This ae nighte

Charles Cowling

Halloween has deep roots. Through All Hallows Eve to the old pagan night of Samhain, each marks the time of year when the veil between this world and the next are at their thinnest and the dead and the living can most easily meet and mingle.

 As this blog’s contribution to the celebrations, here is the Lyke Wake Dirge in probably the most famous of recent versions performed by Pentangle.

It’s a very old Yorkshire dialect song for the time spent sitting with the corpse (Lyke is an old word for corpse – think Lych Gate). It describes the journey the soul makes and the challenges it meets on the way. In a way it’s a set of instructions but, if there’s a lesson, it is that charity in life is the best way to ensure safe passage in death.

 Here are the original lyrics, with a translation:

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.

On this night, on this night,
Every night and all,Hearth and house and candle-light,
And Christ receive your soul.

When from here away you pass
Every night and all,
To Thorny Moor you come at last;
And Christ receive your soul. 

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.

From Thorny Moor then you may pass,
Every night and all,
To Bridge of Dread you come at last;
And Christ receive your soul.

If ever you gave silver and gold,
Every night and all,
At Bridge of Dread you’ll find foothold,
And Christ receive your soul.

But if silver and gold you gave none
Every night and all:
You’ll tumble down into Hell’s flames
And Christ receive your soul.

From Bridge of Dread then you may pass,
Every night and all,
To Purgatory fire you’ll come at last;
And Christ receive your soul.

If ever you gave meat or drink,
Every night and all,
The fire will never make you shrink;
And Christ receive your soul.

But if meat or drink you gave none,
Every night and all,
The fire will burn you to the bare bone;
And Christ receive your soul

On this night, on this night,
Every night and all,
Hearth and house and candle-light,
And Christ receive your soul.

 

 With thanks to Jeff Duntemann for his translation of the Dirge. If you are interested in reading more, his page is here.

 

One thought on “This ae nighte

  1. Charles Cowling
    gloria mundi

    Great Charles, thanks. cf Chinese Ghost, or Hungry Ghost, festival when, in your delicious phrase, the veils between this world and the next are at their thinnest. Spirits roam, looking for entertainment and food. Even in sophisticated Singapore, visitors may be puzzled by little offerings of fruits and biscuits and sweeties laid out on the pavement, and wonder why there are street theatre performances being laid on. Well, if you knew that hungry spirits wre abroad, what would you do?

    FEED THEM! or else…

    (Unfortunately for ideas of intercultural symetry, it’s actually in August to mid-September.)


    Charles Cowling

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>