand
He with the colours traced a view as fair as it was grand.
This done he gazed with flashing eye, admiring and ablaze
With pride; then cried exultingly—"I win a nation's praise."

A youth with lyre in hand approached, and viewed the picture long,
Then said, "Thy powers, O Art, are great; list thou unto my song "
And chanting Nature's glorious themes in such inspiring words,
His burning hand impassioned swept across the tuneful chords;
And Art, enraptured by the sound of smoothly-flowing strains,
Felt his heart's current glow and bound fast thro' his heated veins.
Anon, the singer tuned his voice to sadness, and hot tears
Rolled dawn the fair-hued cheeks of Art in shining crystal spheres;
But soon a merry gladsome lay his falling drops dispelled—
His heart felt blythe as birds in May, and joyfully it swelled.
The harpings of the stranger youth rose with harmonious flow,
In language of romance and love, peace, warfare, bliss and woe,
Till Art, with beaming, smiling face, said, "For thy tuneful lays,
Abounding in such power and grace, I gladly yield thee praise.
Tell me, fair youth, why dost thou rove these solitudes among?"
The stranger answered, "Fervent love of Nature tunes my song:
I love to view her rugged charms, her power adds to my strain,
And makes it flow as fresh and smooth as streams that wind the plain."
"And art thou Song?" asked Art, with pride and gladness in his tone;
"Such is my name," the youth replied, "by which I best am known."
"Let us united onward rove," spake Art then unto Song,
And strive to elevate and move Earth's ever surging throng."
"Agreed," responded Song; and smiles upon their features shone,
As Sol, aweary with his toils, retired unto his throne.
.                .                .                .                .                .                .                .
Centuries have passed away since then, but, as Time speeds along,
He plants within the hearts of men the powers of Art and Song.


    Still finer, in my opinion,—but, unfortunately for my present purpose, still longer,—is the beautiful poem entitled "May Time," with which Mr. Baron won the first prize (Tennyson's works, in eleven volumes) at the May Festival held in connection with Montague Street Congregational Chapel, Blackburn, in 1879—when he was only twenty-three years of age.

    In the "Blackburn Times" of October 30th, 1886, appeared the first of those "Rhymes in the Dialect" which have now continued week by week, without a single break, for over 16 years.  It was entitled—


A COMFORTABLE SMOOK.


Aw'm bothered nooan wi' acres broad, nor burdened mitch wi' wealth;
For tried friends aw've a ready hand, an' for misel' good health!
When work is o'er, at hooam aw sit i' th' cosy cheer i' th' nook,
An' reych my pipe deawn to enjoy a comfortable smook.

There's doctors, nabs, an' simple fooak, wi' faces long an' pale,
'At's fairly shocked at pun or jooak or gradely merry tale.
They say as bacco's pisenous, an' dolefully they look
On every hearty cock who loves a comfortable smook.

It's nowt to me, they suit thersel's, they've narrow hearts an' brains;
They suit thersel's—but nobr'y else,—an' ged chaffed for their pains.
Mi grondad wur a veteran bowd,—who fowt wi' th' "Iron Duke."
He oft enjoyed—an' sooa will aw!—a comfortable smook.

When sorrows linger reawnd my mind, an' try to poo me deawn,
Aw leet my pipe—a puff o' wind, an' troubles leave my creawn.
They ged i' th' draft wi' t' smook; up th' flue they fly, an' quit my nook.
There's nowt 'at kills care sooner than a comfortable smook.

It's th' true philosophy a life to tek things as they come;
An' if yo have a gradely wife an' childer reet at home,
Yo' needn't cry o'er th' Past, nor try to peer i' th' Future's book;
Use th' Present weel, an' calmly tek a comfortable smook.

I' winter time, when neets are dark, an' blustry winds blow cowd,
My pipe, lit wi' contentment's spark, brings hooamly joys untowd.
When summer fleawrs i' th' sunleet gleeam, aw ramble deawn bi th' brook,
An' birds sing for me while aw hev a comfortable smook.

Aw've oft watched th' smook arise an' curl i' queer shapes o'er my head,
But queerer thowts hev filled my brain wi' th' fancies 'at they've bred.
Like 'bacco, Life soon burns away, eawr ashes gooa to th' rook;
So while Life lasts, live reight, an' tek a comfortable smook.


    A fortnight later,—on November 13th, 1886,—the hearts of thousands of readers were touched by the perusal of half a dozen stanzas which had been written, primarily, to assuage the author's own grief for the loss of a beloved child.  Here they are:—


JOHNNY'S CLOGS.


Howd on, theer!   Dunnot use 'em rough, but put 'em gently deawn;
They're nobbut hawf-worn clogs to yo, wi' tops o' musty breawn;
To me, they're sacred links 'at bind my thowts to one i' th' mowd;
Eawr Johnny wore those clogs afooar Deeath med him stiff an' cowd.

They're but a pair o' little clogs, wi' irons rusty red,
Yet thowts they wakken i' my heart, ov a life-star 'at's fled.
For th' gloom o' grief seems darker neaw, an' Life's nowt near as sweet
As when he used to welcome me wi' hooam smiles every neet.

Tho' th' sod's bin o'er him many a while, to life he's gi'en a grace;
Oft reawnd my cot aw wond'ring stare—there's summat eawt o' place.
Thad lad wur th' best mate 'at aw hed i' sunshine or i' storm.
Wur aw a King, my creawn aw'd give, to clip th' familiar form.

No other eye could shine like his; his speech, so soft an' mild,
Fell o' my ears like music-strains;— he wur my darling child.
No hand seemed hawf so nice to grip, nor greetin' e'er so kind
As his: an' neaw aw seem to hear his voyce i' every wind.

Last neet, aw see a little star, 'at fairly pleased my eye,
It seemed o ov a flutter theer, heigh up i' th' dusky sky.
An' then a thowt flashed thro' my mind 'at med my eyeseet dim.
He wur my child! aw stood on th' earth, an' looked tort Heaven, on him.

Can he be waitin' for me theer, hawf-way fro' th' gowden Throne?
Wur them his wings 'at fluttered breet heigh i' thoose realms unknown?
His bonny face seems allus near, an' th' love for him shall be
Held sacred i' this heart o' mine reight to Eternity.


    There could be little doubt, after the appearance of "Johnny's Clogs," that as a dialectal poet "Jack o' Ann's," as Carlyle said of Tennyson—had "got the grip of it."  No wonder that readers began to look forward eagerly to those weekly "Rhymes in the Dialect," which were destined to became such a notable feature of the "Blackburn Times," and which, for so long a period, have pictured so faithfully, in alternative humour and pathos, the lives of toiling thousands in this great Lancashire town.

    But those numberless readers who only know and admire "Jack o' Ann's" as a dialect writer, can have no adequate idea of his real poetic powers.  To appreciate these rightly, one must take not only his dialect pieces, but what are known at the "Times" Office as his "corner pieces"; namely, the poems not written in dialect, which have for so many years found a place in the "Poets' corner" of the paper.  These latter are usually signed either by his name—"John T. Baron"—or by his initials only.  Both name and initials, however, would be insufficient to enable an ordinary reader to identify all "Jack's" poems.  Many years ago the present writer observed in the "Times," at irregular but not at very long intervals, delicately woven and charming little poems bearing the interesting signature of "Nora B—."  Blackburn, though prolific of poets, has not produced anything like a proportionate number of poetesses; and hence, for a lover of local literature,—one, moreover, who was young, single, and of a somewhat romantic turn of mind, the poems of the gentle Nora possessed a much more than ordinary interest.  Imagine, therefore, the feelings of the romantic dreamer when he was told, one day, that "Nora B—," instead of representing about half the name of a charming and tuneful damsel,—was simply "Baron" spelled backwards; and that this particular Baron was a fitter at Livesey's Greenbank Foundry!  "Jack" himself may be all right as a fitter; but it took a long time to fit his substantial figure into the mental niche which had formerly been sacred to the dainty and melodious Nora.

