Sunday, May 23, 2010

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
-- Every nighte and alle,
Fire and sleet and candle-lighte,
-- And Christe receive thy saule…

I have been fascinated with the old Yorkshire poem, “The Lyke Wake Dirge” since I first came across it years ago in an anthology of old ballads. It is a dark poem, yet strangely hopeful, much like the Dies Irae. It is full of direful warnings, but the bleakness of its verse is relieved by the refrain, “And Christe receive thy saule.” I read it, and the meter, with its driving refrain, got into my blood. The old Yorkshire dialect of it got caught in my brain, and went round and round like a catchy song. I immediately copied it down for myself, being a compulsive collector of verse and prose. Not too long ago, I did a bit of research on the “Lyke Wake Dirge” as I had – and have still - a wholly unrealised ambition to write a morality tale (rather along the lines of “A Christmas Carol”) based on it. I discovered that there are actually several version of the ballad, and that the rather apocalyptical lines, “fire and sleet and candle-light” might not be that at all. Numerous sources gave it as, “fire and fleet and candle-light”, fleet in this case being a very old word for a large room in the house and related to the word ‘flet’ meaning floor. In short, with the change of one small letter, the whole line turned from bleakly atmospheric, to praising the comforts of home, rather along the lines of ‘hearth and home’. (I am something of a word collector, as well as a poem collector, so this little bit of trivia delighted me absurdly.) I liked the phrase tremendously. It was comfortable and home-like. I filed it away in my mind, determined to work the sleet/fleet change into my story. Only, the story has yet to be written, and I forgot about “The Lyke Wake Dirge” for the while.

When I decided to start a blog, I knew that I wanted a rather comfortable and home-like title. I kicked about names for weeks on end, trying to find one that suited me. Most of them were rather too coffee-shop-ish to work, so I came back to an old, old phrase meaning all the comforts of home – and wrote this self important essay to explain the title! So now that I have explained it, at least to my own satisfaction, I hope you will all stop in once in a while, and close with the pious wish, ‘And Christe receive thy saule…’

3 comments:

Cat said...

I'm glad you're posting, Mahri. Looks lovely. Is it fun?

Anonymous said...

I like u site - from Treski, who does not believe she can do this

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