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Awake Awake

[ Roud 2111 ; Ballad Index Leath194 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins sang Awake Awake on her 2016 album Lodestar where she commented in her album notes:

Awake Awake is a fascinating survival of the penitential song written in 1580 by ballad-writer Thomas Deloney, when the Great Earthquake in London toppled part of old St Paul’s Cathedral, Deloney taking it as a sign of God’s displeasure. Over three hundred years later, in 1909, Ralph Vaughan Williams noted down this version from the singing of Mrs Caroline Bridges of Pembridge and it’s in Mary Ellen Leather’s The Folk-Lore of Herefordshire (1912). A remarkable journey down through those many years.


Shirley Collins sings Awake Awake

Awake, awake sweet England, sweet England now awake
And to your prayers obediently, and to your souls partake.
For our Lord, our God, is calling all in the skies so clear,
So repent, repent sweet England, for dreadful days draw near.
Let us pray, and to the living Lord, let us pray.

It’s woe unto the women who great with child do go,
Likewise their silly nurses as they give suck also.
For there’s never any man so stout, nor man nor woman goes gay
But death will rot your bones and your flesh will melt away.
Let us pray, and to the living Lord, let us pray.

Today you may be here, dear man, with many a thousand pounds,
Tomorrow you’ll be dead and gone and buried underground.
O with one stone at your head, dear man, another at your feet,
Your good deeds and your bad deeds will all together meet.
Let us pray, and to the living Lord, let us pray.