    As a contrast to our author's dialect work, let us take these two brief but noble poems:—


THE MOUNTAIN-NIGHTFALL.


Yon kingly mountain, like a wearied knight,
    Hath slung the sun, his shield, behind his shoulder,
    And, heedless how the west fires burn and smoulder,
Prepares for silent vigils of the night.

Around him slow he draws his cloudy robe,
    All stern and solemn, tho' star-hosts are gleaming
    Like foemen's spears; of conquest he is dreaming
The while that darkness surges o'er our globe.

So will he dream, till Day—his trusty squire—
    Shall bear his shield on fields of Eastern splendour;
    Then will he greet fair Morn as her defender,
His crest aglow with her triumphal fire.

 


FRIENDSHIP AND HATRED.


I once heard a toast from the lips of a stranger
    Whose brow bore the traces of sorrow and care,
Who, fearless, had faced the world's quiet and danger,
    And found the sharp thorn of hypocrisy there.
So calm and erect, he stood manly before us,
    His face frank and open, his mien stern and just,
And, raising his glass, said, with deep voice sonorous,
    "To Friendship in marble, to Hatred in dust."

To Friendship with joy, may it e'er stand in marble,
    To Friendship, with all an enthusiast's glow,
It cheereth the spirit, and tongues gaily warble
    When its soothing balm heals the deep thrust of woe.
A curse upon Hatred!   Foul blight of the demon,
    It cumbers the soul with a cankering rust;
O may this be ever the toast of the Freeman,
    "To Friendship in marble, to Hatred in dust."

"To Hatred in dust," 'tis a wished consummation,
    'Mid earth's blackest filth it neglected should lie,
'Tis the harassing block of each fair generation,
    'Twere bliss if the soul-damning evil would die.
Blest are the hearts where true Friendship is planted,
    Accursed are they who in cold Hatred trust;
And the strains of the Bard shall with rapture be chanted,
    "To Friendship in marble, to Hatred in dust."


    Contemplating our author's immense literary output,—his "Rhymes in the Dialect," over 800 in number; his early dialectal work; and his hundreds upon hundreds of lyrics and longer poems in modern English,—the present writer cannot help wondering what William Billington would have thought of all this had he survived until this present year, and thus attained,—as, under happier circumstances, he might easily have attained,—the ripe old age of 75.  This thought is suggested by the recollection of the fact that not long before Billington's death the writer called upon him and found him not only ailing in body but depressed in mind.  He was toiling, with evidently painful effort, at one of his articles for the "Blackburn Standard"; for notwithstanding his facility in speech and mental composition, his actual handwriting was slow and laborious.  In answer to inquiries as to the cause of his depression, he expressed the emphatic opinion that those articles were killing him.  "Fancy!" he exclaimed, "a column every week!  It's too much, man; I can't stand it.  It's killing me; that's certain."  In one of those same articles he had expressed the conviction that "there were giants in the earth" in the days of Hodgson, Dugdale, and others of his earlier contemporaries; and one can easily imagine that had he lived until now he would have found, in the work of John T. Baron, clear proof that the race of literary giants is not yet extinct in Blackburn.

    But do not let me be misunderstood.  I am not claiming that all these dialect verses are poems in the strict sense; and were I to make such a claim, their author would be the first to repudiate it.  The title, "Rhymes in the Dialect," chosen by "Jack o' Ann's" himself, is both modest enough and plain enough for any intelligent reader.  Many of the rhymes have been written for the amusement, rather than for the instruction, of readers; and among these one may include first the "practical joking" stories, and secondly what may fittingly be described as the "pastime pieces,"—descriptive of "Valentine Day," "Pancake Tuesday," "Aysther Fair," "Whitsuntide," "August Holidays," and kindred celebrations.

    Tossing all these aside,—though not before we have noted how true to life the humblest of them are,—we shall still have left an immense number of "Rhymes" of great poetic value; and when these latter dialect pieces,—as indicated earlier in this chapter,—are placed alongside their author's non-dialect poems, we have a mass of literary work which, taking quantity and quality together, is simply marvellous as the production of a poet who from boyhood has had to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, and who left school (as already mentioned) at nine years of age.

    Let us now select a few examples which speak far themselves.  Here is a heart-warming poem on an ever-charming subject:—


TH' HOOAM FIRESIDE.


Just hearken to th' wind!   Heaw id rooars
            Eawt o' doors,
An' howls like a wolf across th' moor.
    Hear th' pelter o' th' wind-driven rain
            Uppo' th' pane;
Heaw id swishes an' blows under th' door!
        It's a cowd wintry neet,
        An' ther's nobry i' th' street
Bud them 'at's no place to abide.
        O' wild neets sich as this
        Wod a pleasure id is
To be snug bi a warm fireside.

Tho' th' wind blusters keenly an' bowd
            O thro' th' fowd,
An' buzzes abeawt th' chimbley top,
    We hear, bud we keer nowt for th' din—
            Nod a pin!—
While we're pearkt in a nice cosy shop,
        Busy hevin' a smook,
        Ceawrd i' th' arm-cheer i' th' nook,
Watchin' t' bacco smook rise, twist, an' glide!
        Till quate thowts come to th' brain,
        Fast as raindrops on th' pane,
Abeawt th' joys ov a breet fireside.

Wod notions an' siftin's o' truth,
            In eawr youth,
Dud we larn as we nestled bi th' hearth!
    Wod knowledge wur scattered areawnd,
            I' th' sweet seawnd
O' voices o blended i' mirth.
        Memory clings, some an' fast,
        To th' hooam lessons o' th' past:
Time's changes they've scorned an' defied.
        Long as life throbs i' th' heart
        We'st affooard nooan to part
Wi' th' teychin's o' th' hooam fireside.

Heaw oft, ov a cowd dismal neet,
            Set bi th' leet
O' th' fireglow, we've wedged in eawr chears,
    An' quare tales o' boggarts we've heeard,
            Gradely feared,
While th' whistlin' wind wossened eawr fears.
        Shaddo's, fo'in' on th' wo,
        Wur a terror to o,
For o' t' truth a' sich trash we relied,
        Hey, thoose days wur too brief,
        For e'en misty wi' grief
Pictur' th' spooart bi th' owd fooaks' fireside.

Wind, sleet, frost or snow mek no harm,
            Wheer ther's warm
An' affectionate feelin's i' th' breast,
    For yo' know as yo' trample i' th' dark
        Fro' yo'r wark,
As yo'r fireside meons comfort an' rest.
        Wheer ther's t' childer an' th' wife,
        Thers o th' blessings o' life,
Better things yo'd ne'er find, iv yo' tried;
        For, heaw lowly yo'r lot,
        Or ill-furnished yo'r cot,
Yo'r a king at yo'r own fireside.

Gay Summer fair dazzles eawr e'en
            Wi' id sheen,
'Ticin' us among th' green loynes to roam,
    But Winter, storm-voiced, grim an' ruff,
            Oft enuff,
Meks us revel i' th' pleasures ov hooam.
        Let id hail, thaw, or blow,
        Let id rain, freeze, or snow,
For, tho' Winter be King, far an' wide,
        Love racks Summer th' year thro'
        I' hearts sunny an' true,
'At's contented bi th' hooam fireside.


    Not for a moment, however, does our poet forget that for some poor creatures it is not Summer but Winter the whole year through.  Out goes his compassionate heart to—


THE STREET SINGER.


