(John Castillo The Bard of the Dales)
Although our creeds might vary, Castillo,
(For thou wouldst look with horror on my love
Of the fine dramas with which Sophocles,
Euripides, and Terrence moved the souls 5
Of Greeks and Romans in the days of old;
And those of Marlow, Shakspere, and the rest
Of England’s noblest dramatists, would scorn
To dance around the Maypole with a maid
Fair as the lily and as spotless too; 10
Yet as thou loved my Cleveland’s hills and dales,
And had compassion for her people’s souls,
And strove to gain them from their wicked ways;
Though thou too oft might in confusion blend
Mere innocent enjoyments with their abuse; 15
I love thee, noble if mistaken soul!
And would much rather err with Puritans—
Earnest, thou much too solemn—than defile
My spirit in the brutalizing pools
Of sensual debasements. And I would fain 20
Pay thee such honour as thou merited,
Among our Cleveland poets, though thy rank
Be not the highest: thou hast gained the hearts
Of numbers whom no other bard has won;
And as the vocal songsters of the grove 25
Vary in compass and in melody,
Yet all are welcome to the naturalist,
So in our poesy: not Homer’s strains,
Not Dante’s visits to the nether realms,
Nor Milton soaring to eternal day, 30
Are for all readers. Humble lays like thine
Solace the lab’ring dalesman in his toil,
Help him to bear the numerous ills of life,
And teach his soul to look from earth to heaven.
‘Peter Proletarius.’ (George Markham Tweddell)
[Castillo’s Dialect Poems ed. Geo. M. Tweddell (1878)]
Tweddell published Castillo's work in 1878 after the poet's death and in the Cleveland Dialect. He also wrote about him in The Bards and Authors of Cleveland and South Durham in 1872. John Castillo was well published though with a number of anthologies out.
John Castillo (1792 – 16 April 1845), often referred to as the "Bard of the Dales", from his first published book - "The Bard of the Dales - Poems by John Castillo" was a poet who lived for much of his life in the village of Lealholm. Castillo's work is treasured as having recorded the ancient language of the dales from oblivion.
John's father, a traveller, met his spouse in Eskdale and they both returned to Ireland where John was born in 1792 near the small village of Rathfarnham, close to Dublin, today a suburb of the city. At the age of two, the family decided to return to Lealholm and moved to the site that now bears the name Poet's Corner. At the age of 12 he moved to Lincolnshire and began work as a servant on a country estate and soon became note for his talent as a poet, singer / song-writer.
Later returning to Eskdale, he began work as a farm hand, and soon turned his skills to stonemasonry. Methodism was popular across the Dales, and John converted from Catholicism in 1818. Following thoughts of suicide he became a lay preacher, but continued his stone work and poetry. He often wrote using local dialect and is most well known for the poems "Aud Isaac" and "The Steeplechase" although he also used standard English. Very few of his works have been published since the early 1900s.
He died in the town of Pickering aged 53, and is buried at the Methodist Chapel in Hungate. His gravestone reads an epitaph of his own creation.