Saturday, 11 April 2015

A Poem - No Escape

A comment on an earlier blog post asked whether I wrote poetry. I do indeed, though it seldom gets an airing and is even more rarely submitted to publishers.

I do quite like to write poems in Yorkshire dialect (known as Tyke). Back in 2010 when I belonged to the Falkirk Writers' Circle I was impressed by the ability of some members to write poems in Scots. Now my original dialect was not Scots but Tyke. For one meeting we were asked to write a poem on the subject 'No Escape'. This was the poem I wrote for that meeting.  Sorry - no photographs of an Ark handy!

No Escape

Owd Noah ‘ad a magic cloak wi’ ‘ygroscopic properties,
That is ter say ‘e wore it when ‘e wanted it to rain.
E got it from the weather clerk, the archangel ‘ose job it is
Ter turn them ‘eavenly sprinklers on, and ter turn ‘em off again.

Nar listen ‘ere, owd Noah,” says the archangel ‘oo give it ‘im,
This ‘ere’s a mighty BIG job that The Lord ‘as given thee.
No matter what’s on TV, or if the football’s rivettin’
Jus’ thee mind an’ tek thy cape off, lad, afore thee ‘as thy tea!”

Nar Noah was a good soul, though some would say a wally. ‘Ey,
For years and years ‘e did the job and never would complain,
E organised the sunny spells so folks could go on ‘oliday,
And then ‘e put ‘is cape back on, an’ ‘e give the farmers rain.

When Noah turned six ‘undred, ‘e were old an’ a bit silly, like,
An’ ‘e got a bit forgetful, as very well ‘e might,
E went up Blackpool Tower wi’ ‘is cape on, ‘cos ‘t were chilly, like,
An’ e sat down in a deck chair, an ‘e fell asleep all night.

When Noah woke next morning, ‘e saw all the world were water,
An’ t’ top of Blackpool Tower were the only bit left dry.
The angel said “’Ee Noah lad, there’s been an awful slaughter,
An’, there’s thee wi’ thy cape on still as t’ floods are risin’ ’igh.”

Oh dearie me!” says Noah, an’ ‘e jumped up from ‘is deck chair,
E took is cape off straight away; ‘e’d ‘ad an awful fright,
What shall we do? All Lankyshire is waterlogged and wrecked; there
Is not a chance Old Trafford’s pitch’ll be playable tonight!”

I’ll tell thee what,” says t’ angel, “’Ere’s what’ll see us through lad,
We’ll cut off top o’t’ tower, like, and mek a kind o’ boat
An’ tha’ can bring all t’ animals that live in t’ Tower Zoo, lad
An’ we can call it Noah’s Ark an’ eastward we shall float.”

An’ when we’ve crossed o’er t’ Pennines ‘igh, then we shall find an ‘ome, lad,
In t’ West Riding o’ Yorkshire; we’ll in God’s county dwell,
Meanwhile I’ll shove this water ‘ere, right out in t’ ‘lantic foam, lad,
An’ if ’n t’ sea gets deeper, well, be years ‘fore they can tell.”

So all thee long-‘aired scientists, wi’ thy dire prognostications,
Wi’ all thy glaciers meltin’ fast and and all thy stats on tape,
It’s nowt ter do wi’ isobars, or green’ouse emanations,
An’ it’s nowt ter do wi’ climate change; it’s ‘cos of Noah’s Cape!


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this poem. After reading several articles and viewing documentaries, I thought I understood the causes of global warming. Imagine my surprise to find that the climate crisis is all Noah's doing. The poem is very clever, well written,and quite enjoyable. Hopefully, you will share more of your poems in your blog. Do you keep copies of every piece that you write?
    Your book has arrived and I am anxious to begin reading. I think I can manage spelling difference but colloquial expressions may give me some trouble. Such as there is a conversation about cricket that I totally didn't comprehend. However, I am certain that the book's storyline and characters will come through regardless of certain language differences. I can always look up

    1. Thanks Kathy.

      This style of dramatic monologue was popularised in the mid-20th Century by Stanley Holloway. If you have seen the film of My Fair Lady, he played Eliza's father. Quite a lot of the poems were actually written by the Scottish-born poet Mariott Edgar.

      Writing the poem in Tyke of course makes it difficult to read if you aren't too familiar with the dialect. It is not just a regional accent; it has roots back in the Dark Ages and derives from Old English and Norse, since this part of the country was settled by both Angles and Vikings.