Sad and lone, with weary feet,
Slow he plods the slushy street,
With no kindly voice to greet
        Cheerily.
Few to succour him, alas!
What a host of people pass
        Heedless by.

Oft the cruel wintry wind
Beats his form with force unkind,
As his tatters stream behind—
        Flags of woe.
And his scattered age-locks vie
With the cold grey clouds on high
        Drifting slow.

Hear him sing in doleful strain
('Tis a pitiful refrain)
For the patter of the rain
        Drowns his voice.
O, it is a burning sin,
Will no Christian call him in
        And rejoice?

Ah, none gives his heart relief,
Though his days on earth are brief;
See; he quivers like a leaf
        O'er a grave;
Tho' his voice, so weak and thin
Shapes its trembling accents in
        Ballad brave.

Want has marbled on his cheek
Silent sufferings that speak
Keener than the pipings weak
        From his throat.
And, to guard from winter's sting,
He has tied a bit of string
        Round his coat.

His rude stick—a whittled thorn
From some wayside thicket torn—
Helps him in his tramp forlorn
        On the road.
Mark his woeful eyes.   How dim!
He has none to comfort him;
        No abode.

Feeble, ragged, warn and grey,
Slow he totters an his way—
On to Death!—he cannot stay—
        Pinched and cold.
Then his wan and wasted form
Will be sheltered from Life's storm,
        In the mould.

I'm an humble passer-by,
Yet a tear drop dims my eye;
Who could hear his piteous cry,
        Not to spare
Something for the poor old chap?
See his hand goes to his cap
        "Thanky, sir."
.            .            .            .            .            .
Tramping thro' the slush and wet,
Hark!   I hear him piping yet,
None to soothe him, coax, or pet—
        None to love;
Weary in limb, heart and mind,
God protect him, may he find
        Rest above.


    For those who have no hope of earthly joy he has tenderest pity.  For those who are cast down unduly by passing troubles he has ever a cheering word; as in this Lancashire song:—


GRIN AN' BIDE ID.


Some fooak'll sob an' sigh an' fret,
    At onny sooart o' trouble;
While others tek no heed at o,
    An' brast each airy bubble.
As laffin's just as chep as tears,
    Bi wisdom let's be guided,
An' when cleawds come to dim eawr joys,
    Let's quately grin an' bide id.

What's t' use o' snufflin' like wayk foos,
    Or startin' off a skrikin',
Becose a tooathry triflin' things,
    Are nod just to eawr likin?
Sitch childish ways be grown up fooak
    Shud allus be derided;
For sorrow's burden leeter grows
    To them as grin an' bide id.

We've o eawr ups an' downs to face,
    An' Life's just as we mek id;
Ther's cleawd an' sunshine—joy an' grief,
    An' share alike we tek id.
It's nobbut when we look thro' tears
    'At Care seems o one-sided,
Becose we hevn'd th' heart to smile—
    Nor thowt to grin an' bide id.

We're fain to stop i' th' sunny gleoms,
    But darkness—heaw we shun id;
Yet, like as nod, it's eawr own fawts—
    Eawr folly what's begun id.
An' mony a chance to mend eawrsels
    Hes lingered long, then glided;
What's th' use o' sighs—Hope leetens hearts,
    Let's wait, an' grin an' bide id.

Thers mony a wrong thing 'at we've done,
    Quite thowtless, an' ne'er meant id;
An' mony a word i' passion sed,
    Whoa's utterance we've repented.
An' other fooak's done t' same as us,
    Ther whim they've gratified id;
So let's forgive an' be forgi'en—
    An' meekly grin an' bide id.

We're just like corks, tost here an' theer,
    On th' wave o' circumstances;
Some's chucked on t' slutch o' poverty
    An' some ged Fortune's glances.
Thers lots, when th' trial comes, give up—
    Ther fortune's then decided;
They camp wi' sorrow o ther lives,
    An' they kornd grin an' bide id.

Whoe'er wod win i' life's mad race,
    An taste o' gradely pleasure,
Mun keep contentment i' ther hearts—
    It's warmer than cowd treasure.
Fawse notions leod wayk minds astray;
    For wod wor Faith provided?
Fooak ne'er let trubble weigh yo' deawn,
    Be brave, an' larn to bide id.

A rooase is hedged abeawt wi' thorns;
    An' t' sun gets last i' shadow;
But wod bi thad, id conquers t' mist,
    An' shines on t' fleawrs i' th' meadow.
It's t' same wi' us, care shadows joy,
    But th' gloom soon gets divided,
An' mirth an' comfort cheers o th' days
    O' thoose who grin an' bide id.


    Like a true poet, he has a song for everybody.  He sees somewhere, still charmed by "love's young dream," "the lover-husband and the sweet-heart wife"; and straightway he voices the joy of the former in such a song as—


THE PEERLESS MAID.


In days of old, as poets sing,
    A maid there was, surpassing fair;
Her brow like snowdrops of the Spring,
    And raven-dark her glassy hair.
Her cheek a richer hue disclosed
    Than that revealed in sunset skies;
And O, what gentleness reposed
    In the clear deeps of her blue eyes.

Her lips, so fresh and coralline,
    Were sweet as Summer's dewy flow'rs;
Her teeth, just visible between,
    Like pearls in Ocean's coral bowers.
Her warbling made proud hearts rejoice,
    And pledge their vows in passioned words.
For O, the music of her voice
    Was like the carolling of birds.

Rich raimented, her peerless charms
    Wake youthful hearts to wild unrest;
For Love stirred fear and sweet alarms
    In many a mail-clad warrior's breast.
Upon her jewels Envy gazed,
    And gloated o'er the gem-set ring
That on her rounded finger blazed—
    The ransom of an Eastern King.

'Tis but a dream of old Romance—
    A glimpse of Earth's dim yesterday,
Though Fancy's gorgeous train advance,
    The feet of Life tread common clay.
All beauty, wealth, and grace have flown;
    The waves of Time roll deep and strong,
And wreck drift of the Past is strewn
    In chronicles of ancient song.

A fig for all the wealth of dreams,
    For imaged bygone beauty too;
I know mine eye with rapture gleams
    To greet the living and the true.
No visioned maiden may compare
    With one who nestles by my side,
And Love's harp sounds its chords for her,—
    The bonny lass I made my bride.


    He enters the cottage of an humble and honest toiler; the young husband has become the proud and happy father, and the young wife the joyful mother of tender little children.  Next day, amid the din and gloom of the great foundry, the vision of that happiness comes like a sudden sunburst to his mind, and with it the first music of this lovely little song—


THE CHILDREN AT MY KNEE.


What though I win my bread with toil, and face a swarm of cares,
I envy not the haughty clan of lords and millionaires.
I'm equal to a monarch proud, my cottage is to me
A kingdom, and my subjects are the children at my knee.

Though precious jewels deck the crowns of Kings with dazzling show,
The comforts of a lowly cot vain courtiers never know.
My jewels are the merry eyes that beam so lovingly
In Life's sweet love-crown at my hearth—glad children at my knee.

I'm happier in my humble cot with wife and children dear,
Than throned in pompous gilded state with fawning vassals near.
For voices sweet, when labour's done, all welcome me with glee,
And cheerful smiles light up my heart—dear children at my knee!

Cold dreams of wealth ne'er haunt my brain, I've treasure in galore;
The love of children and of wife—what could the heart wish more?
Contented with my homely joys, may I for ever be;
And Heaven bestow its bounties to the children at my knee.


    Anon he hears of some home—once happy as that of which we have just heard him singing—on which grim Crime or heartless Vice has laid a desolating hand.  Perhaps a drunken husband; perhaps a faithless wife.  It matters not which; the "little heaven below" is blasted and destroyed.  And over that grave of Love our poet chants a dirge as pitiful as ever drew the tears from kindly human eyes—


COLDEST OF ALL.


