Farmer Newstyle and Farmer Oldstyle

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In an old book titled Grain and Chaff from an English Manor, written by Arthur H. Savory and published in 1920 is the following little rhyme about an old Scottish farmer visiting a young and progressive “new” farmer.

Savory introduces the poem by writing, “The following lines, which have never been published except in a local newspaper, though written many years ago, apply quite well in these days of the hoped-for revival of agriculture. I am not at liberty to disclose the writer’s identity beyond his initials, E.W.”


“Good day,” said Farmer Oldstyle, taking Farmer Newstyle by the arm;
“I be come to look aboot me, wilt ‘ee show me o’er thy farm?”
Young Newstyle took his wideawake [a wide-brimmed, low-crowned hat], and lighted a cigar.
He said, “Won’t I astonish you, old-fashioned as you are!”

“No doubt you have an aneroid [old barometer]? ere starting you shall see
How truly mine prognosticates what weather there will be.”
“I ain’t got no such gimcracks; but I knows there’ll be a flush
When I sees t’ould ram take shelter wi’ his tail agin a bush.”

“Allow me first to show you the analysis I keep,
And the compounds to explain of this experimental heap [of manure],
Where hydrogen and nitrogen and oxygen abound,
To hasten germination and to fertilize the ground.”

“A pretty sight o’ learning you have piled up of a ruck;
The only name it went by in my father’s time was muck.
I knows not how the tool you call a nallysis may work,
I turns it when it’s rotten pretty handy wi’ a fork.

“Here’s a famous pen of Cotswolds [sheep], just pass your hand along the back,
Fleeces fit for stuffing the Lord Chancellor’s woolsack!
For premiums e’en ‘Inquisitor’ would own these wethers [castrated male sheep] are fit,
If you want to purchase good uns you must go to Mr. Garsit [a prominent sheep breeder].”

“Two bulls first rate, of different breeds, the judges all protest,
Both are so super-excellent, they know not which is best.
Fair [A cattle breeder] could he see this Ayrshire, would with jealousy be riled;
That hairy one’s a Welshman, and was bred by Mr. Wild [A Highland cattle breeder].”

“Well, well, that little hairy bull, he shanna be so bad:
But what be yonder beast I hear, a-bellowing like mad,
A-snorting fire and smoke out? be it some big Rooshian gun!
Or be it twenty bullocks squeez together into one?”

“My steam factotum [handyman], that, Sir, doing all I have to do,
My ploughman and my reaper, and my jolly thrasher, too!
Steam’s yet but in its infancy, no mortal man alive
Can tell to what perfection modern farming will arrive.”

“Steam as yet is but an infant” – he had scarcely said the word,
When through the entire farmstead was a loud explosion heard;
The engine dealing death around, destruction and dismay;
Though steam be but an infant this indeed was no child’s play.

The women screamed like blazes, as the blazing hayrick burned,
The sucking pigs were in a crack, all into crackling turned;
Grilled chickens clog the hencoop, roasted ducklings choke the gutter,
And turkeys round the poultry yard on crispy pinions flutter.

Two feet deep in buttermilk the fireman’s two feet lie,
The cook before she bakes it finds a finger in the pie;
The labourers for their lost legs are looking round the farm,
They couldn’t lend a hand because they had not got an arm.

Oldstyle, all soot from head to foot, looked like a big black sheep,
Newstyle was thrown upon his own experimental dung heap;
“That weather-glass,” said Oldstyle, “canna be in proper fettle,
Or it might as well a told us there was thunder in the kettle.”

“Steam is so expansive.” “Aye,” said Oldstyle, “so I see.
So expensive, as you call it, that it wilna do for me;
According to my notion, that’s a beast that canna pay,
Who chomps up for his morning feed a hundred ton of hay.”

Then to himself, said Oldstyle, as he homewards quickly went,
“I’ll tak’ no farm where doctors’ bills be heavier than the rent;
I’ve never in hot water been, steam shanna speed my plough,
I’d liefer thrash my grain out by the sweat of my own brow.

“I neither want to scald my pigs, nor toast my cheese, not I,
Afore the butcher sticks ’em or the factor [cheese dealer] comes to buy;
They shanna catch me here again to risk my limbs and life;
I’ve nought at home to blow me up except it be my wife.”

– Sam Moore

A Highland cow. [Courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

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