The Village Wife

A poem by Alfred Tennyson

’Ouse-keeper sent tha my lass, fur New Squire coom’d last night.
Butter an’ heggs—yis—yis. I’ll goä wi’ tha back: all right;
Butter I warrants be prime, an’ I warrants the heggs be as well,
Hafe a pint o’ milk runs out when ya breäks the shell.

Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!
I liked the owd Squire an’ ’is gells as thaw they was gells o’ mine,
Fur then we was all es one, the Squire an’ ’is darters an’ me,
Hall but Miss Annie, the heldest, I niver not took to she:
But Nelly, the last of the cletch,2 I liked ’er the fust on ’em all,
Fur hoffens we talkt o’ my darter es died o’ the fever at fall:
An’ I thowt ’twur the will o’ the Lord, but Miss Annie she said it wur draäins,
Fur she hedn’t naw coomfut in ’er, an’ arn’d naw thanks fur ’er paäins.
Eh! thebbe all wi’ the Lord my childer, I han’t gotten none!
Sa new squire’s coom’d wi’ ’is taäil in ’is ’and, an’ owd Squire’s gone.

Fur ’staäte be i’ taäil, my lass: tha dosn’ knaw what that be?
But I knaws the law, I does, for the lawyer ha towd it me.
‘When theer’s naw ’ead to a ’Ouse by the fault o’ that ere maäle—
The gells they counts fur nowt, and the next un he taäkes the taäil.’

What be the next un like? can tha tell ony harm on ’im lass?—
Naäy sit down—naw ’urry—sa cowd!—hev another glass!
Straänge an’ cowd fur the time! we may happen a fall o’ snaw—
Not es I cares fur to hear ony harm, but I likes to knaw.
An’ I ’oäps es ’e beänt booöklarn’d: but ’e dosn’ not coom fro’ the shere;
We’d anew o’ that wi’ the Squire, an’ we haätes booöklarnin’ ere.

Fur Squire wur a Varsity scholard, an’ niver lookt arter the land—
Whoäts or tonups or taätes—’e ’ed hallus a booök i’ ’is ’and,
Hallus aloän wi’ ’is booöks, thaw nigh upo’ seventy year.
An’ booöks, what’s booöks? thou knaws thebbe naither ’ere nor theer.

An’ the gells, they hedn’t naw taäils, an’ the lawyer he towd it me
That ’is taäil were soä tied up es he couldn’t cut down a tree!
‘Drat the trees,’ says I, to be sewer I haätes ’em, my lass,
Fur we puts the muck o’ the land an’ they sucks the muck fro’ the grass.

An’ Squire wur hallus a-smilin’, an’ gied to the tramps goin’ by—
An’ all o’ the wust i’ the parish—wi’ hoffens a drop in ’is eye.
An’ ivry darter o’ Squire’s hed her awn ridin-erse to ’ersen,
An’ they rampaged about wi’ their grooms, an’ was ’unten’ arter the men,
An’ hallus a-dallackt3 an’ dizen’d out, an’ a-buyin’ new cloäthes,
While ’e sit like a greät glimmer-gowk4 wi’ ’is glasses athurt ’is noäse,
An’ ’is noäse sa grufted wi’ snuff es it couldn’t be scroob’d awaäy,
Fur atween ’is reädin’ an’ writin’ ’e sniff: up a box in a daäy,
An’ ’e niver runn’d arter the fox, nor arter the birds wi’ ’is gun,
An’ ’e niver not shot one ’are, but ’e leäved it to Charlie ’is son,
An’ ’e niver not fish’d ’is awn ponds, but Charlie ’e cotch’d the pike,
For ’e warn’t not burn to the land, an’ ’e didn’t take kind to it like;
But I eärs es ’e’d gie fur a howry5 owd book thutty pound an’ moor,
An’ ’e’d wrote an owd book, his awn sen, sa I knaw’d es’e’d coom to be poor;
An’ ’e gied—I be fear’d fur to tell tha ’ow much—fur an owd scratted stoän,
An’ ’e digg’d up a loomp i’ the land an’ ’e got a brown pot an’ a boän,
An’ ’e bowt owd money, es wouldn’t goä, wi’ good gowd o’ the Queen,
An’ ’e bowt little statutes all-naäkt an’ which was a shaäme to be seen;
But ’e niver looökt ower a bill, nor ’e niver not seed to owt,
An’ ’e niver knawd nowt but booöks, an’ booöks, as thou knaws, beänt nowt.

But owd Squire’s laädy es long es she lived she kep ‘em all clear,
Thaw es long es she lived I niver hed none of ’er darters ’ere;
Burt arter she died we was all es one, the childer an’ me,
An’ sarvints runn’d in an’ out, an’ offens we hed ’em to tea.
Lawk! ’ow I laugh’d when the lasses ’ud talk o’ their Missis’s waäys,
An’ the Missisis talk’d o’ the lasses.—I’ll tell tha some o’ these daäys.
Hoänly Miss Annie were saw stuck oop, like ’er mother afoor—
’Er an’ ’er blessed darter—they niver derken’d my door.

