Contrary to popular belief, it was not at all bad. The Reverend William Barnes makes this abundantly clear in his poem ‘A Bit o’ Fun’.
Rev Barnes, living as he did in pre-Industrial Revolution Dorset in southwestern
, is a kinsman of the South. For many Southerners came from this area to their new homes in England and elsewhere. The landly speechways and subject matter in his various poems are therefore similar to what one finds in Southern literature. Virginia
May we be so blessed as to find ourselves once again with neighborhoods and families as close and joyful as those Rev Barnes portrayed in ‘A Bit o’ Fun’:
We thought you woulden leäve us quite
So soon as what you did last night;
Our fun jist got up to a height
As you about got hwome.
The friskèn chaps did skip about,
An' cou'se the maïdens in an' out,
A-meäkèn such a randy-rout,
You coulden hear a drum.
An' Tom, a-springèn after Bet
Blind-vwolded, whizz'd along, an' het
Poor Grammer's zide, an' overzet
Her chair, at blind-man's buff;
An' she, poor soul, as she did vall,
Did show her snags o' teeth an' squall,
An' what, she zaid, wer wo'se than all,
She shatter'd all her snuff.
An' Bet, a-hoppèn back vor fear
O' Tom, struck uncle zomewhere near,
An' meäde his han' spill all his beer
Right down her poll an' back;
An' Joe, in middle o' the din,
Slipt out a bit, an' soon come in
Wi' all below his dapper chin
A-jumpèn in a zack.
An' in a twinklèn tother chaps
Jist hung en to a crook wi' straps,
An' prickens wi' a pin.
An' Jim, a-catchèn Poll, poor chap,
In back-house in the dark, vell slap
Athirt a tub o' barm,—a trap
She set to catch en in.
An' then we zot down out o' breath,
An' meäde a circle roun' the he'th,
A-keepèn up our harmless me'th,
Till supper wer a-come.
An' after we'd a-had zome prog,
All tother chaps begun to jog,
Wi' sticks to lick a thief or dog,
To zee the maïdens hwome.
Source: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21785/21785-h/21785-h.htm#page106, accessed 3 Feb. 2014
For help understanding the
Dorset tongue, a word-hoard and list of letter sounds are available here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21785/21785-h/21785-h.htm#page459