> Maddy Prior > Songs > Ring the Bell, Watchman!

Ring the Bell, Watchman!

[ Roud 13630 ; Ballad Index DTringbe ; Bodleian Roud 13630 ; Henry Clay Work (1832-84)]

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band sang Henry Clay Work’s song Ring the Bell, Watchman! on their 2007 CD Ringing the Changes. She commented in their liner notes:

I heard this piece of Victoriana from the singing of Walter Pardon, collected by Mike Yates, but Malcolm [Taylor] from the Vaughan Williams Library at Cecil Sharp House assured me that it goes back much earlier, printed by Such and Disley in London and sung by G.F. Root and Henry Burstow. Others attribute words and music to prolific American songwriter Henry Clay Work (1832-1884).


Maddy Prior sings Ring the Bell, Watchman!

High in the belfry the old sexton stands,
Clasping the rope with his thin bony hands;
Fixed is his gaze as by some magic spell,
Till he hears the distant murmur, ring, ring the bell!

Chorus (after each verse):
Ring the bell, watchman, ring, ring, ring!
Yes, yes the good news is now on the wing;
Gladly they come, and with tidings to tell;
Glorious and blessed tidings, ring, ring the bell!

Up on the hilltop the first signal gun
Thunders the news that some great deed is done.
Up from the valleys the echoing swell,
Ever and anon repeating, ring, ring the bell!

Bonfires are blazing and rockets ascend,
No meagre triumph this tale portends.
Shout, shout my brothers for all, all is well,
Join the universal chorus, ring, ring the bell!


See also the related songs Strike the Bell and Click Go the Shears.