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"Finnegan's Wake" and "Finnegans Wake"

The song "Finnegan's Wake" and James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" share a symbiotic relationship, with the former serving as both inspiration and thematic precursor to the latter.

"Finnegan's Wake" is a traditional Irish ballad that has woven its way through the fabric of Irish folklore and literature, eventually lending its name and thematic elements to one of the 20th century's most complex literary works: James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake." The song, with its rich narrative and cultural depth, tells the story of Tim Finnegan, a hod carrier who falls from a ladder and is presumed dead, only to be revived by the accidental spill of whiskey over his coffin during the wake.

The origin of the ballad is steeped in the Irish oral tradition, dating back to the 19th century. It captures the Irish community's spirit with its humorous take on death and resurrection, embodying the themes of joy, sorrow, and the inevitable cycle of life. The ballad's popularity has transcended generations, serving as a staple at Irish wakes and celebrations, symbolising the resilience and enduring humor of the Irish spirit in the face of adversity.

James Joyce, a towering figure in modernist literature, drew inspiration from this ballad for his work "Finnegans Wake," published in 1939. While Joyce's book shares a similar name with the song (albeit without the apostrophe, suggesting a more universal theme of awakening rather than belonging to one individual), the connections delve deeper into thematic and structural elements. Joyce's work is renowned for its experimental language, stream-of-consciousness narrative style, and intricate web of allusions to various aspects of culture, history, and mythology. At its core, "Finnegans Wake" explores themes of cyclical rebirth and the fluidity of identity, much like the ballad's narrative of Tim Finnegan's fall and unexpected resurrection.

The connection between the song and Joyce's novel is emblematic of the author's technique of embedding multilayered references within his work, drawing from a wide array of cultural, historical, and literary sources. "Finnegans Wake" itself is a testament to the complexity and richness of language, playing on words and meanings to create a dense, dream-like tapestry that challenges and engages readers in equal measure.

Finnegan's Wake Lyrics

Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin Street
A gentle Irishman, mighty odd
He'd a beautiful brogue so rich and sweet
And to rise in the world he carried a hod
You see he'd a sort of the tipp' lin' way
With the love of the liquor, poor Tim was born
And to help him on with his work each day
He'd a drop of the craythur every morn

Whack fol the da, now, dance to your partner
Welt the floor your trotters shake
Wasn't it the truth I tell you
Lots of fun at Finnegan's wake

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

His friends assembled at the wake
And Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch
First they brought in tay and cake
Then pipes, tobacco and whiskey punch
Biddy O'Brien began to cry
"Such a nice clean corpse did you ever see?
Tim Mavourneen why did you die?"
"Arrah hold your gob" said Paddy McGee

Then Maggie O'Connor took up the job
"O Biddy, " says she "you're wrong I'm sure"
Biddy gave her a belt in the gob
And left her sprawling on the floor
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

Then Mickey Maloney raised his head
When a bucket of whiskey flew at him
It missed and falling on the bed
The liquor scattered over Tim
Tim revives, see how he rises
Timothy rising from the bed
Said "Whirl your whiskey around like blazes
Thundering Jesus, do you think I'm dead?"

Check out information on the Finnegan/Finnigan Surname

Please Note

There is often limited information available on a specific coat of arms and motto for an Irish surname. Sometimes there are many variations, sometimes none, we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection. Please visit our Coat of Arms and Motto page for more information.

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