'Tis bitterly cold when the trees in mid Winter
Stand lonely and stark by the snow-covered moor;
'Tis cold when the North wind—a blustry invader—
Sweeps into the dwellings where shelter the poor;
'Tis cold while the weak, hungry outcast is crouching
And shielding her burden of shame with her shawl;
But the hearth of a cottage that Love has forsaken—
The home that is loveless is coldest of all.

The trees will again stand arrayed in green beauty;
The gorse on the moor hang out lanterns of gold;
Gay peasants will toil in the sun glare of Summer,
Forgetful of Winter's privations and cold.
The outcast again may find succour and comfort;
A home, where for bread she no longer will crave;
But the heart that is bleeding, forsaken, and broken,
Can never know peace till it rests in the grave.


    For a long time after Mr. Baron adopted the nom-de-plume of "Jack o 'Ann's," he kept his identity secret; the consequence being that much curiosity was evinced, by admirers of the "Rhymes," to know the name of their talented author.  One morning, while on his way to work, Mr. Baron met, in Salford, an old shopmate who had often read and admired the poems, signed "John T. Baron" or "J. T. B.," which from time to time appeared in the "Blackburn Times."  Full of the prevailing curiosity, this admirer asked his poet-friend—as one likely to be "in the know"—if he could tell him "who that 'Jack o' Ann's' was?"  Our poet answered evasively, that he was not at liberty to divulge printing-office secrets; and this answer proved effective.  When, however, they had parted at the bottom of Eanam brow, the inquirer suddenly stopped, and called out to the poet; some forty yards away—

"Heigh, Jack."

"Well; what's up?"

"Tha's written same fairish bits i' th' pappers neaw an' ageon; but tha'rt a foo' compared to yon 'Jack o' Ann's."'

    Probably this workman had been led to transfer his literary allegiance from his friend "Jack" Baron to the unknown "Jack o' Ann's," by the perusal of such cheerful and truthful dialect poems as the following—


A SOPE O' GOOD STRONG TAY.


Some chaps are fond o' aleheawse nooks, an' pots o' frothy ale;
Some cling to pop, an' some to books who glory in a tale.
But wimmin, whether weel or ill, owd, young, or grave or gay,
Are fain to sup, go wheer they will, a sope o' good strong tay.

Ther's nowt as gie's sitch comfort to a woman, late or soon;
Hoo likes a cup o' tay when hoo's fagged eawt i' th' afternoon.
Id soothes her, an' id calms her nerves, no matter wod some say,
A strivin' lass at leeast deserves a sope o' good strong tay.

Gay fashion changes o th' year reawnd, an' plays id funny rigs;
Oft mekkin' soft foo's look unseawnd, an' wriggle just like snigs.
Id awters things be scooares, but then ther's summat scorns id sway;
An' thad's th' owd style—or aw'm mista'en—o' brewin' good strong tay.

It's curious heaw th' owd tay plant's twined up wi' eawr daily lives.
For every morn as comes we find id relished bi eawr wives.
Ther's lots 'll tell yo', plump an' plain, they'd hev one meal a day,
Afoar they'd miss wod meks 'em fain—a sope o' good strong tea.

Ther's nod a kessenin' but it's theer, nor weddin' breakfast fine;
It's used far mooar than pop or beer, gin, brandy, rum or wine.
Ther's varra few as comes i' th' world, an' fewer put away,
But wod ther's t' flavoured smook upcurled fro' cups o' good strong tay.

Aw like to see owd bodies set areawnd a cosy meal,
Donned eawt i' bed-geawns an' check brats, bigum! they do look weel.
While, fro ther ribboned caps, ther yure peeps scant an' silver-grey,
They sit an' smile contented o'er a sope o' good strong tay.

When busy clattin' gossips meet bi th' table i' some pooart,
They'll "club" for summat "short an' neat," that's if ther t' clinkin' sooart.
Then, o'er ther cups, wod stuff comes eawt, when tongues ged i' full play,
An' wilful slander's chuckt abeawt 'at's blacker than strong tay.

Though th' taypot's like a deol o' things—if often geds abused—
Ther's nowt sitch fireside pleasure brings—that's when it's fairly used.
O t' seet o' trubbles may we loyse fro' flowery May to May,
Wi' hearts as warm wi' hooamy joys as gradely good strong tay.


    I had marked two other dialect poems for inclusion in this chapter; but considerations of space compel me, very regretfully, to omit them.  These are "Blind Bobby" and "Owd Jinny."  They are companion-pieces, and the second is written in the same metre as "The Street Singer."  They both resemble that touching poem in their deep and tender sympathy with suffering.  But then, that is a characteristic which is common to all Mr. Baron's serious poems; and which occasioned the remark (which precedes his "Peerless Maid") that he has a song for everybody.  The truth of that remark would be evident to every reader if our author's poems were collected and published—as they most certainly ought to be—in volume farm; but here,—even in the space of this lengthy chapter,—it can be little more than hinted at.

    We are all, I suppose, familiar with the word-picture of the poor clown in the circus, capering, dancing and making merriment for his audience; his heart all the while well-nigh bursting with grief far the loss of an angel-child.  Not in places of amusement only; but in every walk of life,—from the highest to the lowest,—are there men and women, with heroic souls, who go about with cheerful smiles; lightening the hearts of others while their own are breaking.  I know of no poet who, in the course of three brief stanzas, has sung of these silent sufferers so tenderly as our author has sung in—


THE WORLD WILL NEVER KNOW.


The world, that seems so just and wise,
    Is oft in judgment wrong,
For secrets hid from mortal eyes
    Haunt every smiling throng.
The giddy pleasure crowd may reel
    And frolic to and fro,
But all the woe that smiles conceal
    The world will never know.

Man, oft in life, is forced to play
    The merry jester's part,
While he bears with him, day by day,
    A slowly breaking heart.
Sweet words and actions flow to make
    The mask that screeneth Woe,
But ah! the hearts that inward break
    The world will never know.

'Tis not the laugh which loudest rings
    That tells the happiest heart;
'Tis not the voice that saddest sings
    Proclaims Woe's keenest smart,
The breasts of frail Humanity
    Are sacred shrines where glow
Those secrets of soul agony
    The world will never know.


    Thus far the beautiful song.  What of the singer?  Only this: He has learnt from bitter experience the truth of Shelley's saying that—


                                      Most wretched men
Are cradled into poetry by wrong;
They learn in suffering what they teach in song.


    Hearken now to his soul-haunting lyric—I had almost written "hymn"—


TO ONE IN BLISS.


Sadly I wander without thee, divided
            By nought but a breath;
Faith took thy hand from the world's clasp and guided
            Thee far beyond Death,
To greet Our Redeemer beside the Great Throne;—
            And I am—alone.

Alone?—nay not so, for in many a vision
            Thy semblance I see;
Thou comest, a spirit from regions elysian,
            And comfortest me;
The happy re-union with thee in my dreams
            Reality seems.

Oft, when I grieve, thy sweet presence to cheer me,
            Soul-imaged, doth rise;
Tears leave my lids when I know thou art near me,
            From fair Paradise.
In speechless communion my soul blends with thine
            And rapture is mine.

Memory's withered boughs brighten and blossom,
            Youth's Love-light again
Sweeps with a sun-glow and warmth thro' my bosom,—
            But fancies are vain;
The voice that I loved never greeteth mine ears.
            I waken in tears,—

And gazing up heavenward, nought but the far lights
            Of crescent and stars
I see; yet bold Fancy tracks far thro' the starlights
            Thin gold prison bars,
That beautiful place where thou happy dost roam—
            Our Heavenly Home.

