Poem a Day #22 – Stretched on Your Grave (Blues)

Many years ago, when I lived in Dublin and listened to a lot of Irish music, I heard an incredibly sad song called “I am stretched on your grave”. The lyrics are a translation of an anonymous 17th-century Irish poem titled “Táim sínte ar do thuama”. I think the version I heard first was from about 1979, by a band called Scullion, founded by Philip King.

Here’s a version in Irish by Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin

A more contemporary version is by Kate Rusby:

And my favourite is by the Voice Squad, but the only version I can find has some cheesy excerpts from Braveheart. The harmonies are stunning. Close your eyes and shut out Mel Gibson if you wish:

 

There are some astonishing lines in the song lyrics, and I’ve had the idea of somehow using them in a poem for some time. After trying a pantoum and a villanelle version unsuccessfully, I eventually resorted to a blues format, which is entirely appropriate for the tone of the lyrics, but does not quite transmit the extreme grief of the Irish songs.

 

Stretched on Yo’ Grave Blues

 

Well I woke up dis mornin’

I was stretched out on yo’ grave

Said I woke up dis mornin’

Stretched out along yo’ grave

Gonna lie here fo’ever

Don’t care how dem priests do rave

 

I woke up dis mornin’

I was smellin’ of the clay

Said I woke up dis mornin’

I was stinkin’ of that clay

My tears all hot and wild

Fall on you all night ‘n day

 

My ma and pa they thinkin’

I sleep safely in my bed

Said my ma and pa they thinkin’

I sleep safely in my bed

But I spend the night a callin’

To my girl, the one who’s dead

 

Do you remember

That night when we was lost

I say do you remember

That night of cold and frost

We done dat righteous thing

Yo’ honour was not lost

 

Dem priests and dem friars

They looks on me with dread

Said dem priests and dem friars

They fear me, they all in dread

For I love you darlin’ still

Oh, my life, and you is dead

 

I am stretched on yo’ grave

I lie here for ever mo’

I am stretched on yo’ grave

I lie here for ever mo’

If yo’ hands they was in mine

We be joined for ever more

 

I woke up dis mornin’

I was stretched out on yo’ grave

Said I woke up dis mornin’

Stretched right out along yo’ grave

I gon’ lie here fo’ever

Don’t care how dem priests do rave

 

Said I gone lie here fo’ever

I don’t care how dem priests do rave

 © Mike Hopkins 2014
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3 thoughts on “Poem a Day #22 – Stretched on Your Grave (Blues)

  1. I knew you were thinking of that song when I saw your lyrics on FB. Love it too; my fave version is by Sinead O’Connor. Nice blues for a blue Tuesday. Jen 🙂

    • Yes, great, great song, but I think I’ve done it an injustice. Reading it back, it’s come out as a parody. Ah well, that’s poem a day for you – no second chances

  2. I read the poem without knowing or first hearing the song and enjoyed it. I thought the blues version suited the theme. If you hadn’t said you thought it came out as parody, that wouldn’t have occurred to me.

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