A stylistic analysis of A Lyke-Wake Dirge

Essay by balla4eva33High School, 10th gradeA, May 2002

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A Lyke-Wake Dirge

A Lyke-Wake Dirge takes place on a cold night, in a small house with a blazing fire and a candle burning. People are gathered around a corpse, and they sing the dirge.

You can tell from the diction used, that this dirge was written a long time ago. It is archaic, using words like ae, thou, and thye, all of which aren't used today. Old spellings for words are also used, shoon for shoes, bane for bone, and saule for soul are some examples. Another element of diction that is archaic is the verb endings, gavest and comest are two examples of this.

The structure of the dirge is very repetitive, the second and fourth lines are the same in every stanza, and the 1st and 9th stanzas are the same. Also, the entire dirge follows an a,b,a,b rhyme format, meaning the first and third and second and fourth line in every stanza rhymes.

For example the first line of the first stanza ends with nighte, the second line with alle, the third with lighte, and the fourth saule. From this, I can infer that the people who sung it were very simple and uneducated because all the repetition would make it easy to memorize. This would be important since they probably couldn't read or write.

Imagery is used to describe the deceased's journey where in the end Christ will receive their soul. The people who sung this dirge obviously believed in an after-life, as well as Jesus Christ. The last line of every stanza was And Christe receive thye saule. In the journey the deceased had to cross a Whinny-muir, a field full of whinnes, which would cut their feet if they hadn't given shoes to the poor. If they had, the shoes would be...