What were this life with its trials and sorrow,
            Heart-achings and fears,
If Hope did not breathe of Faith's swift-coming marrow
            Of joy without tears
O would I were with thee in bliss far above,
            United in Love.


    Here is another of those consoling songs which link Earth and Heaven together, as only the true Poet, guided by the Angel of Faith, is able to link them—


UNDER THE SNOW.


Under the snow, in the vale below,
    A thousand beauties lie;
A spotless pall hath hidden them all
    From view of mortal eye;
Even the stream is sleeping—adream—
    And the trees are stark and bare
And the mossy nest, where singers rest,
    Is shut from the frosty air,
From the white hill crest by mist caressed,
    To the dingle far below,
On plain and slope, the Springtide's hope
    Lies underneath the snow.

Under the snow, where no rude winds blow,
    Laid in a trance-like sleep,
The floral throng, which, 'mid sheen and song,
    Their happy watch would keep;
All hidden rest upon Nature's breast,
    Dead, as it were, for a time;
But their bonny eyes, 'neath sunnier skies,
    Will gleam when Spring's sweet chime
Rings out o'er the earth, in a strain of mirth
    While sunbeams cheerfully glow,
And woodland throngs sing jubilant songs
    Of Winter's overthrow.

Under the snow, in the churchyard low,
    Lies many a treasured bloom.
Struck with the blight of Azreal's might
    Down to an early tomb.
There slumbers the clay; but far away,
    To Heaven's golden land,
Their spirits soared to their love—the Lord,
    And bloom at His right hand.
Though in Life's fair May buds wither away,
    This knowledge we foreknow,
Pure spirits bloom beyond the tomb
    That lies beneath the snow.


    Meditating, with a grateful heart, on the joy and consolation received for years from Mr. Baron's poetry, I cannot help wishing I were able to offer him, in conclusion, a tribute as worthy as the one he has paid to an American Poet in—


THE WESTERN SINGER.


A voice came over the Western sea,
    That set my heart in tune,
Sweet were the thoughts that it breathed to me,
    In a lilting happy rune.
Sweet were the thoughts, but sweeter far
    The music of that voice,
Which, soft as the ray of the vesper star,
    Fell, bidding my heart rejoice.

All sorrows waned and passed away;
    With heart to ease resigned
I heard the peal of the kingly lay
    That came on the sea kissed wind—
Lay of beauty, of hope, and of cheer,
    Daintiest, richest, and best;
It made the rills of my life dash clear
    And free through my fluttering breast.

That wandering voice from the Western strand
    Echoeth yet in my heart;
To tell of a soul, sublime and grand,
    Whence bursts of beauty start.
O, voice, return to thy master mind,
    Where gems of genius shine!
Home an the wings of the whispering wind
    Take thou this tribute of mine.


ED.— see George Hull's dialect poem, COME JACK, OWD LAD!

 

______________________________

 
-XLII-

Joseph Baron.

("Tum o' Dick o' Bobs.")

 

As a rule, the poets of Blackburn, "whose merits might match some of national fame," have most decidedly been only "local in name"; and have not been given that place in the literature of their native county—not to, speak of their native country—which the works of some of them undoubtedly deserve.  That this statement is not exaggerated is proved by the fact that Harland and Wilkinson's "Ballads and Songs of Lancashire," a volume of nearly 600 pages, contains not a single poem written by any native of Blackburn.  This is all the more surprising in view of the comparatively recent date of the edition now lying before me, which was issued in 1882, when Billington was nearing the close of his career, and when John Baron, the author of more than one song deserving of immortality, had but recently passed away.

    In our present author,—who, by the way, is John Baron's nephew—we have a striking exception to the general rule; for his cheerful and inspiring songs, both in and out of dialect, have obtained much more than a local reputation; having found their way into some of the leading periodicals both in London and the provinces.

    Joseph Baron was born at Rishton, adjoining Blackburn, an the 7th of May, 1859.  He was educated at the Blackburn Grammar School, where he "took to learning" like a duck to the water, and won prizes almost as often as they were offered.  Like his friend "Jack o' Ann's," he spent part of his youth at Blackpool; returning, however, after some years, to his native district.  From 1880 to 1889 he was a clerk with Messrs. Wilding and Son, solicitors, Blackburn; leaving their office in order to take charge of the commercial department of the "Lancashire Daily Express."  He was on the "Express" for two years; and for six years after leaving that journal he devoted the whole of his time to literary pursuits.  More recently he has been Editor and Manager of the "Blackpool Weekly," and is now a member of the literary staff of the "Blackburn Weekly Telegraph."  Among the many publications in which poems from his pen have appeared are "The Athletic News," "The Globe," "The London Figaro," and "The Badminton Magazine."  He has also won valuable prizes, both for prose and verse, from "Tit-Bits," "The Golden Penny," and other periodicals.

    Among the most popular of his published works is his "Blegburn Dickshonary," which, in its enlarged form, has now obtained a wider fame as the "Lankisher Dickshonary."  Under the former title it was written for and originally published in the "Blackburn Times" over twelve years ago; and under the latter, after its enlargement, it appeared in the "Liverpool Weekly Post," the "Manchester Weekly Courier," and ten other Lancashire weeklies.  Still later the "Dickshonary" was published in book form.  It evoked a commendatory letter from Mr. Gladstone, together with many favourable press notices, and went out of print within two months.  Then came a new edition, with further additions; and this is now well into its second 50,000.  The work has also been adapted to the Yorkshire dialect, the words peculiar to Lancashire being omitted; and in this form it has appeared with great success in the columns of the "Yorkshire Post."

    The "Lancashire Sayings" and "Short Studies," companion works which followed the "Dickshonary," were also hailed with delight by many thousands of Lancashire readers.  In fact, these are all three delightful dialect volumes, packed with sound sense mingled with genuine humour, and interspersed with verse, sometimes quoted and sometimes original, of the aptest and happiest hind.  Take first the "Dickshanary"—which, though primarily a humorous work, is a really valuable contribution to philology and turn to the dialect definition of the familiar word "Nook," meaning "share."  You will find that the author, not content with giving you the ordinary prose definition, illustrates it by "a toaathri verses of his own," entitled—


HE OLEZ DUD HIS "NOOK."


Iv trouble comes unto a friend
    Dorn'd streytway tek yo'r hook,
But stick clooase to him reight to th' end,
    An' olez do yo'r nook.

Ill-luck may come to yo' an' me,
    An' come o ov a rook;
An' fancy heaw we o should be
    Iv nobry dud their nook.

These cares as we let mek us ill
    Wod disappear like smook,
Iv we but faced 'em wi' a will.
    An' friends wod do their nook.

This world wod be a diff'rent place,
    An' faces breeter look,
Iv ev'rybody wi' good grace
    Wod nobbut do their nook.

An' when th' Recoordin' Angel teks
    Eawr items in his Book.
Heaw grand when he this entry meks:
    "He olez dud his nook."


    That last verse about the Recording Angel's entry is worthy of Edwin Waugh at his best.

    Turn now to "Some Lankisher Sayings," and take this blithe sang in illustration of the hearty old phrase:—


AS HAPPY AS A KING.


    Aw'm happier nor a King,
    For aw whistle an' aw sing,
        Fro' morn to neet
        Mi heart is leet
    As a skylark upo' th' wing;
An' that's a sooart o' feelin', lads,
    As creawns con never bring.

    Aw try to do what's reight,
    An' aw addle wod aw eyt;
        Aw pay mi way
        Fro' day to day,
    An' aw nayther steyl nor feight;
But there's nooan so mony Kings i' th' world
    Con say they're hofe as streight.

