Mi gram when late at neet comes home t’owd man
drops the clothes she’s knittin’ us, poor owd pet,
sets us table an’ warms room best she can,
an’ we eat a few spuds, what we can get.
Nah’n again we’ll ’ave us an omèlet,
an’ if tha wer to ’old it up to t’ sun
just like an ear, light’d shine reight thru’ it:
a few crusts to nibble on, supper’s done.
Then me, wi’ t’owd man an’ mi sister Grace
a couple o’ hours o’ suppin’ pass,
while gram cleans up an’ puts things back in place,
til we can see to t’ bottom of us glass.
Next a quick piss and an ’ail mary,
an’ straight up to bed in peace an’ plenty.
Oxford, June 2004
Notes on this poem
The Romanesque sonneteer, Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (1791-1863), wrote some 2,279 sonnets in the Romanesque dialect and was probably prompted to do so after meeting and reading the work of the Milanese dialect poet Carlo Porta. The beauty of Belli’s sonnets is that he uses the classical sonnet setting, but sends them up by couching them in dialect. So in order to come anywhere close to appreciating Belli in English, this rebellion has to be seated within the traditional English framework: the Petrarchan scheme of the original has to be transposed to the Shakespearean. Moreover, to translate Belli’s Romanesque into Standard English is, in my view at least, to miss the most essential ingredient of his rebellion against the aulic high style, and so I think his dialect has to be transported into an English dialect with similar characteristics. I believe the varied assonance of the Yorkshire dialect goes some way to creating an equivalent of the coarse, double consonants of Belli’s Romanesco.
– Paul Howard