The Northern Cobbler

A poem by Alfred Tennyson

WAÄIT till our Sally cooms in, fur thou mun a’ sights1 to tell.
Eh, but I be maäin glad to seeä tha sa ’arty an’ well.
‘Cast awaäy on a disolut land wi’ a vartical soon2!’
Strange fur to goä fur to think what saäilors a’ seeän an’ a’ doon;
‘Summat to drink—sa’ ’ot?’ I ’a nowt but Adam’s wine:
What’s the ’eät o’ this little ’ill-side to the ’eät o’ the line?

‘What’s i’ tha bottle a-stanning theer? I’ll tell tha. Gin.
But if thou wants thy grog, tha mun goä fur it down to the inn.
Naay—fur I be maäin-glad, but thaw tha was iver sa dry,
Thou gits naw gin fro’ the bottle theer, an’ I’ll tell tha why.

Meä an’ thy sister was married, when wur it? back-end o’ June,
Ten year sin’, and wa ’greed as well as a fiddle i’ tune:
I could fettle and clump owd booöts and shoes wi’ the best on ’em all,
As fer as fro’ Thursby thurn hup to Harmsby and Hutterby Hall.
We was busy as beeäs i’ the bloom an’ ’appy as ’art could think,
An’ then the babby wur burn, and then I taäkes to the drink.

An’ I weant gaäinsaäy it, my lad, thaw I be hafe shaämed on it now,
We could sing a good song at the Plow, we could sing a good song at the Plow;
Thaw once of a frosty night I slither’d an hurted my huck,3
An’ I coom’d neck-an-crop soomtimes slaäpe down i’ the squad an’ the muck:
An’ once I fowt wi’ the Taäilor—not hafe ov a man, my lad—
Fur he scrawm’d an’ scratted my faäce like a cat, an’ it maäde’er sa mad
That Sally she turn’d a tongue-banger4 an’ raäted ma, ‘Sottin’ thy braäins
Guzzlin’ an’ soäkin’ an’ smoäkin’ an’ hawmin’5 about i’ the laänes,
Soä sow-droonk that tha doesn not touch thy ’at to the Squire;’
An’ I looök’d cock-eyed at my noäse an’ I seeäd ’im a-gittin’ o’ fire;
But sin’ I wur hallus i’ liquor an’ hallus as droonk as a king,
Foälks’ coostom flitted awaäy like a kite wi’ a brokken string.

An’ Sally she wesh’d foälks’ cloäths to keep the wolf fro’ the door,
Eh but the moor she riled me, she druv me to drink the moor,
Fur I fun’, when ’er hack wur turn’d, wheer Sally’s owd stockin’ wur ’id,
An’ I grabb’d the munny she maäde, and I weär’d it o’ liquor, I did.

An’ one night I cooms ’oäm like a bull gotten loose at a faäir,
An’ she wur a-waäitin’ fo’mma, an’ cryin’ and teärin’ ’er ’aäir,
An’ I tummled athurt the craädle an’ sweär’d as I’d break ivry stick
O’ furnitur ’ere i’ the ’ouse, an’ I gied our Sally a kick,
An’ I mash’d the taäbles an’ chairs, an’ she an’ the babby beäl’d,6
Fur I knaw’d naw moor what I did nor a mortal beäst o’ the feäld.

An’ when I waäked i’ the murnin’ I seeäd that our Sally went laämed
Cos’ o’ the kick as I gied ’er, an’ I wur dreadful ashaämed;
An’ Sally wur sloomy7 an’ draggle taäil’d in an owd turn gown,
An’ the babby’s faäce wurn’t wesh’d an’ the ’ole ’ouse hupside down.

An’ then I minded our Sally sa patty an’ neät an’ sweeät,
Strait as a pole an’ cleän as a flower fro’ ’ead to feeät:
An’ then I minded the fust kiss I gied ’er by Thursby thurn;
Theer wur a lark a-singin’ ’is best of a Sunday at murn,
Couldn’t see ’im, we ’eärd ’im a-mountin’ oop ’igher an’ ’igher,
An’ then ’e turn’d to the sun, an’ ’e shined like a sparkle o’ fire.
‘Doesn’t tha see ’im,’ she axes, ‘fur I can see ’im?’ an’ I
Seeäd nobbut the smile o’ the sun as danced in ’er pratty blue eye;
An’ I says ‘I mun gie tha a kiss,’ an’ Sally says ‘Noä, thou moänt,’
But I gied ’er a kiss, an’ then anoother, an’ Sally says ‘doänt!’

An’ when we coom’d into Meeätin’, at fust she wur all in a tew,
But, arter, we sing’d the ’ymn togither like birds on a beugh;
An’ Muggins ’e preäch’d o’ Hell-fire an’ the loov o’ God fur men,
An’ then upo’ coomin’ awaäy Sally gied me a kiss ov ’ersen.

