Top Definition
Lyke-Wake Dirge is a traditional English song, thought to have originated in Yorkshire, telling of the journey a soul makes and the trials it faces, on its way from earth through purgatory to Heaven. Though, ostensibly, from the Christian era and featuring references to Christianity, much of the symbolism, within the song, is thought to be of heathen origin.
The title refers to the watch over the dead between the death and funeral, known as a wake. Lyke is an obsolete word meaning a corpse, and is related to the German word “Leiche” and the Dutch word “lijk”, which have the same meaning. It survives in modern English in the expression lych gate, the roofed gate at the entrance to a churchyard, where a coffin could be held and the bearers rested before continuing on to the church for the burial service. "Lyke-wake" could also stem from the Norse influence on the Yorkshire dialect, the contemporary Norwegian and Swedish words are still "likvake" and "likvaka" respectively ("lik" and "vaka"/"vake" with the same meanings as previously described for "lyke" and "wake").
The old ballad affirms that safety and comfort of the soul in overcoming the difficulties it faces are directly related to the dead person's willingness to have given charitably during their lifetime.. The poem on which it is based was first collected, in 1686, by John Aubrey. Aubrey also recorded that it was definitely being sung in 1616, but was believed to be much older.
The English folk group Pentangle made a recording of Lyke Wake Dirge.
by AKACroatalin April 18, 2015

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