One Sunday Morn in Cheerful May – A Cumbrian poem.

The Rev. Josiah Relph was born in 1712 at Sebergham on the River Caldew ten miles from Carlisle. He went to school in Appleby and then in Glasgow before taking up the curacy at Sebergham and teaching. He died of consumption aged 31 in 1743. The story of Young Lizzie whose beauty shames the prettiest flowers, the rose and the lily, so they must turn their heads towards the ground, is a strange one for a country parson. Perhaps written in light relief from the weekly sermon and the schoolroom. Since none of his poems were published in his lifetime one can perhaps assume they were of a private nature. He left his poems to Mrs Nicholson of Hawkesdale writing he “hoped the perusal of them would pass away a leisure hour or two of hers as agreeably as the writing of them had done several of his.” Since it is documented that his poems referred to real people one wonders if Young Lizzy had a special place in the reverend’s heart.

A monument was erected to his memory in Sebergham church many years after his death by the Rev. J. Boucher who described his verse as “being natural, terse and easy: and that character they certainly merit in extraordinary degree.” He also wrote pastorals in Cumbrian dialect. He loved Carrock and Skiddaw and Saddleback “But was more generally contented to cull a few simple wild flowers that blooked spontanesously in neglected dells on the banks of the Caldew.”

I found this poem in “Songs and Ballads of Cumberland” edited by Sidney Gilpin of Derwent Cottage. This edition is dated 1866


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