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Finnegan's Wake

"Finnegan's Wake" is a ballad that arose in the 1850s in the music-hall tradition of comical Irish songs.

It is famous for being the basis of James Joyce's masterwork, Finnegans Wake, where the comic resurrection becomes symbolic of a universal cycle of life. Whiskey, which brought both Finnegan's fall and his resurrection, is derived from Irish uisce beatha meaning "water of life." So too, the word "wake" is both of a passing and of a new rising. Joyce removed the apostrophe in the title to assert an active process in which a multiplicity of "Finnegans," that is, all of us, wake, i.e., arise after falling.

It also featured as the climax of the primary storyline in Philip José Farmer's award-winning novella, Riders of the Purple Wage. The song is a staple of the Irish folk-music group, The Dubliners, who have played it on many occasions and included it on several albums.

Recordings

Lyrics

Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin Street
A gentle Irishman, mighty odd;
He had a tounge both rich and sweet
And to rise in the world he carried a hod.
Now, Tim had a bit of the tipplin' way
With a love for the liquor poor Tim was born
And to make hisway in the world each day
He had a drop of the Craythur every morn.

Chorus:

Whack fol the dah O, dance to your partner
Round the floor, your trotters shake;
Wasn't it the truth I told you
Lots of fun at Finnegan's wake!

One mornin' Tim felt rather full
His head felt heavy which made him shake;
He fell from the ladder and broke his skull
And they carried him home his corpse to wake.
They wrapped him up in a nice clean sheet
And laid him out upon the bed,
With a barrel of whiskey at his feet
And a gallon of porter at his head.

Chorus

His friends assembled at the wake
And Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch,
First she laid out tay and a cake
Then pipes, tobacca' and whiskey punch.
Then Biddy O'Brien began to cry
"Such a nice clean corpse, did you ever see?
"O Tim, mavourneen, why did you die?"
"Ah stop your gob" said Paddy McGee!

Chorus

Then Peggie O'Connor took up the job
"O Biddy," says she, "You're wrong, I'm sure"
Biddy she gave her a belt in the gob
And left her sprawlin' 'cross the floor.
'Twas then the war did soon engage
It was woman to woman and man to man,
Shillelagh law was all the rage
And a row and a ruction soon began.

Chorus

Then Mickey Maloney ducked his head
When a noggin of whiskey flew at him,
It missed, and landed on the bed
And the whiskey flew all over Tim!
Tim revives! See how he rises!
Timothy risin' from the dead,
Says, "Flingin that whiskey around like blazes"
"Thunderin' Jesus do you think I'm dead?"

Chorus

Notes

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