o' t' Sooar't," and it includes eight introductory stanzas which are now added as Appendix II.
Through the kindness of: Fr W. A. Craigie, Dr. M. Denby, and Mr. E. G. Bayford, I have also been able to make a few changes in the glossarial footnotes, The most important of these is the change from "Ember's" to "Floor" as the meaning of the word, "Fleet" in the second line of "A Lyke-wake Dirge." The note which Dr. Craigie sen't me on this word is so interesting that I reproduce it here verbatim:
"The word fleet in the 'Lyke-wake Dirge' has been much misunderstood, but
it is certain1y the same thing as flet-floor; see the O.E.D. and E.D.D.
under. FLET. The form is not necessarily 'erroneous,' as is said in the
O.E.D., for it might represent ,the O.N. dative fleti, which must have
been common in the phrase a fleti (cf. the first verse of 'Havamal').
The collocation with 'fire' occurs in 'Sir Gawayne' (l. 1653): 'Aboute
the fyre upon flet.' 'Fire and fleet and candle-light' are a summary of
the comforts of the house, which the dead person still enjoys for 'this
ae night,' and then goes out into the dark and cold."
F. W. Moorman
The publication of an anthology of Yorkshire dialect poetry seems to demand a brief introduction in which something shall be said of the history and general character of that poetry. It is hardly necessary to state that Yorkshire has produced neither a Robert Burns, a William Barnes, nor even an Edwin Waugh. Its singers are as yet known only among their own folk; the names of John Castillo and Florence Tweddell are household words among the peasants of the Cleveland dales, as are those of Ben Preston and John Hartley among the artisans of the Aire and Calder valleys; but, outside of the county, they are almost unknown, except to those who are of Yorkshire descent and who cherish the dialect because of its association with the homes of their childhood.
At the same time there is no body of dialect verse which better deserves the honour of an anthology. In volume and variety the dialect poetry of Yorkshire surpasses that of all other English counties. Moreover, when the rise of the Standard English idiom crushed out our dialect literature, it was the Yorkshire dialect which first reasserted its claims upon the muse of poetry; hence, whereas the dialect literature of most of the English counties dates only from the beginning of the nineteenth century, that of Yorkshire reaches back to the second half of the seventeenth.
In one sense it may be said that Yorkshire dialect poetry dates, not from the seventeenth, but from the seventh century, and that the first Yorkshire dialect poet was Caedmon, the neat-herd of Whitby Abbey. But to the ordinary person the reference to a dialect implies the existence of a standard mode of speech almost as certainly as odd implies even. Accordingly, this is not the place to speak of that great heritage of song which Yorkshire bequeathed to the nation between the seventh century and the fifteenth. After the Caedmonic poems, its chief glories are the religious lyrics of Richard Rolle, the mystic, and the great cycles of scriptural plays which are associated with the trade-guilds of York and Wakefield. But in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the all-conquering Standard English spread like a mighty spring-tide over England and found no check to its progress till the Cheviots were reached. The new "King's English" was of little avail in silencing dialect as a means of intercourse between man and man, but it checked for centuries the development of dialect literature. The old traditional ballads and songs, which were handed down orally from generation to generation in the speech of the district to which they belonged, escaped to some extent this movement towards uniformity; but the deliberate artificers of verse showed themselves eager above all things to get rid of their provincialisms and use only the language of the Court. Shakespeare may introduce a few Warwickshire words into his plays, but his English is none the less the Standard English of his day, while Spenser is sharply brought to task by Ben Jonson for using archaisms and provincialisms in his poems. A notable song of the Elizabethan age is that entitled "York, York, for my Monie," which was first published in 1584; only a Yorkshireman could have written it, and it was plainly intended for the gratification of Yorkshire pride; yet its language is without trace of local colour, either in spelling or vocabulary. Again, there appeared in the year 1615 a poem by Richard Brathwaite, entitled, "The Yorkshire Cottoneers," and addressed to "all true-bred Northerne Sparks, of the generous society of the Cottoneers, who hold their High-roade by the Pinder of Wakefield, the Shoo-maker of Bradford, and the white Coate of Kendall"; but Brathwaite, though a Kendal man by birth, makes no attempt to win the hearts of his "true-bred Northern Sparks" by addressing them in the dialect that was their daily wear. In a word, the use of the Yorkshire dialect for literary purposes died out early in the Tudor period.
As already stated, its rebirth dates from the second half of the seventeenth century. That was an age of scientific investigation and antiquarian research. John Ray, the father of natural history, not content with his achievements in the classification of plants, took up also the collection of outlandish words, and in the year 1674 he published a work entitled, A Collection of English Words, not generally used, with their Significations and Original, in two Alphabetical Catalogues, the one of such as are proper to the Northern, the other to the Southern Counties. Later he entered into correspondence with the Leeds antiquary, Ralph Thoresby, who, in a letter dated April 27, 1703, sends him a list of dialect words current in and about Leeds.(1)
Side by side with this new interest in the dialect vocabulary comes also the dialect poem. One year before the appearance of Ray's Collection of English Words the York printer, Stephen Bulkby, had issued, as a humble broadside without author's name, a poem which bore the following title: A Yorkshire Dialogue in Yorkshire Dialect; Between an Awd Wife, a Lass, and a Butcher. This dialogue occupies the first place in our anthology, and it is, from several points of view, a significant work. It marks the beginning, not only of modern Yorkshire, but also of modern English, dialect poetry. It appeared just a thousand years after Caedmon had sung the Creator's praise in Whitby Abbey, and its dialect is that of northeast Yorkshire—in other words, the lineal descendant of that speech which was used by Caedmon in the seventh century, by Richard Rolle in the fourteenth, and which may be heard to this day in the streets of Whitby and among the hamlets of the Cleveland Hills.
The dialogue is a piece of boldest realism. Written in an age when classic restraint and classic elegance were in the ascendant, and when English poets were taking only too readily to heart the warning of Boileau against allowing shepherds to speak "comme on parle au village," the author of this rustic dialogue flings to the winds every convention of poetic elegance. His lines "baisent la terre" in a way that would have inexpressibly shocked Boileau and the Parisian salons. The poem reeks of the byre and the shambles; its theme is the misadventure which befalls an ox in its stall and its final despatch by the butcher's mallet! One might perhaps find something comparable to it in theme and treatment in the paintings of the contemporary school of Dutch realists, but in poetry it is unique. Yet, gross as is its realism, it cannot be called crude as a work of poetic art. In rhyme and rhythm it is quite regular, and the impression which it leaves upon the mind is that it was the work of an educated man, keenly interested in the unvarnished life of a Yorkshire farm,