THE DORSET DIALECT.* " My Lords and Gentlemen,—The satisfaction with
which I ordinarily release you from discharging the duties of the Session is on the present occasion qualified by a sincere regret that an important part of your labours should have failed to result in a legislative enactment." Mr. Barnes, the famous Dorset scholar, steeped and soaked in the spirit of the Dorsetshire dialect and the Dorsetshire folk-lore, conceived the humorous idea of dressing a few choice specimens of polished English Parliamentary sesquipedalian in his beloved Dorset, and the result is very charming. How to say "My Lords and Gentle- men" in good round Dorsetshire, Mr. Barnes does not tell us. We hunted up and down his " Outline of the Grammar " to find a clue, but in vain ; but a friend learned in the subject informs us that the proper Dorset pronunciation is " My Lairds and Jantlemin." If so, it would run :—" My Lairds and Jantlemin, "The lightheartedness I do mwostly veel, when I do let ye off vrom the business upon your hands in the Sessions, is thease time a little bit damped °wen to a ranklen in my mind, that a goodish lot o' your work yell short o' cornea into anything lik laws." And if her Majesty should hold her Parliament in her own Dorsetshire, instead of in Westminster, her Majesty would not say, " My Lords and Gentlemen,—The most friendly inter- course continues to subsist between myself and all the foreign Powers ;" but, " My Lairds and Jantlemin,—The very best o' veelens be still a-kept up, in dealens between myzelf an' all o' the outlandish Powers." Nor would her Majesty say, " My Lords and Gentlemen,—Diplomatic relations have been resumed with Mexico, and a preliminary agreement has been signed, providing for the negotiation of a new Treaty of Commerce and Navigation ;" but, "My Lairds and Jantlemin,—Zome dealens have a been a-took up agein wi' Mexico, an' we've bwoth a-put our hands to an nuderstanden-like that we'd meake a new bargain about treale and seafetiren." On the memorable and melancholy occasion when her Majesty, addressing her faithful Commons by deputy, said : —"I have to lament the failure of the efforts which were made by the European Powers assembled in the recent Conference to devise means for restor- ing that equilibrium in the finances of Egypt which is so important an element in its well-being and good order,"—she would, had she spoken the Dorset dialect, have expressed herself thus :-
" MY LAIRDS AND JANTLEMIN can't but be ever so zorry that • A Glossary of the Dorset Dialect. By William Barnes. B.D. Lot.don Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co.—Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect. By William Barnes, B.D. London : Trubner. —John Herring. By the Author of " Mehalall." London Smith, Elder, and Co nothen come out o' the doens o' the Girt Powers o' Europe, that put their heads together t'other day in the girt talking a' tryen to vind out zome way, o' putten torights agetn the money-stook ov Egypt, a thing that do goo so var towards the well-been and well-doom o't."
It was when emerging from Mr. Baring Gould's weird and absorbing tale of West England, John Herring, and parting with
a heavy heart from the immortal Grizzly Cobbledick and Joyce Cobbledick, that our eye chanced to fall on the announcement of Mr. Barnes's Dorsetshire Glossary. Curiosity pricked as further afield into the handsome volume of Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect, by the same author, and we shall have a word to say about each. Mr. Barnes's Glossary before us is particularly handy, clear, and handsomely printed. But in the next edition, we venture to suggest that a few slight changes in the method of reference by figures, and in the phonetic explanation of the sounds and pronunciation of the letters, might make the " Out- lines of the Grammar," conveniently prefixed to the Glossary, much more convenient for laymen like ourselves. The arrange- ment is clear enough ; but the numerical references are by no
means so, for want of sufficient separation of the parts, and ex- planation in each case. In fact, these "Outlines " appear rather
as Mr. Barnes's own condensed memoria technica for himself,— an expert,—than a digested explanation carefully unfolded for ordinary readers, who, like ourselves, are not experts in Dorset. A few of the words in the Grammar are not, we fancy, in the Glossary. But these are trifles.
Turning to the Poems of Rural Life, collected by Mr. Barnes and published by Messrs. Kegan Paul, we are honestly amazed at the surprising number of the poems themselves, and the range of subjects, mostly bucolic, to be sure, ranging from primrose and maiden, to stage-coach and railroad. In 458 pages of a handy and comfortable volume, in large, com- fortable type, we have no less than the astonishing number, in the moat racy local dialect, of 328 poems, all stamped with the seal of genuine originality, and gleaming from page to page in unaffected local colour. We must confess,—nor does it at all affect the value of the volume,—still, we must confess to a little perplexity over the introductory letter to the " kind reader."
The fact is, we feel rather more than kind and less than cruel, a good deal awed, at the sudden revelation in the wealth of aboriginal poetry possessed by one single English county, and all in its own tongue, its too thoroughly own vernacular,—and that vernacular neither Welsh, nor Scotch, nor Irish. We had not dreamt there breathed an English county that could call the third of one thousand poems all its own. But here our perplexity begins, for in the first sentence of this introductory letter, Mr. Barnes distinctly calls these poems " Dorset Poems," and the book itself, a " Collection " of such poems. Naturally, therefore, the reader is led to think that they must be hereditary
and traditional poems, handed down from parent to child in the Dorsetshire tongue; and then he falls to musing on the age of the particular poem on "The Railroad,"—who wrote that, and how soon it was written after railroads came in. Further on, however, Mr. Barnes says, "the writing of them. [the poems] as glimpses of life and landscape in Dorset, which often open to my memory and mind sights, has given me very much pleasure."
