lyrics text

The Derwentwater Lights

words H Falconer, tune Ridley

Strange lights in the February sky
Friends, what can it mean?
Glimmering over Dilston Tower
Strange lights yestreen
Dule, dule within Dilston Tower
What tears will there be?
Derwentwater our loving Earl
Clay-cold lies he

Gold-bright were his sunny locks
blue, blue were his e'en
Kindly smile or kindly hand
Were ever seen
Larks over the London Tower
Sang sweet in the sun
Derwentwater, how sweet their song
When thine was done

Will never a bonny bird
Sing what he would say?
Sing kind words to his lady dear
In dule and wae
Lone robin upon her sill
Pecks aye the window pane
This is the owercome of his song
Never again

Strange lights in the February sky
What tale do they tell?
Blood runs thick over Dilston Tower
All is not well
Salt tears by the Derwent lake
Soft tears by the Tyne
Gentle and simple on hill and dale
Mourn Radcliffe's line

All grieve for the bonny Earl
Woe's me for his queen
Wring her hands for his voice and smile
And glancing e'en
Dule, dule in Dilston Tower
Black sorrow and dule
Black it will be in the summer time
Blacker at the Yule

White light upon Dilston Tower
Torch light in her hand
Seeking her lord in the mirk midnight
Ghost-like she'll stand
Lone, gliding round Dilston tower
Looks she for her mate
Seeking him still in each bower and glade
And at each gate.

A poem by the Cumbrian clergyman and versifier Hugh Falconer, included in his Merrie Carlisle And Poems Of Tradition. Richard adapted the words and made a tune. James Radcliffe, Earl of Derwentwater, allied himself to the losing side in the first Jacobite rebellion in 1715, and was beheaded for his treason at the Tower of London the following year. Legend holds that on the night of his execution the Northern Lights were seen above his ancestral home Dilston Hall, near Corbridge, in an unusually brilliant display. Thereafter, the phenomenon became known locally as the Derwentwater Lights. The ghost of Radcliffe's grieving wife is reputed to haunt the castle.

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