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,
If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
From Whinny-muir whence thou may’st pass,
If ever thou gav’st silver and gold,
But if silver and gold thou never gav’st nane,
From Brig o’ Dread whence thou may’st pass,
If ever thou gav’st meat or drink,
If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
|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
If ever you gave hose and shoes,
But if hose and shoes you gave none
From Thorny Moor then you may pass,
If ever you gave silver and gold,
But if silver and gold you gave none
From Bridge of Dread then you may pass,
If ever you gave meat or drink,
But if meat or drink you gave none,
On this night, on this night,
With thanks to Jeff Duntemann for his translation of the Dirge. If you are interested in reading more, his page is here.