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Read of the Week: Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect by William Barnes

Written by The Reader, 11th January 2017

This week's Read is a collection of poetry, William Barnes' Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect, as recommended by our Head of Reading Excellence, Kate.

The very first poem I ever read by William Barnes was The Vaices That Be Gone. At the time my children were 8 and 6, but I found the picture he paints of a house where grown up children have flown the nest chokingly emotional and I could easily prevision its truth. Lines from the poem still sometimes ambush me when I catch sight of things belonging to my children (now aged 28 and 26) and (most of the time!) gone from the house.

Please don’t be put off by the fact that the poems are in dialect: it’s very easy to get the hang of it and you will come to love it as the best carrier of the warm, feeling flow characteristic of him.

Thomas Hardy was a big fan of his, but even so it’s still quite hard to get your hands on a decent copy of his work so I’ve included a link from the William Barnes Society page where you can access his poems for free.

Other favourites of mine are Uncle An’ Aunt, The Turnstile and False Friends-Like – the last about a small boy being tricked by a bigger lad and particularly enjoyed by one of my very first Shared Reading groups, I remember. Full of joy, sorrow, nature, love and family – deceptively simple, highly recommended.


The Vaices that be Gone

When evenèn sheädes o’ trees do hide

A body by the hedge’s zide,

An’ twitt’rèn birds, wi’ plaÿsome flight,

Do vlee to roost at comèn night,

Then I do saunter out o’ zight

In orcha’d, where the pleäce woonce rung

Wi’ laughs a-laugh’d an’ zongs a-zung

By vaïces that be gone.

There’s still the tree that bore our swing,

An’ others where the birds did zing;

But long-leav’d docks do overgrow

The groun’ we trampled heäre below,

Wi’ merry skippèns to an’ fro

Bezide the banks, where Jim did zit

A-plaÿèn o’ the clarinit

To vaïces that be gone.

How mother, when we us’d to stun

Her head wi’ all our naïsy fun,

Did wish us all a-gone vrom hwome:

An’ now that zome be dead, an’ zome

A-gone, an’ all the pleäce is dum’,

How she do wish, wi’ useless tears,

To have ageän about her ears

The vaïces that be gone.

Vor all the maïdens an’ the bwoys

But I, be marri’d off all woys,

Or dead an’ gone; but I do bide

At hwome, alwone, at mother’s zide,

An’ often, at the evenèn-tide,

I still do saunter out, wi’ tears,

Down drough the orcha’d, where my ears

Do miss the vaïces gone.

William Barnes

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