The Lewth Shawl


Lewth is Dorset dialect for ‘shelter’ or ‘warmth’ and that is certainly what this shawl offers. A wide V shaped shawl knitted from side to side, it uses double knitting yarn. Starting with a few stitches you increase until you get to the mid point then you start decreasing. This makes it ideal if you want to use up every last bit of yarn – weigh your yarn at the start, stop increasing when you’re half way through your yarn and then start decreasing. The stitch pattern is a shifting 2 x 2 rib which works in one direction as you increase and the other as you decrease, this creates a ‘V’ shape in the stitch pattern which follows the line/shape of the shawl. The pattern is a simple 4 stitch, 8 row repeat, easy to memorise and read from your knitting.


The details:

Size: 63 inches/160cm x 17 inches / 43cm

Yarn: Juno Fibre Arts Milly DK, 2 x 115g (250g/229m)

Needles: 4mm (US6)

Lewth is available for purchase from my usual pattern outlets via the Shawls, Wraps & Drapes page of my Pattern store


The pattern has an extract, the 7th Stanza of Thomas Hardy’s poem The Bride-Night Fire. This 19 stanza poem is reproduced below with some additional notes I’ve added to clarify meaning and a you tube link to a reading. Hardy uses Dorset dialect liberally in his poetry and he, along with William Barnes (poet and author of a grammar and glossary of the dialect), have done most to preserve Dorset dialect, which survived in pockets into my childhood.

I grew up in a small village in the north of Dorset an as a small child there were still speakers of dialect in the village. Now individual words continue in local usage, but fewer and fewer. Thanks to Hardy and Barnes we have a written record of the dialect and in the case of the poem below this is integrated with the writing of the accent also.

The British Library sound archive has recordings from the 1950s of accents and dialects including Charlie Thorne from Sixpenny Handley and Jim Thomas from Higher Ansty, well worth a listen for accent and intonation as well as a discussion of cider making and drinking (Mr Thorne)  and building hay ricks and other agricultural practices (Mr Thomas).

“The Bride-Night Fire” (subtitled “A Wessex Tradition” and often listed as The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s) was written in 1866 but not published until 1875. Establishing himself as a novelist with the publication of Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd, this was the first of Hardy’s poems to be published. It was later included in Hardy’s first poetry collection, “Wessex Poems and Other Verses”,  published in 1898, which also included a glossary of the main dialect words at the bottom of the page.

The Bride Night Fire

They had long met o’ Zundays–her true love and she–

And at junketings, maypoles, and flings;

But she bode wi’ a thirtover uncle, and he

Swore by noon and by night that her goodman should be

Naibor Sweatley–a gaffer oft weak at the knee

From taking o’ sommat more cheerful than tea–

Who tranted, and moved people’s things.

Here we meet:- the true lovers who themselves met on Sundays and high days,

– the thirtover – cross – uncle

-Tranter Sweatley and older man who made a living as a trader and carrier and was often weak at the knee from drinking something stronger than tea.

Another Hardy example of young women being expected to marry to secure social and financial position and security

She cried, “O pray pity me!” Nought would he hear;

Then with wild rainy eyes she obeyed,

She chid when her Love was for clinking off wi’ her.

The pa’son was told, as the season drew near

To throw over pu’pit the names of the peäir

As fitting one flesh to be made.

Despite her tears the match was made and the parson read the banns – throwing the names of the pair over the pulpit
The wedding-day dawned and the morning drew on;

The couple stood bridegroom and bride;

The evening was passed, and when midnight had gone

The folks horned out, “God save the King,” and anon

The two home-along gloomily hied.

they are married and after the guests had loudly sung the National Anthem they gloomily returned home
The lover Tim Tankens mourned heart-sick and drearTo be thus of his darling deprived:

He roamed in the dark ath’art field, mound, and mere,

And, a’most without knowing it, found himself near

The house of the tranter, and now of his Dear,

Where the lantern-light showed ’em arrived.

Meanwhile Tim, the true love, having lost his love wanders distraught through the countryside and finds himself at the Tranter’s house as they return.
The bride sought her cham’er so calm and so paleThat a Northern had thought her resigned;

But to eyes that had seen her in tide-times of weal,

Like the white cloud o’ smoke, the red battlefield’s vail,

That look spak’ of havoc behind.

Resigned to her fate, Barbree gets ready for bed, her outward calm masking that which lay beneath
The bridegroom yet laitered a beaker to drain,Then reeled to the linhay for more,

When the candle-snoff kindled some chaff from his grain–

Flames spread, and red vlankers, wi’ might and wi’ main,

And round beams, thatch, and chimley-tun roar.

 The Tranter, already having had a few, goes of to his lean to (linhay) for another, but his candle catches the grain chaff and quickly spreads through the beams and thatched roof.
 Young Tim away yond, rafted up by the light,Through brimble and underwood tears,

Till he comes to the orchet, when crooping thereright

In the lewth of a codlin-tree, bivering wi’ fright,

Wi’ on’y her night-rail to screen her from sight,

His lonesome young Barbree appears.