    Aw've a wife as is a brick,
    An' we're olez gradely thick;
        An' ayther lad
        As co's me "Dad,"
    Is th' bonniest ever wick.
Aw'd nooan swap shops wi' ony King,
    Iv aw could tek mi pick.

    Aw've mates—ay, mony a scoore,
    An' they ne'er go past mi door;
        Though aw've no wealth
        Thank God aw've health,
    An' iv aw'm nobbut poor
Aw con strive for Heaven when aw dee,
    An' Kings con do no moore.


    In the same little volume, in illustration of the expression, "A Hoss of Another Colour," we get a picture, as true to life as any that ever was painted, of that famous Blackburn lawyer, the late Mr. Thomas Clough:—


TH' BUTCHER AN' TH' LAWYER.


You may go to a Jew and buy things cheap;
You may catch a weasel when asleep;
You may get the best of a tax collector,
A plumber's bill, or a Mill Inspector;
You may be able to disarrange
The schemes of the bulls and bears on 'Change—
If you're pretty deep, and a trifle clever,
But as for doing a Lawyer—Never!
And as for myself I think I'd rather
Be less ambitious and make good use
Of my cunning and try to cheat the Deuce,
For the child is smarter than the father.

            Now, 'Tosney Clough
            Was "up to snuff "
(In more ways than one, but quantum suff):
And the man who dared him to a bout
Soon found he had got his work cut out.

            But it happened once
            That a foolish dunce
Who laboured under the fond belief
He had got Clough fast as any thief,
Went into his office with many a grin,
When he thought of how he would take him in;
And being shewn in his private room—
Where Clough sat snuffing a la Brougham—
Plunged into the matter without delay:
(And here I would pause for a space to say—
Remember when going to Attorneys
You are always on expensive journeys,
So don't talk of last week's sun and shower
At the rate of six-and-eight per hour.)


"Yo' see aw'm a butcher, Mester Clough,
An' aw deeal i' nowt but gradely stuff,
An' yesterday aw'd a leg o' lamb
On th' stock, aside o' some beef an' ham;
When in rushed a dog, an' as soon as look,
Id collared thad leg, an' took id hook.
Neaw, thad sooart o' thing 'll herdly fizz,
Sooa happenin' to know whooa's dog id is
Aw just thowt as aw should like to know
Wod aw owt to do, sooa aw've come to yo'."

            Then 'Torney Clough
            Took a pinch of snuff,
And answered him readily enough,—
Nay, he filled the butcher's soul with awe
At the mysteries of Common Law;
He quoted cases of the sort
He had often won in the County Court,
And his client got in a fearful fog,
And seemed as one overcome with grog,
As he listened to the catalogue
Of this and that and the other suit;
"But the gentleman who owned the dog
And paid the tax for the pilfering brute;
(And who he was didn't matter a d—)
Would have to pay for the leg of lamb."

This being the place where the joke came in
The butcher gave an extensive grin.
Then a chuckling laugh and a loud guffaw—
(Which somewhat surprised the man of law);
And he managed to, say, between his roars:
"Thad pilferin' brute, Mester Clough, were yo'rs."

            Now 'Torney Clough
            Didn't cut up rough,
But he did take a mammoth pinch of snuff,
And he closed his eyes, and rubbed his hands
As resigned as one who understands
He's sold, and must take the thing as such,
So all he did was to ask "How much?"

And though the sum had been worked before,
The butcher studied the walls and floor,
And clearing the entrance to his fob
Said, "Well, it's nooan sich a ter'ble job;
Six peawnd at tenpence—just five bob."

            And 'Torney Clough,
As he took his hundredth pinch of snuff,
Remarked, "That's reas'nable enough;
It's really dirt cheap at the price,
But there's six-and-eight for my advice,
So if you'll give me one-and-eight
It'll make the thing exactly straight."

Said the butcher, "Pay yo' one-and-eight;
By gum! that's a dearish piece o' meyt;
Well, aw think id nobbut serves me reight,
An', Mester Clough, see, here's yo'r brass,
An' happen yo'll come an' hev a glass.
But, Mester Clough, wodever yo' do,
Dorn'd mention this to a livin' mon—
Aw do hope yo'll kindly nod 'let on,'
For fooak would think aw wer sich a foo'."

M
ORAL: You're always sure to find
It is not Love but Conceit that's blind.


    As examples of the dialect verse contained in the "Short Studies," I have barely space here for the two extracts which follow.  The first is taken from the chapter on "Childer," and is descriptive of the process known to Lancashire folk as—


CUTTIN' ID TEETH.


For weeks it's slavvered o th' day through on hankitcher an' bib,
It's slavvered on idsel an' me—it's slavvered on th' owd rib.
It's shoved id neyve into id meawth, an' skriked an' kickt id legs,
An' o becose it's gooin' to ged some "ickle peggy-wegs."

It's chewed id hand for heawrs at wonst, its chewed id ivory ring,
It's chewed—eh, dear, aw r'aly think it's chewed at ev'rything.
It's chewed mi ears, it's chewed mi nooase, wi' gums as hard as segs,
An' yet thad little bab a' mine corn'd cut id peggy-wegs.

It's bitten away at th' Tum-cat's tail, till th' Tum-cat's t'en id hook;
It's bitten away ten bobs' arrears fro' th' rent-collector's book.
It's bitten hoyles i' th' sofy seeat, an' polish off th' cheear legs,
An' still thad little beggar corn'd fot eawt them peggy-wegs.


    The second is taken from the chapter on "Looking Forrud," and forms the concluding stanza of "Look forrud, Lads," ("A Song for Th' New Year "):—


Mek up yo'r minds to do wot's reight, an' nobbut th' truth to tell;
To olez deeal bi other fooak as yo'd be served yo'rsel';
Stert th' New Year wi' a cleeanly sheet, an' iv it's cleyn at th' end,
Yo'll nooan ha' med one enemy or lost a single friend.


    That the practised hand of "Tum o' Dick o' Bob's" has lost none of its dialectal skill in recent years will be proved by the perusal of our next two pieces: the second of which is an amusing version of a well-known Irish legend:—


TO ONYBODY.


Yo' may nod do as others do, becose yo're nod inclined;
An' they may say as yo're a foo', or owt else they'n a mind.
Id may be yo've no wish to bet, or wear yo'r wage i' drink;
But then, yo're keepin' eawt a' debt, sooa ne'er mind wod they
        think.

Yo' may nod keer to sell a mate for little bits o' gowd;
Yo' may not harbour thowts o' hate, nor theft an' lies uphowd.
Yo' may ha' shown disgust for vice, at which they nobbut wink;
Iv sooa their thowts 'll nod be nice, but ne'er mind wod they think.

Yo' may forgive a chap, an' oft, as ceawrdly blows hes struck;
An' other fooak may co yo' soft, an' say yd hev no pluck.
But, spite o' thad, iv yo're on land, an' see he's beawn to sink,
Stretch eawt a gradely helpin' hand, an' ne'er mind wod they think.

An' iv a chap's on th' rooad to hell, nod knowin' which is reight,
Goo eawt o' th' way a bit yo'rsel' to show him thad at's streight,
Ne'er tremble at a harmless sneer, nor fro' yo'r duty shrink;
Keep up yo'r hearts, there's nowt to fear fro' wod o th' world may
        think.

 


OIRISH WUT.


Shure Fin McCoul was a throubled soul
    Whin he saw the Shcottish goiant
Shtip over the wave from Fingal's Cave
    Wid a shtip that was quoite defoiant.
"Oh, whirra—whoo! an' phwat 'll I do?"
    He croied in deshpairmint, did he;
"How'll I get safe from the murtherin' thafe?"
    And "Oi'll tell yez the way," ses Biddy.

