An unexpected song!
This poem was written by Charles Kingsley
(1819-1875). It actually appeared at the
end of Chapter 2 of Kingsley’s novel, The Water Babies. You can tell that it is sung by someone
elderly describing how things are to one much younger. As one reader commented, the
“speech” given serves to inform the lad of the wonders of youth, but
will most likely be ignored. Thus the case is a relatable one.
I was intrigued to see how it was used in the story of
the The Water Babies. It was sung by the
school mistress, an ‘old dame’, who lamented the death of a boy (the main
character is mistakenly thought to have drowned). The little children helped bedecked the
tombstone with garlands every Sunday and although they couldn’t understand it,
liked it nonetheless ‘for it was very sweet and very sad; and that was enough
The emotion is summarised by the author after the poem is
‘Those are the words: but they are only the body of it:
the soul of the song was the dear old woman’s sweet face, and sweet voice, and
the sweet old air to which she sang; and that, alas! one cannot put on paper.’
And so, this challenge is suddenly musical too; To create a sad but beautiful ballad. Accent-wise, I am unsure where the book is
set, except ‘a great town in the North country’, so perhaps Manchester or
Sheffield. I decided to create the song
but sung by an elderly man.
Middle-aged Man #2 – The Land of Counterpane
This poem was written by Robert Louis Stevenson. The poem is short and speaks for itself of an
child’s imagination running wild whilst laying sick in bed.
It is such a personal, touching poem, that I decided to
make this a challenge by attempting the author’s own voice. I thought, what if the grown-up poet, Robert
Louis Stevenson was reading this poem aloud…
The author is from Edinburgh. This is a rich, Scottish accent, where the Ts
are often dropped in place of glottal-stops and the Rs are rarely if ever
rolled. It’s more common to roll the R
just once (a tapped R). Some other
points worth noting:
“Oo” sounds is the
same as “u” sound, unlike with many English accents.
“O” sound in words like such as “coupon” would be almost
“Ea” sound in words such as ‘Head’ are pronounced “ee”.
“I” sound in words such as ‘if’ become “eh” and are very
Some heavy articulation on consonants such as ‘B’s and ‘G’s
(e.g. Burgular, Beautiful).
Finally, there is very little mouth movement,
really. The words generally have a quick
attack to start but a soft ending.
The poem (text):
Man #2 – Lazy Jack
This is a fable collected by James Halliwell Orchard
Phillips. It came from Yorkshire, and so
for this challenge I’ve decided to narrate with a yorkshire accent. See what you think about Jack. I’m not sure ‘lazy’ is quite the word for
The Yorkshire Accent:
In preparing for this role, I learned that:
“u” sounds in such words as “Chuffed” is pronounced “o”.
Words ending in an “ee” sound like ‘butty’ sound like
“Oh” sound in words such as ‘know’ is pronounced “oeh”
“Our” becames “aar”
One really good tip was from Amy Walker, who said it really
helped her accent if she tightened her lower lip. As she points out there is often a mouth
posture to unlock many of the sounds. The
lower lip does far less of the work.
For Yorkshire, the tone goes up and down quite like the
hills. Also, like the hills, the tone is
never too harsh, but is rounded and wide.
The tongue also doesn’t come to the front of the mouth as much as
Here are my references from this challenge:
The fable (text)
Fletcher, Accent Tips
Walker, Accent Tips
of Yorkshire Dialect, recorded in 1989
Post-recording thoughts – I’m pleased with the overall
narration, but some elements were still tricky, such as the word ‘head’, which
never quite fell into place. Also, I’m
discovering that when I do character voices, I fall out of the accent. Something to work on, then.