Lyrics: I Am Stretched On Your Grave

Sinead O’connor has lifted this song up out of the Celtic songbook, and found the right music in it as well.

Here are the lyrics from Songmeanings:

I am stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

When my family thinks
That I’m safe in my bed
From night until morning
I am stretched at your head

Calling out to the air
With tears hot and wild
My grief for the girl
That I loved as a child

Do you remember
The night we were lost
In the shade of the blackthorn
And the chill of the frost

Thanks be to Jesus
We did what was right
And your maiden head still
Is your pillar of light

The priest and the friars
Approach me in dread
Because I still love you
My love and you’re dead

I still would be your shelter
Through rain and through storm
And with you in your cold grave
I cannot sleep warm

So I’m stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If you hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

This is the most tragic love, somehow frozen eternal by having never been consummated in marriage. The lover longs for the grave to be with the beloved, death and the consummation confused by the circumstance. It is his one true love from childhood. Immortalized too is the night they were lost in the woods, and might have been joined then. The chastity fuses the love, as is the natural intention none are able to achieve, and if they do, is with the help of Grace. Her chastity is her pillar of light ascending.

My apple tree my brightness: the beloved is analogous to the tree of life. “For I smell of the earth and am worn by the weather” is his desire for the consummation of death strangely confused with his love. He knows he is lost or gone, or is sane enough to see that it is extraordinary that when his family thinks he is safely in bed, he is stretched out on her grave. The priests and the friars approach him in dread, because he still loves her, although she is dead. He is outside the comprehension of the spiritual community in madness of his love, those who ought understand these things. The lyric is a monument to this alienation, despair and a condition that cannot be known and shared except through lyric poetry.

As in Romeo and Juliet, the lovers, in their condition, cannot see that one cannot be with the beloved in any case, and the best legacy is to suffer on. Juliet might have been whisked away by a more responsible Friar, and had one been there to get the back of Romeo in his love, Juliet might have awakened and been raptured to Mantua!

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