"Och, sure an' you'll be the baby, Fin,
    For the Shcottish divil's a gaby, Fin,
            A daft soort a' loon
            Wid a crack up aboon,
So we'll blind him aisily, maybe, Fin."

The foightin' Shcot forninst the shpot
    Set his bagpipes foinely rooarin,
Thin druv, d'ye moind, wid his kilt behoind
    Till he bruk Fin's cabin door in.
And ses he, "Is Fin McCoul within?"
    And Biddy ses "No, but maybe
The while Oi'm look'n for him on the Stook'n
    Ye'll kape an eye on the baby?"

"An' sure ye'll be soft wid yer breathin', sor.
Ye'll not wake the delicut wee thing, sor.
            Me darlint—me choild—
            He's nearly druv woild
Wid his terrible throublesome teething, sor."

The Shcot just took at the babe (?) wan look—
    'Twas three yards long, if an inch, sors;
And when the chiel at his gums would feel
    Fin fetcht 'em a moighty pinch, sors.
And the Shcot, bedad! he was fearful glad
    To shtip it to Cantyre gaily,
While Fin came out and set up a shout,
    And twirled av his big shillaley.

And ses he, "Heaven bless yez, Biddy, dear,
For making me into the kiddy, dear;
            But for yez, me jew'l,
            The thunderin' fool
'Ould ha' kilt me an' made yez a widdy, dear."


    It is time, however, to give a few examples of Mr. Baron's poetic work outside the domain of dialect; for without these latter one can form no adequate idea of his lyrical powers.  Listen to this lovely—


SERENADE.

(Music by W. Wolstenholme, Mus. Bac., Oxon.)


Thou art high above me, lady;
        Distant as a star;
Ah! but I may love thee, lady.
        Dearly from afar.
            Not gold so base,
            Or Time or Space.
    Can ever be a bar,
When evermore I love thee, lady.
    Love thee from afar.

Nestling in the sky, my lady.
        Beams a star on me;
Beautiful and high, my lady.
        Beaming lovingly.
            And be it near,
            Or beam less clear,
    'Tis all the same to me,
Until the day I die, my lady,
    Die, to live for thee.

Love that is sown on earth—
        Seed of eternal love,
Here it may burst to birth
        But it flowers in heaven above;
            When Time is not
            And Earth forgot
        It will flower in Heaven, my love.


    Take next this rousing naval song, which was one of the first six,—out of same hundreds of selected ones,—sent in competition for a ten-guinea prize offered by the "Referee."


THE MISTRESS OF THE SEAS.


Ho; a bumper to the brave, our defenders on the wave,
    Who are famed throughout the world in song and story;
They have conquered every foe since a thousand years ago,
    And have made our name a wonder and a glory.
There is silence most profound in the nations all around
    When the battle-flag of England is unfurled, boys;
And our cannons' voices make hearts of mighty tyrants quake
    When a wrong is to be righted in the world, boys.


C
HORUS:


We are proud of dear old England, she's the mistress of the seas,
We are prouder of her squadron as she sails before the breeze,
But we're proudest of our Jack-tars,—of their bravery let us sing,
For they battle to the death for dear old England and the King.


When the Galleons of Spain came to wipe us off the main,
    We had Drake and all his gallant lads to brave them;
And the world remembers yet—is it likely to forget?—
    The complete and final lesson that we gave them.
When the famous Dutchman Tromp swept upon us in his pomp,
    Blake despatched him, crushed and humbled, on his way, boys;
Ay, and France may recollect how the fearless Nelson checked
    Her designs for ever in Trafalgar's Bay, boys.

Ho, a bumper to them all, ready at Britannia's call
    To avenge the slightest insult put upon her;
May the consciousness of Right nerve their arms in every fight,
    To uphold their native land's untarnished honour.
May their lives be free from cares, and rewards galore be theirs,
    With the kisses of the truest girls on shore, boys;
And when Life's rough storms are past may their anchors all be cast
    In the peaceful Port of Heaven for evermore, boys.


    Note now,—and note well,—the noble lines contained in each of the next three lyrics:—


BALLADE OF PERFECT HAPPINESS.


When summer days all blue and gold,
    In green leaves and in roses dight,
Their glam'rous beauties do unfold,
    And lure us with the witching sight,—
    Why, let us forth, at their invite,
By where the trout leap in the brook,
    Or apple trees are robed in white,
With one true friend,—a well-loved book.

When wintry winds blow drear and cold.
    And dark and stormy is the night,
When snow is whirling o'er the wold,
    And Nature feels the Frost-King's bite,—
    Why, let us round the taper's light.
Or in the chamber's cosiest nook
    Enjoy the God-sent season's flight
With one true friend,—a well-loved book.

Through Homer's eyes we may behold
    Achilles in his matchless might;
With Plato speak, the lofty souled,
    Or list to Shakespeare's fancies bright;
    With Dante soar to Heaven's height,—
With Milton on the angels look,—
    Heaven and the Past to Earth unite,—
With one true friend.—a well-loved book.


E
NVOY.


Friends, when all pastimes fail ye quite,
    When spectral pleasures are forsook,
Still will ye find extreme delight
    With one true friend,—a well-loved book.

 


THE CONQUEROR OF MARS.


'Twas not the goblet Bacchus gave
    Which acted as a charm,
And made the mighty Mars a slave,
    For the nectar nerved his arm;
The war-god laughed as the wine he quaffed,—
    Oh, his scorn was fine to, see!
That the paltry stuff had strength enough
    To conquer more than he.

'Twas not the gold which Plutus thrust
    Before the warrior's eyes,
Though kings were groping in the dust
    For the filthy ore they prize:
The war-god turned, and the dross he spurned:
    Oh, his rage was grand to see!
"Give, give me a blade of the true steel made,
    And a foeman worthy me."

'Twas Venus, Love's resistless queen,
    Who conquered conquering Mars:
She snared him with the glamorous sheen
    Of eyes which shamed the stars.
And the rust so red on his armour fed,
    For the god had done with wars.
Ah, they fight no more who fall before
    The queen who conquered Mars!

 


TENNYSON'S DEATH.


Deep silence in the chamber reigns;
    The mourners gather round the bed;
And softly through the window panes
    The moon's white mystery is shed
    In glory round that noble head
So calm, so rapt; for at his side
    His Pilot stands—the sail is spread—
He passes with the ebbing tide!

The Poet's dying hand remains
    On Shakespeare's page, where late he read;
One thought, perchance, his mind enchains:
    "Hang there, my soul," the Master said,
    "Like fruit until the tree be dead."
Alas! the tree hath all but died—
    The sweet soul all but gathered—
He passes with the ebbing tide!

What vision beautiful sustains
    Our loved one in this hour of dread?
What angel-hosts' adoring strains
    Unto his ear have earthward sped?
    "To the great deep," where Arthur led,
"From the great deep," his soul doth glide;
    Beyond the bar thus beckoned
He passes with the ebbing tide!


E
NVOY.

Farewell, a space.   The soul is fled,
    Nay, mourners, let your tears be dried;
By Christ's own presence piloted
    He passes with the ebbing tide!


    That Mr. Baron is successful not only in the measured music of the "Ballade" metre, but also in the more popular ballad form of poetry, is witnessed by our next example, which is one of his many prize-pieces:—


"FATHER'S OLD STICK"

(By permission of Sir Geo. Newnes).


No, it's hardly the latest that's going, this shabby old bamboo of mine,
No crook-handled, silver-tipped dandy which a brush-dip of varnish made fine;
'Tis a plain, honest, under-sized bamboo, and is ferrule-less, clumsy, and thick,
And I love it, and always shall love it, because 'twas my dead father's stick.

