(Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – Helen Adam – 2 (Lyke-Wake Dirge))

Lyke-wake Dirge – sung and performed by Pentangle (lead vocal: Jacqui McShee

HA: Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my own ballad anthology which has my favorite ballads in it and this anthology doesn’t include “Thomas the Rhymer”or “Young Tam Lin”

AG: So what’s a good anthology?

HA: Oh well, there’s The Oxford Book of Ballads. It has all of them.

AG:Oxford Book of Ballads. What else?

HA: Well, the Willa Muir Living With Ballads is the best book about ballads and it quotes a lot of them and it’s extremely good.

AG: Willa Muir – W-I-L-L-A

HA: Yes and M-U-I-R-E, I guess, Edwin Muir’s wife

AG: M-U-I-R, I think

HA: Yes

AG Edwin Muir is a famous Georgian, English..

HA: Yes. Scottish too. He came from the Orkney’s

AG: And his wife, Willa Muir made..  What’s it called?

HA: Living With Ballads

AG: Did Muir write ballads too? Good ones?

HA: No, no, songs.. I don’t really think.. He wrote some very haunting strange ballad-songs but they weren’t really story poems

AG: What are the Child Ballads?

HA: Well, that’s all the old ones. You know, like “Chevy Chase” and all the supernatural ones and the fighting ones. I don’t care…

AG: How do you spell Child

HA: C-H-I-L-D-

AG: Yeah. And who publishes that?

HA: Oh well, it’s one of the classic things you can always get. I don’t think it’s ever out-of-print. I never can remember exactly who publishes what.

AG: What century was that put together?

HA: It was just before (Walter) Scott’s time, I guess

AG: And Sir Walter Scott had a collection of Scottish Border Ballads also.

HA: Um-hum – Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border<

AG: Ah. Some of this we could get around here in the bookstores, or in the C(olorado) U(niversity) library for anybody’s that’s local, and this book, whence these’ll be sung, will be on the reserve shelf of the library.

HA: That’s the Norton Anthology..?

AG: Yeah.. That’s a pretty good book – The Norton Anthology.
(So) now, what is a ballad?

HA: Well, it’s just a story-poem that was usually chanted, you know, by wandering minstrels who’d go from town to town, and often the audience would join in or add a verse of their own and that’s why there’s so many different versions of every ballad. This (in the Norton Anthology) is a different version of “Lord Randal” than I’ve known before.

AG: Uh-huh

HA: Yeah, it has a few more verses in it.

AG: The audience will add in its own?

HA: Very often improvised. The whole thing was almost a group thing. They knew the basic story (like Cinderella, or a fairy tale), they usually..they knew the basic stories of the ballads and then they changed (them). In this country, you find versions, oh, in the Smoky Mountains, of old Scottish ballads with different.. I usually have chosen my own favorite verses out of different ballads and put them together.  This is an eerie little one, which is really more of a psalm than a ballad, but it’s a warning to the soul, just while it’s dying (rather like the bardo thing) – “Lyke-Wake Dirge”

AG: “Lyke-Wake” means to lie awake?

HA: No, it’s the night-watch, when the person was dead. Everybody.. like, a “wake”.

AG: Oh, the wake.

HA: It would come to a sort of watch, because the soul wasn’t supposed to leave the body right away. It sort of hobbled.

AG: The note in the book (Norton Anthology) says “”lyke-wake dirge” – “lyke” is the corpse”

HA: Yeah – Um-hum – They’re singing it while the corpse is lying there. [Helen Adam begins singing, (along with Allen, and, eventually, the students, on the alternate repeating lines –  “Every nighte and alle”, and “And Christ receive thy soul”) – “This ae nighte, this ae nighte,/ Every nighte and alle,/ Fire and fleet and candle-lighte/ And Christe receive thy saule”]

AG: That’s terrific.  I never heard it done that way.

HA: Well..

AG: Is it supposed to be responsive?

HA: I don’t know. It’s just the way I’ve always done it.

AG: It sounds right that way. That’s a terrific form.

HA: It’s very weird, and then there’s..  [Helen Adam flips through the Norton Anthology] ..where’s the other that’s rather like this? now where in this, I wonder..,now, they must have it..

AG: “This ae nighte” – This one night..

Lyke-wake Dirge – sung and performed by Alasdair Roberts

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