Does this mean that the book is, therefore, not a collection of aboriginal Dorsetshire poems, but of the poetical thoughts and reminiscences of Mr. Barnes himself, clothed and dressed by him in Dorsetshire dialect P Of course, it will be seen that the distinction implies a very notable difference. For if the poems are bond-fide old Dorsetshire poems, they imply a very highly remarkable versatility and, we were going to say, " spryness " of poetical temperament in the Dorsetshire hind, coupled with a curious degree of subtlety and suppleness of perception. This wonder would cease, if they were " written," as he seems to say, by himself, because then the poetry and perception would be those of a highly educated, very modern, nineteenth-century man,—cease, that is to say, only to be exchanged for another wonder, that of the chameleon power of the author in clothing and dressing his modern ideas, not in the mere words and language, but in the very essential modes and moods of the very hind himself reeking of the soil. Take, for instance, this description of the farmer's son (a perfect gem for a painter du genre) :— " FARMERS' SONS.
Or all the chaps &burnt zo brown By zunny hills an' honors, Or all the whindlen* chaps in town
We backs so weak as ii-Alerept
• " Roller," roll of wool,—"o" pronounced as in " cJllar."
There's narn that's half so light o' heart (I'll bet, if thou't zay done,' min), An' narn that's half so strong an' smart, 'S a merry farmer's son, min.
He'll fling a stwone so true 's a shot, He'll jump so light 's a cat ; He'll heave a weight up that would squot A weakly fellow flat.
He won't gi'e up when things don't fay, But turn 'em into fan, min; An' what's hard work to some, is play Avore a farmer's son, min.
His bwony arm an' knuckly viat
("Es best to meake a friend o't) Would bet a fellow, that's a-miss'd
Half backward wi' the wind o't. We such a chap at hand, a maid Would never goo a nun, min; She'd have noo call to be afraid Beside a farmer's son, mM."
The remaining stanzas of this little poem, which our space will not admit, complete a sketch of singular crispness and rural flavour. Or take take this on " Bob the Fiddler : "- " Oh ! Bob the fiddler is the pride 0' chaps an' maidens vur an' wide ; They can't keep up a merry tide, But Bob is in the middle. If merry Bob do come avore ye, He'll zing a song, or tell a story ; But if you'd zee en in his glory, Jist let en have a fiddle."
We take two stanzas at random of- really very fine pictorial colour out of a. small poem on the water-lily, called in Dorsetshire " dote : "- .. The grey-boagh'd withy's a.leanen lowly Above the water thy leaves do hide.; The benders bulrush, a-swayen slowly, Do skirt in zummer thy river's zide; An' perch in shoals, 0, Do vill the holes, 0,
Where thou dost float, goolden zummer dote.
Oh! when thy brook.drinken flow'r 's a-blowen, The burnen summer's a-zetten in; The time o' greenness, the time o' mowers, When in the hay-vield, wi' sunburnt skin, The vo'k do drink, u, Upon the brink, 0,
Where thou deal- float, goo/den zummer dote."
Have we not in these two stanzas one, or even two, separate pictures not beneath the best of our landscape painters ? Yet our quotations give but the faintest possible idea of the wealth and luxury of colour, sky, atmosphere, movement,—the intense redolence of field, furrow, tree, brook, hedge, man, bumpkin, maid,—that teem in this volu me from page to page. Full of colour, and a complete picture in themselves, are the following lines from a poem entitled "Blackmwore Maidens : "— " The primroose in the shade do blow, The cowslip in the sun,
The thyme upon the down do grow, The dote where streams do run ; An' where do pretty maidens grow
An' blow, but where the tow'r Do rise among the bricken tuns Iu Blackmwore by the Stour :" More subjective is the following :— " If souls should only sheen so bright In heaven as in ethly An' nothen better wer to cease, Now comely still, in sheape and feace, Would many reach thik happy pleace,— The hopeful souls that in their prime
Ha' seeea'd a-took avore their time—
The young that died in beauty.
But when woone's Tim's ha' lost their strength A-twoilen drongh a lifetime's length, An' ooer chtliks a-growen wold, The slowly-weasten years ha' rolled The deep'nen wrinkles hollow vwold ; When life is ripe, then death do call Vor less ov thought, than when do vall The young that died in beauty."
Let us add one more stanza from " The wold vo'k dead :"—
" But wold things be a-lost vor new, An' some do come, while zome do goo : As wither'd beach-tree leaves do cling Among the nesh* young buds o' spring; An fretten worms ha' slowly wound Droo Learns the wold vo'k lifted sound, An' trees they planted little slips Ha' stems that noo two arras can clips;
An' grey an' yollow moss do spread On builders new to wold vo'k dead."
We part with regret from a volume worthy of a niche on every painter's shelf, by the side, perchance, of the ever-fresh
Painter's Camp—meet, sympathetic, companions o'er flood and field,—and, to the young painter with some vein of poetry in him, a singularly rich quarry to be commended of endless subjects worthy even of the finished, practised, and fastidious Academician.