John Hartley ~ An Old Man’s Christmas Morning

DGG fur DMdJ
Its a long time sin’ thee an’ me have met befoor, owd lad,—
Soa pull up thi cheer, an’ sit daan, for ther’s noabdy moor welcome nor thee:
Thi toppin’s grown whiter nor once,— yet mi heart feels glad,
To see ther’s a rooas o’ thi cheek,an’ a bit ov a leet i’ thi e’e.

Thi limbs seem to totter an’ shake, like a crazy owd fence,
‘At th’ wind maks to tremel an’ creak; but tha still fills thi place;
An’ it shows ‘at tha’rt bless’d wi’ a bit o’ gradely gooid sense,
‘At i’ spite o’ thi years an’ thi cares, tha still wears a smile o’ thi face.

Come fill up thi pipe— for aw knaw tha’rt reight fond ov a rick,—
An’ tha’ll find a drop o’ hooarm-brew’d i’ that pint up o’th’ hob, aw dar say;
An’ nah, wol tha’rt toastin thi shins, just scale th’ foir, an’ aw’ll side thi owd stick,
Then aw’ll tell thi some things ‘ats happen’d sin tha went away.

An’ first of all tha mun knaw ‘at aw havn’t been spar’d,
For trials an’ troubles have come, an’ mi heart has felt well nigh to braik;
An’ mi wife, ‘at tha knaws wor mi pride, an’ mi fortuns has shared,
Shoo bent under her griefs, an’ shoo’s flown far, far away aat o’ ther raik.

My life’s like an owd gate ‘ats nobbut one hinge for support,
An’ sometimes aw wish—aw’m soa lonely— at tother ‘ud drop off wi’ rust;
But it hasn’t to be, for it seems Life maks me his spooart,
An’ Deeath cannot even spare time, to turn sich an owd man into dust.

Last neet as aw sat an’ watched th’ yule log awd put on to th’ fire,
As it cracked, an’ sparkled, an’ flared up wi’ sich gusto an’ spirit,
An’ when it wor touch’d it shone breeter, an’ flared up still higher,
Till at last aw’d to shift th’ cheer further back for aw couldn’t bide near it.

Th’ dull saand o’ th’ church bells coom to tell me one moor Christmas mornin’,
Had come, for its welcome—but ha could aw welcome it when all aloan?
For th’ snow wor fallin soa thickly, an’ th’ cold wind wor moanin,
An’ them ‘at aw lov’d wor asleep i’ that cold church yard, under a stoan:

Soa aw went to bed an’ aw slept, an’ then began dreamin,
‘At mi wife stood by mi side, an’ smiled, an’ mi heart left off its beatin’,
An’ aw put aat mi hand, an’ awoke, an’ mornin’ wor gleamin’;
An’ its made me feel sorrowful, an aw cannot give ovver freatin.

For aw think what a glorious Christmas day ‘twod ha’ been,
If awd goan to that place, where ther’s noa moor cares,nor partin’, nor sorrow,
For aw know shoo’s thear, or that dream aw sud nivver ha’ seen,
But aw’ll try to be patient, an’ maybe shoo’ll come fotch me to-morrow.

It’s forty’ long summers an’ winters, sin tha bade “gooid bye,”
An’ as fine a young fella tha wor, as iver aw met i’ mi life;
When tha went to some far away land, thi fortune to try,
An’ aw stopt at hooam to toil on, becoss it wor th’ wish o’ my wife.

An’ shoo wor a bonny young wench, an’ better nor bonny,—
Aw seem nah as if aw can see her, wi’ th’ first little bairn on her knee,
An’ we called it Ann, for aw liked that name best ov ony,
An’ fowk said it wor th’ pictur o’ th’ mother, wi’ just a strinklin o’ me.

An’ th’ next wor a lad, an’ th’ next wor a lad! then a lass came,—
That made us caant six,—an’ six happier fowk niver sat to a meal,
An’ they grew like hop plants—full o’ life—but waikly i’ th’ frame,
An’ at last one drooped, an’ Deeath coom an’ marked her with his seal.

A year or two moor an’ another seemed longin to goa,
An’ all we could do wor to smooth his deeath bed, ‘at he might sleep sweeter—
Then th’ third seemed to sicken an’ pine, an’ we couldn’t say “noa,”
For he said his sister had called, an’ he wor most anxious to meet her—

An’ how we watched th’ youngest, noa mortal can tell but misen,
For we prized it moor, becoss it wor th’ only one left us to cherish;
At last her call came, an’ shoo luked sich a luk at us then,
Which aw ne’er shall forget, tho mi mem’ry ov all other things perish.

A few years moor, when awr griefs wor beginnin to lighten,
Mi friends began askin my wife, if shoo felt hersen hearty an’ strong?
An’ aw niver saw at her face wor beginning to whiten,
Till sho grew like a shadow, an’ aw couldn’t even guess wrong.

Then aw stood beside th’ grave when th’ saxton wor shovin in th’ gravel,
An’ he said “this last maks five, an’ aw think ther’s just room for another,”
An’ aw went an’ left him, lonely an’ heartsick to travel,
Till th’ time comes when aw may lig daan beside them four bairns an’ ther mother.

An’ aw think what a glorious Christmas day ‘twod ha been
If aw’d gooan to that place where ther’s noa moor cares, nor partin, nor sorrow;
An aw knaw they’re thear, or that dream aw should niver ha seen,
But aw’ll try to be patient, an’ maybe shoo’ll come fotch me to-morrow.

 

Xmas15 a

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