Beauty Sward'les, faces sooty like they's dipped in t' cole 'ole;
eyes rimmed white as if we see'd a ghost.
Necks all wriggled wi' kemp, coats all clotted cream;
we does not live in want. Grass, deep to us piebald knees - us
farmer brings us in to lamb. Coddles t' poddy; chases out ked.
Come t' year's end, tups raddle us backs, kindle us wombs;
we feels them, little growing things and wonder this time if
we gets to keep 'em more than five month.
See 'em grow to hoggets, shearlings, bonny gimmers -
get some babbies of their own so I be grandma.
Nowt but chewy mutton, old yow counting all her grandlings;
yan, tan, tether, mether, pip. I be yanadick - I wonders how long
I has left 'ere on this fell. I be broken-mouthed yet manage;
maybe mester will draft me to sweeter parts and finer blades.
Plenty time left; I am a wick 'un yet.
Hefted on these pastures, we seek not to wander far -
chew cuddy and stand in t' wind; we isn't nesh,
we does not mind it siling down. Walls spit their stone
along the moor in moss-topped tumble. We lie on t' lee side
for storms. Reflect us-selves, dabble lips in overflowing pools;
sup on syrup. We only needs to look to Heaven and it cries us rain.
I listens to t' hymn of curlews, hiding pebbledash - the skrike of grouse
hid in meadowsweet. Bees, grazing the bogbean think of honey;
sun laps across the moor in chunks of gold and every hiker passing
takes a breath and tells how this be God's own country.
Jane Burn is a writer and artist who was originally born in Yorkshire but has lived in the North East for the last twenty years.
Her poems have been published in a variety of magazines, including Butcher's Dog, Obsessed With Pipework, The Black Light Engine Room Magazine and will shortly appear in the Rialto. Her work has also appeared in anthologies from The Emma Press and Kind of a Hurricane Press.
Jane's first pamphlet, fAt aRouNd tHe MiddLewas published in 2015 by Talking Pen, (ISBN: 978-0-9524 1558-9). You can purchase a copy for £5.00 plus £1.50 postage via Paypal to .
Jane says: "Yan Tan Tether is part of a collection I am currently working on. This collection began with the idea that I wanted to explore old childhood religious beliefs and the way that they have carried over into adulthood. I find the most peace now when I am out among nature and have a deep love of all creatures. My faith is in the outside, in the gentle eyes of animals, in the fascination of insects, the freedom of birds.They became the voices that I have used to explore what I think and feel. I have imagined their way of talking, imagined their natures and thoughts.
"The sheep in this poem are Swaledales - I have used the Swaledale farming dialect - inspiration came from the words that have been used traditionally to count them. One, two, three, four, five... yan, tan, tether, mether, pip... The 'old yow', at eleven years old (yanadick) dreams of being a grandmother. She contemplates youth and age, motherhood, eventual death. The stunning countryside blooms about them, and the poem ends with human encroachment upon their world."
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Yan Tan Tether © 2015 Jane Burn: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.