“The Lyke-Wake Dirge”


A warning to those not yet dead. Those who gave to the poor shall receive as they have given; those who have not will pay the penalty. "This ae nicht, this ae nicht, ilka nicht and alle -- Fire and sleet and candlelicht, and Christ receive thy soule"


De la Mare quotes Sidgwick to the effect that sleet means not falling water but salt (the token of eternal life) -- or perhaps is an error for "fleet."

Malcolm Douglas gave the following information about the tune to the Ballad-L list in 2008 (slightly edited, mostly for formatting reasons):

"The tune Hans Fried got from Peggy Richards [which was recorded by the Young Tradition[ was written by Sir Harold Boulton, and first appeared in his _Songs of the North_(Vol I, c.1885) set to the text (slightly edited) from Scott. It had changed a bit in detail by the time it got to The Young Tradition, but not fundamentally. _Songs of the North_ was immensely popular (at least 23 editions) and there would seem to be a decent chance that Peggy Richards (described as 'old') had learned it at school, or directly from print.

"It is *just* possible that a tune that may perhaps have been traditionally associated with the text survives. A song ('The Silkstone Disaster', written by Rowland Kellett) appeared in 'English Dance and Song' (XXXIII No 2 Summer 1971), set to a tune described as 'The Yorkshire Lyke-Wake'. Kellett noted that it was played as a funeral march in the Yorkshire Dales, but didn't say where, when or from whom he had got it. It bears no resemblance to Boulton's melody, but the words would fit.

"Some years later, the same tune (though slightly variant and in a different key) turned up in Blowzabella's tunebook 'Encyclopedia Blowzabellica'. There, it was titled 'Lyke Wake Dirge' and described as 'traditional' (but with a query if I remember correctly). No source was identified, and it's unclear whether the change of name is significant or not." - RBW


  1. OBB 33, "A Lyke-Wake Dirge" (1 text)
  3. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #278, "A Lyke-Wake Dirge" (1 text)
  4. Roud #8194
  5. BI, OBB033


Author: unknown