October Ale (Prose)

A poem by John Hartley

They reckon to brew a gooid sup o' ale in October, an' they call it "Prime owd October." Ther's monny a war thing i'th' world nor a sup o' gooid drink. Landlords an' teetotal-lecturers manage to get a livin' aat on it some way; - but it's th' same wi' ale as wi' iverything else nah days, - it's nowt made on unless it's sharp. It's a sharp age we live in; - hand-loom waivin' an' stage coaches are all too slow; iverybody an' iverything keeps growin' sharper. But we arn't as sharp as what they are i' 'Merica yet - they're too sharp. They tell me they ha' to lapp thersen up i' haybands afoor they goa to bed, for fear o' cuttin' th' sheets. Aw heeard tell o' one chap runnin' a race wi' a flash o' leetnin', an' they say he'd ha' won but for one ov his gallus buttons comin' off. An' another 'at used to mak leather garters an' throw 'em ovver his heead, an' he could mak 'em soa sharp 'at he allus kept one pair flyin'. He worn't a bad hand at his job, he worn't that. One day aw axed a chap 'at had been, "if they wor raylee as sharp as what fowk gave 'em credit for?" "Why," he says, "they wor sharper nor aw liked on, or else aw shouldn't ha' come back; but aw couldn't get on noa rooad: aw tried two or three different trades, but aw made nowt aat, an' at last aw set up as tubthumper; but that wodn't do. They niver wanted ought makkin' - they wor too sharp for that; they allus brought yo summat to mend; - becoss they knew a chap couldn't charge as mich for mendin' an owd tub as for makkin' a new en; soa if they'd ony sooart ov a owd tub lagg, or a piece of a barrel bottom, they browt it to get mended into a new tub. Aw did as weel as aw could amang it; but one day a chap comes in an' says, 'Aw want yo to do a bit o' repairin' for me.' 'Varry gooid, sur,' says aw, 'an' what might yo be wantin?' 'Well,' he says, 'aw've an owd bung hoil here, do yo think yo could fit me a fresh barrel to it?' Aw niver spake for a minit, then aw says, 'wod yo be gooid enuff to lend me a hand to put theas shuts up?' 'Wi' pleasure, sur,' he said, an' he did, an' aw left th' job an' coom hooam, for aw thowt they wor rayther too sharp." Mun, a chap can be too sharp sometimes. My advice is, be as sharp as yo like, if yo're sharp in a reight way, but thers some things it's as weel to be slow abaat. Be slow to do a shabby trick, an' be sharp to help a poor body 'at needs it. Be slow to see other fowk's faults, an' be sharp to improve yor own. Be slow to scandalise yor neighbors, an' keep a sharp luk aat to steer clear ov iverybody else's business; yo'll find it 'll give yo moor time to luk after yor own.

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