Lyke Wake Dirge: a lazy lyric post

Lyke wake dirge is a traditional dirge or funeral song that I first heard on a Buffy Sainte-Marie album.  Here’s a transcription I found which looks about the same as Buffy Sainte-Marie’s version (the refrain in italics is in every verse, but only given in the first verse):

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

When thou from hence away art past,
To Whinny-muir thou com’st at last;

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Sit thee down and put them on

If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane

From Whinny-muir when thou may’st pass,
To Brig o’ Dread thou com’st at last

From Brig o’ Dread when thou may’st pass,
To Purgatory fire thou com’st at last

If ever thou gavest meat or drink,
The fire sall never make thee shrink

If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte.

.
A most excellent exegesis of the folk song is here.  D&D players will enjoy learning the etymology of  the word “lyke/lich,” which keeps cropping up in old school blogs.  I’d take slight issue with his rendering of “This ae night” as “On this night” because “This one night” seems more accurate — the idea is that this is the lyke’s (lich’s, or body’s) last night in a house, as it will be buried tomorrow.

Anyway it sounds like an excellent template for a D&D adventure to the ‘other side’!  The Whinny-moor, a field of dangerous nettles and spiky plants must be braved, and then the Bridge of Dread, just to get to the other side.  The Whinny-moor would obviously have some lost souls, “picked to the bare bone,” haunting it, as would the fires under or near the Brig’o’Dread.  The Bridge may just as well be guarded by some other kind of gatekeeper; I’d try to resist the temptation to use the version in Monty Python & The Holy Grail, but still a riddler or even an inquisitor (who reminds the PCs of their many damnable transgressions!) would be cool.

Buffy Sainte-Marie has several other unexpectedly D&D songs that could be fuel for adventure ideas; maybe I’ll get to them some other time.

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Published in: on February 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for posting this. Back when I was in a druid group, we did our Samhain processional through the woods singing this song (with some word changes.) Never heard/saw any other version.

    And yeah, we sang “This one night”, not “On this night”.

  2. […] for the design are two things: one, the concept of the “Bridge of dread” mentioned in Lyke Wake Dirge, and two, the surprisingly developed and fortified bridges of the middle ages (old London Bridge, a […]


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