I remember 'tis twenty odd years since a shilling upon it he spent,
And that daily from then to his dying it was with him wherever he went;
That, dying, he willed the old farmstead and the stock to my wild brother Dick,
And bequeathed to his "loving son Thomas"—that's me—"free of duty," his—stick.

Shall I ever forget the old lawyer, and his feeble and out-of-place jokes
On the "ample support " that was left me, and the loss to the revenue folks?
His stick!   Oh, the great disappointment—I who loved him—his favourite lad,
And my careless and indolent brother to get every farthing he had!

Ah, well, I was young, strong and healthy, with good wages and constant employ;
I'd the best little wife in the kingdom, and the loveliest mite of a boy.
So in love and in happiness dwelt we, and Fortune continued to smile,
And we thanked God for all of His goodness, and trouble came not for awhile.

But Dick took to drinking and gambling, and he pretty soon squandered the stock,
And his idling and gambling and drinking soon brought the old home to the knock;
He was homeless and penniless—starving—and foolish and weak, but my kin;
So I buried my anger and sorrow, and I took the poor prodigal in.

But Dick didn't mend in the slightest, he was fast in the coils of the curse
What a trouble he was—what he cost us!   And matters got very much worse:
For the firm I was with became bankrupt, I was thrown out of work with the rest;
But I'd good testimonials, and patience, and pluck, so I hoped for the best.

I applied and wrote letters for places, and the weeks went, and nothing was done;
And our savings were dwindling and dwindling, as an icicle melts in the sun.
What with Dick and the big disappointments, and the "nest-egg" dissolving so quick,
I could scarcely help thinking of father and his wrongful bequest of the stick.

Three months passed, and still I was playing; it was useless a clerkship to seek,
When attorneys and doctors and parsons wanted work at a sovereign a week.
Despairing and soul-less their faces—ah, God, 'twas a terrible sight!
And I sickened with horror on thinking what remained when they fell in the fight.

But our savings at length were exhausted, and we went a few weeks upon "tick";
Then I pawned all my books but the Bible, and I had a straight confab with Dick—
(How the lad quailed with shame as I lashed him for the riotous life he had led)—
And next morning he took the Queen's shilling—"He would turn out a man yet," he said.

Then we went into lodgings a fortnight, and we drifted still deeper in debt;
And I tramped after work—any labour, any hours, any wage I could get.
But in vain; and the clouds gathered thicker, for the wife of a sudden fell sick,
And the cupboard was bare, God forgive me!—I'd a curse in my heart for the stick.

And I dashed from the house in my madness, and I wandered, nay, how shall I tell?
For my temples were seething and throbbing with the fires and the tortures of hell.
The white face of my wife an the pillow was the one thing that haunted my sight,
And the moan of my child as it hungered thundered after me into the night.

On, and on, through the night, till I halted where the river was gleaming below;
Ah, the peace-giving river!   Nay, coward, not that; no, a thousand times no!
And I shook like a leaf as I conquered, scrambled down from the bridge, and fell plop
On my father's stick reared up against it, and it broke clean in two near the top.

All the madness was gone in a moment; I arose, and I saw with surprise
From the stick's handle something projecting.   Was I dreaming?   What startled my eyes?
Crisp paper, white, rustling—yes, bank-notes—ten bank-notes for fifty pounds each;
And. "Thank God, oh, thank God!" I was thinking, but my lips couldn't frame it in speech.

Oh, the things that I bought!   The suspicions of the man who changed one of the notes!
And the feast we sat down to, and—laughing—couldn't eat for the lumps in our throats.
.                         .                         .                         .                         .                         .                         .
And we're happy and snug as aforetime; I'm in business; my foreman is Dick.
And this broad band of gold hides the damage that I did to my father's old stick.


    Though a devoted student and a busy writer, Joseph Baron is no mere book-worm, and his enjoyment of a game of chess or a hand at whist is excelled by his love of cricket and football.  The following is one of the many poems he has written in praise of these healthful sports:—


THE BALL.


Fill the goblet again! for I never before
Felt the glow which now gladdens my heart to its care;
Let us drink—who would not?—since in sport's varied round
In the football alone no deception is found.

I have tried every dodge which at cricket is tried,
Put in leg-break and off-break, and yorker and wide
I have tried—who has not?—to make "shooters" and "kicks,"
And said "! ! !" as they soared up the welkin for six.

In the days of my youth, when at billiards I played.
Many cannons I missed which I ought to have made;
But ne'er did—why, who would?—on my clumsiness round,
In the ball, I declared, the deception was found.

In the days of my youth—when the heart's in its spring—
Tennis once I essay'd with a "sweet little thing;"
But I burst her dear nose—who has not?—with the ball,
And—and—"nothing to love" was the end of it all!

When the season of youth and its strength is all past,
For amusement we turn to the golf links at last;
Get a "bunker"—who has not?—bring tears to all eyes,
As our tongues fail to utter the thoughts that arise.

You may try in their turn every ball that is known,
Be it pushed with a stick, be it carried, or thrown;
And when all have been tried you will say—who does not
That the splendid old football is king of the lot.

You may read in the records we have of the past,
You may read, if you like, until records shall last,
And you'll find thro' the ages all nations the same
Have indulged—will indulge—in the splendid old game.

When the heroes of Hellas a space sheathed their blades,
With what joy would they frolic at ball with the maids;
Why, Achilles and Helen would often perspire,
At harpastum—of Rugby and Tennis the sire.

When the Picts came marauding this side of the Tweed,
Oh, our forefathers bravely despatched them with speed;
And one fact of importance each chronicler culls:
That at football they played with their enemies' skulls.

And in time the dear ball was a monarch so great
That the Kings of this isle got to view him with hate;
For the cunning ones knew that 'twas better by far,
For their serfs to excel not in peace, but in war!

Then the clergy, as now, took a kick at the game,
"'Twas a murtherous sport, only fitted to maim";
They objected (a "chestnut," your pardons I crave),
Not because of the pain, but the pleasure it gave.

And what wonder King Football is great—that he reigns
Over millions of subjects and boundless domains?
And what wonder his subjects rejoice in his sway,—
That they sorrow the months he is up and away?

Oh, the grit and the pluck we have gotten from him,
The endurance, the patience, the fleetness of limb,—
The contempt and the rage at a cowardly blow,—
The protection and pity for comrades laid low!

Then a bumper unto it—the ball that is true,
Be it dirty or clean, be it worn-out or new;
To the hide of the ox that has long loved the lea,
And is mated with winds that are frolic and free.

To the ball!   And when April is ended at last,
In our mem'ries we'll treasure the joys of the past;
And we'll think—will we not?—what old Time has in store,
And so feed the bright glow at our heart's inner core.


    Among Mr. Baron's other book publications may be mentioned "James Sharples, Blacksmith and Artist," "Jimmy Forrest's Career," "Ribble Land, its Scenery, History and Legendary Lore"; "History of the Blackburn Rovers Football Club," and "A Short History of Blackburn."  Over 11,000 copies of the last-named work were bespoken before the day of issue.  "His Grandfather's Clock," a farce, was produced at New Sadler's Wells Theatre in December, 1883, and had a long run; and his comedietta, "Slightly Suspicious," was produced at the Globe Theatre in 1891.  The production of his three-act opera,—founded by arrangement with the author, upon a work by the late Sir Walter Besant,—has been delayed by the too early death of Mr. Arthur Miller, of Blackburn, who was engaged upon the musical portion of the work.

    The motto—"Arte et Lahore"—placed beneath Blackburn's coat of arms, might very fittingly be applied to this versatile author; for he positively revels in hard literary work, a large proportion of which attains a very high artistic level.



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