      For example 'the' becomes t' and is pronounced as though it were an additional letter on the end of the previous word, so 'in t' Tower' becomes 'Int Tower'.

      You may remember Churchill said The British and Americans were two people divided by a common language; it's actually much more complex than that!

  2. I have been busy reading your book and so far I am enjoying the read. However, there is a question I have been meaning to ask you. What greater complexities divide the British and Americans? I know I can think of a few besides language but since you brought the subject up what do you think? The topic though it doesn't have to do with writing per se might make an interesting blog topic for you.

  3. I think before we could answer your question we might have to decide whether the British or the Americans exist in a standard form. Britain is large enough to include radical variations of culture within itself; the USA is five times as large as Britain in population terms. I am not sure how much a native of Baton Rouge necessarily has in common with a native of Des Moines.

    Certainly in Yorkshire, which is the part of Britain from which I hail, we long ago established that someone from Yorkshire is the epitome of humanity and all other human cultures are but pale shadows of that to be found within 'The Broad Acres'.

    Of course in sardonically praising ourselves and disparaging others we engage in the sort of conscious stereotyping that is these days widely condemned. Personally I don't have a problem with people taking a pride in their home area and its various characteristics. This is both natural and legitimate.

    Problems only tend to arise when we take this pride to the lengths of asserting the literal, rather than metaphorical, inferiority of others and demanding with menaces that they assimilate to our superior ways. The old saying is 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.' In other words, when you are a guest in another culture you show respect for that culture.

    I had no great difficulty in doing much more than that. When I lived in New York I became a keen Mets fan, engaged with American society as much as I could and learned a great deal just by driving from the east coast to the west. (In the process, I can say with some pride that in Wichita I was able to pass for a New Englander - this ranks right up there with my success in passing for a Frenchman in Belgium.)

    When the single European currency was introduced, it was praised for allowing people from all over Europe to feel at home in other countries. I wrote a letter to The Times remarking that this was a sad development. In a lifetime of travel I have taken such pleasure in cultural diversity. If I want to feel at home I can stay at home.

  4. Well, it has taken awhile for me to quite understand and ponder how the British or Americans exist in standard form. You were the one who brought up that the relationship between the the two was more complex than just a common but not so common language. I know that I am repeating myself because I stated that in my last comment to you.
    I definitely think that a person should try to learn about the culture of others and to develop an appreciation of the diversity of the people of the world. I don't think we can live in isolation with the advent and growth of personal computers etc.
    I am glad that you were able to assimilate into the American culture when you lived here. I don't know what the time period was when you traveled across the United States but if you were to take the same trip today, I think that you would be surprised at the changes. There may not be as many differences between a person born and raised in Baton Rouge and one born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. There are polarizing ideas that are making certain peoples more alike than not at least here in America.

    1. All I really meant was, I suppose, that it is easier to describe the differences between two groups if the groups themselves are relatively homogeneous. Heterogeneous groups may contain as much diversity within as without.

      In Scotland for example there is an established dividing line between urban and rural. Well over half the population lives in towns in the central lowlands, where people tend to work in industry. By contrast The Highlands to the north (with the exception of the oil industry around Aberdeen,) and The Borders to the south are still dominated by agriculture.

      I was going to say that in my experience rural residents and urban residents rarely see eye to eye, though it is of course true that many town dwellers aspire to an idealised picture of a rural lifestyle.

      If they ever manage to make the move, they can sometimes be shocked by the lack of public transport, retail outlets, entertainment and so on that they are used to. They have to come to terms with the fact that sheep farming neighbours see foxes as pests rather than cuddly critters, that the winter gales are likely to bring down the power lines, that snow will block the roads and so on.

      I would suspect that a factory worker in Glasgow might have more in common with a factory worker in Pittsburgh than he does with a crofter in Thurso.

      Then again, ethnographic developments such as high recent levels of immigration have relatively little effect on traditional farming areas. They have more impact in rural market gardening areas where temporary labour is needed for the harvest and more still in urban areas where various types of labour are in short supply. The population churn is much higher in urban areas. In rural parts of the country there are still many families whose names feature in local history as far back as records can easily be found.

      The polarising politics to which you refer has certainly affected Scotland lately, but in the UK at large it seems people are increasingly likely to regard all politicians, of whatever stripe, as being very similar and very little concerned with the public good.


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