An’ Squire ’e smiled an’ ’e smiled till ’e’d gotten a fright at last,
An’ ’e calls fur ’is son, fur the ’turney’s letters they foller’d sa fast;
But Squire wur afear’d o’ ’is son, an’ ’e says to ’im, meek as a mouse,
‘Lad, thou mun cut off thy taäil, or the gells ’ull goä to the ’Ouse,
Fur I finds es I be that i’ debt, es I ’oaps es thou’ll ’elp me a bit,
An’ if thou’ll ’gree to cut off thy taäil I may saäve mysen yit.’

But Charlie ’e sets back ’is ears, an’ ’e swears, an’ ’e says to ’im ‘Noa.
I’ve gotten the ’staäte by the taäil an’ be dang’d if I iver let goa!
Coom! coom! feyther,’ ’e says, ‘why shouldn’t thy booöks be sowd?
I hears es soom o’ thy booöks mebbe worth their weight i’ gowd.’

Heäps an’ heäps o’ booöks, I ha’ see’d ’em, belong’d to the Squire,
But the lasses ’ed teärd out leäves i’ the middle to kindle the fire;
Sa moäst on ’is owd big booöks fetch’d nigh to nowt at the saäle,
And Squire were at Charlie agean to git ’im to cut off ’is taäil.

Ya wouldn’t find Charlie’s likes—’e were that outdacious at ’oam,
Not thaw ya went fur to raäke out Hell wi’ a small-tooth coamb—
Droonk wi’ the Quoloty’s wine, an’ droonk wi’ the farmer’s a 8;le,
Mad wi’ the lasses an’ all—an’ ’e wouldn’t cut off the taäil.

Thou’s coom’d oop by the beck; and a thurn be a-grawin’ theer,
I niver ha seed it sa white wi’ the Maäy es I see’d it to-year—
Theerabouts Charlie joompt—and it gied me a scare tother night,
Fur I thowt it wur Charlie’s ghoäst i’ the derk, fur it looökt sa white.
‘Billy,’ says ’e, ‘hev a joomp!’—thaw the banks o’ the beck be sa high,
Fur he ca’d ’is ’erse Billy-rough-un, thaw niver a hair wur awry;
But Billy fell bakkuds o’ Charlie, an’ Charlie ’e brok ’is neck,
Sa theer wur a hend o’ the taäil, fur ’e lost ’is taäil i’ the beck.

Sa ’is taäil wur lost an’ ’is booöks wur gone an’ ’is boy wur deäd,
An’ Squire ’e smiled an’ ’e smiled, but ’e niver not lift oop ‘is ’eäd:
Hallus a soft un Squire! an’ ’e smiled, fur ’e hedn’t naw friend,
Sa feyther an’ son was buried togither, an’ this wur the hend.

An’ Parson as hesn’t the call, nor the mooney, but hes the pride,
’E reads of a sewer an’ sartan ’oäp o’ the tother side;
But I beänt that sewer es the Lord, how-siver they praäy’d an’ praäy’d,
Lets them inter ’eaven eäsy es leäves their debts to be paäid.
Siver the mou’ds rattled down upo’ poor owd Squire i’ the wood,
An’ I cried along wi’ the gells, fur they weänt niver coons to naw good.

Fur Molly the long un she walkt awaäy wi’ a hofficer lad,
An’ nawbody ’eärd on ’er sin, sa o’ coorse she be gone to the bad!
An’ Lucy wur laäme o’ one leg, sweet-’arts she niver ’ed none—
Straänge an’ unheppen6 Miss Lucy! we naämed her ‘ Dot an’ gaw one!’
An’ Hetty wur weak i’ the hattics, wi’out ony harm i’ the legs,
An’ the fever ’ed baäked Jinny’s ’eäd as bald as one o’ them heggs,
An’ Nelly wur up fro’ the craädle as big i’ the mouth as a cow,
An’ saw she mun hammergrate,7 lass, of she weänt git a maäte onyhow!
An’ es for Miss Annie es call’d me afoor my awn foälks to my faäce
’A hignorant village wife as ’ud hev to be larn’d her awn plaäce,’
Hes fur Miss Hannie the heldest hes now be a-grawin’ sa howd,
I knaws that mooch o’ sheä, es it beänt not fit to be towd!

Sa I didn’t not taäke it kindly ov owd Miss Annie to saäy
Es I should be talkin ageän ’em, es soon es they went awaäy,
Fur, lawks! ’ow I cried when they went, an’ our Nelly she gied me ’er ’and,
Fur I’d ha done owt for the Squire an’ ‘is gells es belong’d to the land;
Booöks, es I said afoor, thebbe neyther ’ere nor theer!
But I sarved ’em wi’ butter an’ heggs fur huppuds o’ twenty year.

An’ they hallus paäid what I hax’d, sa I hallus deal’d wi’ the Hall,
An’ they knaw’d what butter wur, an’ they knaw’d what a hegg wur an’ all;
Hugger-mugger they lived, but they wasn’t that eäsy to pleäse,
Till I gied ’em Hinjian curn, an’ they laäid big heggs es tha seeas;
An’ I niver puts saäme8 i’ my butter, they does it at Willis’s farm,
Taäste another drop o’ the wine—tweänt do tha naw harm.

Sa new Squire’s coom’d wi’ ’is taäil in ’is ’and, an’ owd Squire’s gone;
I heard ’im a roomlin’ by, but arter my nightcap wur on;
Sa I han’t clapt eyes on ’im yit, fur he coom’d last night sa laäte—
Pluksh! ! ! 9 the hens i’ the peäs! why didn’t tha hesp the gaäte?

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