This is my translation/interpretation of "A Lyke-Wake Dirge," which for me is one of the spookiest poems in the English language. Because this is my interpretation of the poem, I have changed things slightly here and there.


My translation of "A Lyke-Wake Dirge"

A Lyke-Wake Dirge
anonymous medieval lyric (circa the sixteenth century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Lie-Awake Dirge is “the night watch kept over a corpse.”

This one night, this one night,
every night and all;
fire and sleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.

When from this earthly life you pass
every night and all,
to confront your past you must come at last,
and Christ receive thy soul.

If you ever donated socks and shoes,
every night and all,
sit right down and slip yours on,
and Christ receive thy soul.

But if you never helped your brother,
every night and all,
walk barefoot through the flames of hell,
and Christ receive thy soul.

If ever you shared your food and drink,
every night and all,
the fire will never make you shrink,
and Christ receive thy soul.

But if you never helped your brother,
every night and all,
walk starving through the black abyss,
and Christ receive thy soul.

This one night, this one night,
every night and all;
fire and sleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.





Poetry by Michael R. Burch The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 16 times
Written on 2021-06-10 at 02:55

Tags Dirge  Wake  Funeral 

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Michael R. Burch The PoetBay support member heart!
I like the idea of a chorus. From what I understand, some of the early poems with refrains were written to be sung in rounds.

Some of the great poets were songwriters, notably Shakespeare and Jonson, and there were also lutanists and other musicians like Sir Thomas Wyatt (one of my personal favorites), Thomas Campion and John Dowland (recorded by Sting), among others.

William Blake's "Jerusalem" was set to music and became one of my mother's favorite hymns. I don't think she knew that Blake called the biblical god Nobodaddy because no one would want him for a father!
2021-06-10


Coo & Co The PoetBay support member heart!
We think this dirge might have inspired a poem by our mutual acquaintance Ann D. It too could be set to music. We imagine a chorus of voices, emphasis on A, T, and B, with perhaps a sombre bell. The 'socks and shoes' are pleasant :>)
2021-06-10