...Fire & fleet & candle light
And Christe recieve thy soul... The Lyke Wake Dirge
One of the things I used to enjoy doing when all mine were little was reading their bedtime stories. We actually had a routine for this. Each child got to choose a story but I would also choose a bible story & a poem.
Poetry is not something most people read aloud to their kids & I can't say it's given any of mine any great appreciation for poetry. They do all use language well & have unusual vocabularies so it seems to have had some benefit.
I read a lot of ballads, partly because what passes for children's poetry makes me cringe. Children have good taste too. One of my favourites was the Lyke Wake Dirge. OK, so reading poetry for watching over a corpse is a little gruesome ~ except none of mine had the least idea of what a wake was never mind a lyke! [A lyke is the corpse ';) ] We simply enjoyed the rhythm of this very old traditional poem which is recorded as being sung as early as 1616 but is believed to be much older & whose imagery may predate Christian beliefs.
I didn't even know it was a song for years & years , which is odd given I like Steeleye Stan & they put out a version, but have since heard several very lovely renditions of this that make Ditz roll her eyes. She doesn't like the old 5 note scale whereas I'm rather keen on ditching all those troublesome sharps & flats!
I think it was Pope who said a little learning is a dangerous thing because I was so sure I had this poem worked out I never bothered to investigate further. Being Shakespearean educated I had learnt that Fs often looked like Ss gone astray & happily translated fleet as sleet ~ & it certainly makes sense that way. Classical reading made short work of obscure things like whinny~muirs, brig 'o dreads, hosen & shoon & whinnes & as a Christian I was cognizant of the old Catholic idea of purgatory & the purification of the soul. As a CeltNut I knew what a wake was ~ all very ghoulish for someone who has never been able to watch horror movies.
I am still inordinately fond of this poem but I understand it better now. I know that fleet really does mean fleet. I even know that fleet means a large floor & the imagery is representative of the home as a whole. I find it spookier than I used to. I've finally grasped that the Yorkshire folk [Yorkshire being he dialect this poem is written in] adhered to the old Celtic belief that the soul did not immediately find it's way into the presence of God [as the bible teaches] but lingered around the place until burial! oooh~eeew! No wonder stories of ghosts abound thinking things like that! I don't think it holds much theological water either because salvation is certainly not dependant on good works but then I don't have the Medieval moralistic thinking that dreamt up this poem either. If you've ever been pricked by whinnes on an English moor then you know someone had a very nasty mind indeed! I think I have too much time on my hands. Who on earth needs to know this stuff?