A Lyke Wake Dirge

gravestones graveyard

Image : Pixabay

Well, I find this misty morning here in Bristol, my brain still dwells in the land of the dead, wallowing in a nether world of apparitions and ghosts, spirits wreathed about my head, tugging at my hair and whispering of times past.

All this being said, I felt the need to share this piece of music,

A Lyke Wake Dirge.

It’s old. Proper old. First written down in the late seventeenth century, it could be as much as 700 years old, passed through oral tradition in North Yorkshire.

It would have been sung during a wake (a watching over of the dead before burial), lyke being a dialect word for corpse. So, singing a dirge whilst watching over a corpse.

It’s a moral Christian tale of the soul’s journey through the Other World, though there’s little about redemption or Heaven here. It’s more about the dead receiving their just desserts for the sins they commited while alive.

If ever you gave hose and shoes,
Every night and all,
Sit then down and put them on;
And Christ receive your soul.But if hose and shoes you gave none
Every night and all,
The thorns shall prick you to the bare bone;
And Christ receive your soul.

The below version is sung in English, (for instance they sing ‘This one night’, where the original lyrics are ‘This ae nighte’, the original giving a real feel of Norse influence on the language).

See here for other recordings, including an a capella version and here for further analysis of the poetry.

Enough history, lets have a listen.

Though I warn you, since hearing it on the soundtrack of the BBC supernatural drama The Living and the Dead, it’s become the most persistent of earworms for me – every nighte and alle.