A Lyke Wake Dirge

by MSO
bagpiper playing at funeral

In traditional Celtic cultures, including both the Irish and Scottish cultures, bagpipes have always been an important part of a traditional funeral.

Telling of the soul’s travel and the hazards it faces on its way from Earth to Heaven, the funeral chant, A Lyke Wake Dirge has been used for many years as a poem which addresses both the corpse and the mourner.

First collected in 1686 by John Aubrey, the origin of the chant dates as far back as the 14th century, where in Cleveland, North Yorkshire, women were said to have sung the chant during a traditional watch (wake), at the side of a corpse (lyke); a reference to the songs title which describes the act of watching over the dead between death and funeral.

Considered a chilling piece of work with its stark beauty, ominous beat and uncompromising tones, the poem laments in metaphorical detail the death of a person and his journey as the soul crosses a thorny moor, tumbling into the flames of Hell and crossing the Bridge of Dread to reach Purgatory where Christ awaits to “receive your soul”.

During the 60s’ the dirge saw an emergence of popularity as a number of folk groups, notably The Young Tradition and Pentangle began performing it.

Lyke Wake Dirge

“This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.When thou from hence away art past,
Every nighte and alle,
To Whinny-muir thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Every nighte and alle,
Sit thee down and put them on;
And Christe receive thy saule.If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
Every nighte and alle,
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.From Whinny-muir whence thou may’st pass,
Every nighte and alle,
To Brig o’ Dread thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.If ever thou gav’st silver and gold,
Every nighte and alle,
At t’ Brig o’ Dread thou’lt find foothold,
And Christe receive thy saule.

But if silver and gold thou never gav’st nane,
Every nighte and alle,
Down thou tumblest to Hell flame,
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Brig o’ Dread whence thou may’st pass, Every nighte and alle,
To Purgatory fire thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gav’st meat or drink,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.”

Watch video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sj1OdyMxgxM

Read more:

http://www.duntemann.com/likewakepage.htm

http://wordandlife.info/audio/20101014-Dirge.pdf

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