Tim is roused by the light of the flames and comes through the undergrowth and brambles to the orchard and squats down in the shletr of an apple tree, his teeth chattering from fright, as Barbree appears in her nightdress.
Her cwold little figure half-naked he viewsPlayed about by the frolicsome breeze,

Her light-tripping totties, her ten little tooes,

All bare and besprinkled wi’ Fall’s chilly dews,

While her great gallied eyes, through her hair hanging loose,

Sheened as stars through a tardle o’ trees.

Cold in her nightie blown in the breeze, in bare feet sprinkled with Autumn dew, her frightened eyes can be seen through the tangle of trees and her loose hanging hair
She eyed en; and, as when a weir-hatch is drawn,Her tears, penned by terror afore,

With a rushing of sobs in a shower were strawn,

Till her power to pour ’em seemed wasted and gone

From the heft o’ misfortune she bore.

she sees Tim, and her tears gush like water when the weir is opened from the weight of her misfortune until she has no more tears.
“O Tim, my own Tim I must call ‘ee–I will!All the world ha’ turned round on me so!

Can you help her who loved ‘ee, though acting so ill?

Can you pity her misery–feel for her still?

When worse than her body so quivering and chill

Is her heart in its winter o’ woe!

She asks Tim for help despite all that has happened
“I think I mid almost ha’ borne it,” she said,”Had my griefs one by one come to hand;

But O, to be slave to thik husbird for bread,

And then, upon top o’ that, driven to wed,

And then, upon top o’ that, burnt out o’ bed,

Is more than my nater can stand!”

Barbree recounts her misfortunes
Tim’s soul like a lion ‘ithin en outsprung–(Tim had a great soul when his feelings were wrung)–

“Feel for ‘ee, dear Barbree?” he cried;

And his warm working-jacket about her he flung,

Made a back, horsed her up, till behind him she clung

Like a chiel on a gipsy, her figure uphung

By the sleeves that around her he tied.

Tim, his feelings still in tact despite everything, gives her his jacket and carries her away
Over piggeries, and mixens, and apples, and hay,They lumpered straight into the night;

And finding bylong where a halter-path lay,

At dawn reached Tim’s house, on’y seen on their way

By a naibor or two who were up wi’ the day;

But they gathered no clue to the sight.

her carries her past pig styes and manure heaps, apples and hay, finds the bridle path and takes her back to his house, contained in the bundle on his back so the neighbours did not know his parcel contained Barbree.
Then tender Tim Tankens he searched here and thereFor some garment to clothe her fair skin;

But though he had breeches and waistcoats to spare,

He had nothing quite seemly for Barbree to wear,

Who, half shrammed to death, stood and cried on a chair

At the caddle she found herself in.

Once at his house he looks for suitable clothes but as a batchelor has nothing really suitable
There was one thing to do, and that one thing he did,He lent her some clouts of his own,

And she took ’em perforce; and while in ’em she slid,

Tim turned to the winder, as modesty bid,

Thinking, “O that the picter my duty keeps hid

To the sight o’ my eyes mid be shown!”

So he gives her some of his own clothes and honourably looks away while she changes.
In the tallet he stowed her; there huddied she lay,Shortening sleeves, legs, and tails to her limbs;

But most o’ the time in a mortal bad way,

Well knowing that there’d be the divel to pay

If ’twere found that, instead o’ the elements’ prey,

She was living in lodgings at Tim’s.

 He hides her in his loft – tallet – where she alters his clothes to fit her but is mainly in a bad way knowing the consequences if it became known that she as a married woman was staying in the home of a batchelor.
“Where’s the tranter?” said men and boys; “where can er be?””Where’s the tranter?” said Barbree alone.

“Where on e’th is the tranter?” said everybod-y:

They sifted the dust of his perished roof-tree,

And all they could find was a bone.

meanwhile attention turns to the Tranter (perhaps somewhat belatedly) and among the wreckage nothing is found but a single bone. as a result it is assumed that both the Tranter and Barbree perished in the fire.
Then the uncle cried, “Lord, pray have mercy on me!”And in terror began to repent.

But before ’twas complete, and till sure she was free,

Barbree drew up her loft-ladder, tight turned her key–

Tim bringing up breakfast and dinner and tea–

Till the news of her hiding got vent.

the uncle repents his action in having forced Barbree to marry and therefore apparently causing her death, whilst Barbree remains in hiding.Nbut the news got out.
Then followed the custom-kept rout, shout, and flareOf a skimmington-ride through the naiborhood, ere

Folk had proof o’ wold Sweatley’s decay.

Whereupon decent people all stood in a stare,

Saying Tim and his lodger should risk it, and pair:

So he took her to church. An’ some laughing lads there

Cried to Tim, “After Sweatley!” She said, “I declare

I stand as a maiden to-day!”

 Once discovered there was talk of ‘skimmity-ride’ which was used to humiliate those who had extra-marrital affairs by making effigies of the ‘offenders’ and parading them through the neighbourhood on a Donkey (Hardy uses this ‘tradition’ in The Mayor of Casterbridge).But, risking to assume that the Tranter is actually dead, the locals thought they should marry instead.

Finally Barbree’s honour and maidenhood is re/claimed.

For those who think hardy is unrelentingly grim, I hope the humour in this poem comes through in both the lines and farcical set up.

Here is the full poem as below read by Libby Gohn – if you’ve listened to the recordings above, it will be quite a stark contrast.


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