I imagine Brits know this from childhood, but it had somehow escaped my notice that Tennyson not only hailed from Lincolnshire but wrote dialect poetry. I quote the beginning of “The Church-Warden and the Curate“:

Eh? good daäy! good daäy! thaw it bean’t not mooch of a daäy.
Nasty casselty weather! An’ mea haäfe down wi’ my haäy!

It’s not exactly “Crossing the Bar,” but it’s not without its charms. (Casselty is defined in the glossary as ‘casualty, chance weather.’)


  1. dearieme says

    Only Brits of a certain age. Probably only those of us who read Chaucer, Shakespeare and Burns without cribs.

  2. I love the form “bean’t.”

  3. aldiboronti says

    They use “bean’t” to this day in Devon, the county of my birth (although confessedly you’d have to go to rural districts now to hear it).
    The Northern Farmer” is another fine comic dialect poem by Tennyson.

  4. And how would one actually pronounce those lines? The problem with most English/American dialect writing is that the authors tend to be very inconsistent in their phonetic representations – sometimes using standard spelling and sometimes not. If you’ve never actually heard the dialect spoken the written form doesn’t convey much flavor. For example is the “oo” sound in “good” and “mooch” identical? If so, is it the same “oo” as in standard English “good” or “moo”, or neither? Is “aäy” a dipthong, tripthong or something else?

  5. Michael Idov says

    It’s funny – Vanya’s comment made me realize that as I read “An’ mea haäfe down wi’ my haäy!” without any knowledge of its proper pronunciation, it scanned in my mind as something like a Swedish accent.

  6. The wax cylinder recording of Tennyson’s own rendition of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ — tremulous, faint and scratchy though it is — gives some idea of his accent (hard to discern through the noise, but occasionally strong dialect traces there). Available at lh’s ‘Tennyson’ link.

  7. The best-known of Tennyson’s dialect poems are the two ‘Northern Farmer poems.
    The Northern Farmer: Old Style is an old man reminiscing about his life and demanding that his nurse provide him with his regular tipple: ‘Give me me yaãle lass, and gin I mun die, I mun die.’
    The Northern Farmer: New Style, is caught providing his son with business-like advice on the subject of love and marriage (‘Don’t that marry for munny, but go where munny is’).

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