Poem introduction

'The Meaning of Life' is about Yorkshire dialect poetry and the fact that it's not meant to be able to carry very big meanings, and it's also complete nonsense. Unless you read it very carefully.

The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life

(A Yorkshire Dialect Rhapsody)

From under't canal like a watter-filled cellar
coming up like a pitman from a double'un, twice,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "Them nights are drawing in"

Down't stairs like a gob-machine, sucking toffees,
up a ladder like a ferret up a ladder in a fog,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "Half-a-dozen eggs"

Over't top in't double-decker groaning like a whippet
like a lamplighter's daughter in a barrel full of milk,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "Night's a dozen eggs"

Down't canal like a barrow full of Gillis's parsnips,
coming up like a cage of men in lit-up shiny hats,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "Half a dozen nights"

Under't canal on a pushbike glowing like an eggshell
up a ladder wi' a pigeon and a brokken neck,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "I feel like half-a-dozen eggs"

Over't night on a shiny bike wi' a lit-up hat,
perfect for't poorly wi' heads like eggs,
I said "Hey, you died last week"
He said "Aye, did you miss me?"


from Now It Can Be Told (Carcanet, 1983), copyright © Ian McMillan 1983, used by permission of the author

Recordings

Ian McMillan

Ian McMillan Downloads

1The Soft White Pillowcase Boys

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2Pushed Home when the Clouds were still Raw

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3From the Section Dealing with the Loss of Grace

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4The Tennis Ball Factory Poems

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5The Meaning of Life

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6SF Novel

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7What Really Happened To The Buffalo

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8For Me

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9Why Are You Ringing

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10Two Miners Pass in Opposite Directions at Daybreak

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11The Texas Swing Boys' Dadaist Manifesto

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12Resident

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13Sessions

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14Pushing, May 1984

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15Coalpicking, Broomhill

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16Visitors, Armthorpe August 1984

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17Propp's Last Case

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18Action

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19From an Evening with the Model of "The Venus and the Shaving Brushes"

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20Move

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21The Photographer's Subject

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22Just the Facts, Just the

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23Simple Story

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24Man in Hotel Room with Stolen Fork

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25Against Realism

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26Some Poetry Presses I Will Certainly Set Up In The Next Three Weeks

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27Landing Practice

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28The Prince of Wales visits Alnwick

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29Cracking Icicles in Totley Tunnel

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31Kake Yourself Comfortable

32Why We Need Libraries

33Pit Closure as Art

34Lilian's Poem

35Husband and Wife

36Tempest Avenue

37Deaths from Ice-Cream

38Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

39Visit

40Poem Occasioned by the High Incidence of Suicide amongst the Unemployed

41Song for Roof Building (Collected in South Yorkshire Light Industry Park, Barnsley)

42Moon River: Lives of the Great Comedians

43Henry's Skeleton, George's Leg

44Jesus Died from Eating Curtains

45Stone, I Presume

46Still Life Life

47Realism (Nothing Is Ever Finished)

48Dad, the Donkey's On Fire

Books by Ian McMillan