Heer wur a fall fro’ a kiss to a kick like Saätan as fell
Down out o’ heaven i’ hell-fire—thaw theer’s naw drinkin’ i’ Hell;
Meä fur to kick our Sally as kep the wolf fro’ the door,
All along o’ the drink, fur I loov’d ’er as well as afoor.

Sa like a greät num-cumpus I blubber’d awaäy o’ the bed—
‘Weänt niver do it naw moor;’ an’ Sally loookt up an’ she said,
‘I’ll upowd it8 tha weänt; thou’rt like the rest o’ the men,
Thou’ll goä sniffin’ about the tap till tha does it agëan.
Theer’s thy hennemy, man, an’ I knaws, as knaws tha sa well,
That, if tha seeäs ’im an’ smells ’im tha’ll foller ’im slick into Hell.’

‘Naäy,’ says I, ‘fur I weänt goä sniffin’ about the tap.’
‘Weänt tha?’ she says, an’ mysen I thowt i’ mysen ‘mayhap.’
‘Noä:’ an’ I started awaäy like a shot, an’ down to the Hinn,
An’ I browt what tha seeäs stannin’ theer, yon big black bottle o’ gin.

‘That caps owt,’9 says Sally, an’ saw she begins to cry,
But I puts it inter ’er ’ands an’ I says to ’er, ‘Sally,’ says I,
‘Stan’ ’im theer i’ the naäme o’ the Lord an’ the power ov ‘is Graäce,
Stan’ ’im theer, fur I’ll looök my hennemy strait i’ the faäce,
Stan’ ’im theer i’ the winder, an’ let ma looök at ’im then,
’E seeäms naw moor nor watter, an’ ’e’s the Divil’s oän sen.’

An’ I wur down i’ tha mouth, couldn’t do naw work an’ all,
Nasty an’ snaggy an’ shaäky, an’ poonch’d my ’and wi’ the hawl,
But she wur a power o’ coomfut, an’ sattled ’ersen o’ my knee,
An’ coäxd an’ coodled me oop till ageän I feel’d mysen free.

An’ Sally she tell’d it about, an’ foälk stood a-gawmin’10 in,
As thaw it wur summat bewitch’d istead of a quart o’ gin;
An’ some on ’em said it wur watter—an’ I wur chousin’ the wife,
Fur I couldn’t ’owd ’ands off gin, wur it nobbut to saäve my life;
An’ blacksmith ’e strips me the thick ov ’is airm, an’ ’e shaws it to me,
Feeäl thou this! thou can’t graw this upo’ watter!’ says he.
An’ Doctor ’e calls o’ Sunday an’ just as candles was lit,
‘Thou moänt do it,’ he says, ‘tha mun break ’im off bit by bit.’
‘Thou’rt but a Methody-man,’ says Parson, and laäys down ’is ’at,
An’ ’e points to the bottle o’ gin, ‘but I respeeks tha fur that;’
An’ Squire, his oän very sen, walks down fro’ the ’All to see,
An’ ’e spanks ’is ’and into mine, ‘fur I respecks tha,’ says ’e;
An’ coostom ageän draw’d in like a wind fro’ far an’ wide,
And browt me the booöts to be cobbled fro’ hafe the coontryside.

An’ theer ’e stans an’ theer ’e shall stan to my dying daäy;
I ’a gotten to loov ‘im ageän in anoother kind of a waäy,
Proud on ’im, like, my lad, an’ I keeäps ’im cleän an’ bright,
Loovs ’im, an’ roobs ’im, an’ doosts ’im, an’ puts ’im back i’ the light.

Wouldn’t a pint a’ sarved as well as a quart? Naw doubt:
But I liked a bigger fetter to fight wi’ an fowt it out.
Fine an’ meller ’e mun be by this, if I cared to taäste,
But I moänt, my lad, and I weänt, fur I’d feäl mysen cleän disgraäced.

An’ once I said to the Missis, ‘My lass, when I cooms to die,
Smash the bottle to smithers, the Divil’s in ’im,’ said I.
But arter I chaänged my mind, an’ if Sally be left aloän,
I’ll hev ’im a-buried wi’mma an’ taäkt ’im afoor the Throän.

Coom thou ’eer—yon laädy a-steppin along the streeät,
Doesn’t tha knaw ’er—sa pratty, an’ feät, an’ neät, an’ sweeät?
Look at the cloäths on ’er back, thebbe ammost spick-span-new,
An’ Tommy’s faäce be as fresh as a codlin wesh’d i’ the dew.

’Ere he our Sally an’ Tommy, an’ we be a-goin to dine,
Baäcon an’ taätes, an’ a beslings-pud-din’11 an’ Adam’s wine;
But if tha wants ony grog tha mun goä fur it down to the Hinn,
Fur I weänt shed a drop on ’is blood, noä, not fur Sally’s oän kin.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'The Northern Cobbler' by Alfred Tennyson

comments powered by Disqus