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A cheerful ditty to brighten your Tuesday

lychgate

We just finished watching the BBC’s six part The Living and the Dead. It was meh. Pretty to look at, couple of interesting plot devices, ran too long, took itself too seriously.

The theme song was a version of a very ancient song known as the Lyke Wake Dirge. Most Brits know it from this version made popular by the folk-rock band Pentangle. But I like this slightly older version better. Common consensus is that it predates Christianity by a long way, and the Jesusy bits were tacked on later. It’s spooky as shit.

“Lyke” is an old word for corpse, of the same origin as lich, a few of which you might have slewn with smitings, if you are a gamer. It also survives in the term lychgate, which is the thing in the picture: a covered walkway at the entrance of a church. They used to lay out the corpse under the lychgate at the beginning of funeral proceedings.

Anyhoo, here are the lyrics as they survive today:

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.

And here is a version in modern English, I pinched from this interesting short essay:

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.

It seems a little neener-neener to sing the instructions for getting to heaven over the body of someone who is dead and literally cannot do anything about it now, but there you go. Our ancestors, trolling their dead.

sock it to me

Comments


Comment from Fritzworth
Time: July 26, 2016, 3:20 pm

Gordon Dickson adapted this for his Childe Cycle (Dorsai) novels. IIRC (it’s been decades since I’ve read any of them — great series, though), it was used as a chant to unlock/trigger certain superhuman abilities (teleportation, I believe).

 


Comment from Deborah HH
Time: July 26, 2016, 11:28 pm

Thank you, Stoaty. I followed all the links 🙂 Very interesting.

 


Comment from DNA
Time: July 27, 2016, 7:23 am

lol ‘trolling their dead’…
here’s the vid:
hxxps://youtu.be/y_jKsQjuCfE

 


Comment from technochitlin
Time: July 27, 2016, 11:21 am

Very very cool, these are a good start on my Hallowe’en playlist 🙂

 


Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: July 27, 2016, 3:24 pm

I’ve seen the first verse of the archaic-language version. Two questions:

Did “soul” once rhyme with “all”? “Christe receive thy ‘sall'”?

I thought I remembered the 3rd line in that verse as “Fire, and sleet, and candle-lighte.” Dunno what they meant by “fleet” in that context; do you?

(I also persist in my little mental world in pronouncing the “candle-lighte” as “candle-leet,” so that it has an internal rhyme. That’s just me. But I guess it’s possible that some ancient Britons pronounced it that way.)

 


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 27, 2016, 6:38 pm

They sing it as “candle leet” and the link at the top of the translated version goes into the sleet/fleet thing a bit.

 


Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: July 28, 2016, 1:44 pm

Ah! So for once I manage to land near the bullseye instead of missing the outer ring completely.

 

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