The Cosmic Joke

X is an Irish ballad in which a hod-carrier born “with a love for the liquor”, falls from a ladder, breaks his skull, and is presumed dead. The mourners at his wake become rowdy, and spill whiskey over his corpse, which brings him back to life. Whiskey (from uisce beatha, meaning “water of life”) thus causes both his death and resurrection.

It is famous for providing the basis of Y’s famous final work, in which this comic resurrection is employed as a symbol of the universal cycle of life.

What are X and Y?

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