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Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvia)

22 Jan 00 - 11:27 PM (#167009)
Subject: Ian & Sylvia version of 'Drowsy Sleeper'
From: GUEST,LauraB

Looking for the Ian & Sylvia version of this traditional song. They sing, "Awake, awake, you drowsy sleeper/How can you lie & slumber so..." I searched the database & found a trad. version, but it's not the one I want. Anyone have the lyrics?

25 Jan 00 - 05:13 PM (#168264)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ian & Sylvia version of 'Drowsy Slee
From: GUEST,LauraB

Doesn't anyone know this song? Or a similar version? I had the album as a kid - don't know what happened to it :(

25 Jan 00 - 06:33 PM (#168300)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ian & Sylvia version of 'Drowsy Slee
From: Marymac90

Dear Laura B,

Weeeelllll, if my ex didn't take the vinyl when he left, and if it's not all scratched up beyond recognition, and if if the ol' victrola will work when I crank 'er up, and if the snow doesn't melt all at once and flood me out of here, and if the 'lectric wires don't ice up and fall, and if the computer doesn't crash, and if I DON'T FORGET!, then I oughta be able to transcribe it off the vinyl. But just in case I forget, or some UNFORSEEN emergency comes up, message or email me at to remind me.

Stay warm-it's blustery out there! (Who remembers Mr. Bluster???)


25 Jan 00 - 08:53 PM (#168366)
Subject: Lyr Add: AWAKE YE DROWSY SLEEPERS (Ian & Sylvia)
From: raredance

Well here's one old folkie who kept his complete collection of Ian & Sylvia. The album is "Early Morning Rain" (Vanguard VSD-79175, all of Ian & Sylvia's Vanguard albums have been reissued on CD) On the line notes they say they learned the song from Jean Ritchie. I checked the Jean Ritchie "Folksong of the Southern Appalachians" book but it was not there. My reason for that is there is one word that I am not sure of (there could be others I have wrong, but I am sure of those). The song overlaps the Katy Dear, Silver Dagger family, but doesn't seem to be the same because the threatened dagger action never happens. Dorothy Scarborough in "A Song Catcher In the Southern Mountains" lists four different texts ( none of which directly solve my missing word from the I & S recording) and says that the song is an Irish ballad. Her texts are variously titled: Katy Dear, or Willie Daarling; Mollie Dear Go Ask Your Mother; Drowsy Sleeper; and Little Willie. Cecil Sharp includes it under the title "Arise Arise". The Brown collection of North Carolina folklore has 5 texts or text fragments. ONe of those called "Bessie and Charlie" is really the Silver Dagger song replete with the reqisite plungins of daggers into lily-white breasts.


Awake awake you drowsy sleeper
How can you lie and slumber so
When your true love is a going to leave you
And never to return any more.

How can you slumber on your pillow?
When your true love must stand and wait
And must I go and wear the willow
In sorrow mourning for your sake.

O Molly deal go ask your father
If you my ??, my bride can be
And then return and quickly tell me
An I no more shall trouble thee

O no I cannot ask my father
He's lying on his bed of rest
And in his hand is a silver dagger
To pierce the one that I love best

Down in yon valley there grows a green yarrow
I wish that yarrow shot through my breast
It would end my dream, it would end my sorrow
And set my troubled heart at rest

rich r

31 May 00 - 07:17 PM (#236575)
Subject: ADD Version: DROWSY SLEEPER
From: GUEST,Jean M.

There is also a version that goes like this:


Arise, arise, you slumbering sleeper,
Arise, arise, 'tis almost day,
Open your doors, your doors, and windows,
And hear what your tru lover does say.

O, who is this, that knocks at my window,
And speaks my name, so familiarly?
'Tis James, 'tis James, your own true lover,
Who wants to speak one word with thee.

Go away from my window, you'll waken my father,
He's lying down, ataking his rest,
In his hand he holds a weapon,
To kill the one that my heart loves best.

Go away from window, you'll waken my mother,
Such tales of love she scorns to hear,
Better go court, go court some other,
She softly whispered in her loves' ear.

I won't go court, go court some other,
By what I say I mean no harm,
I want to win you from your father,
And rest you in a true lovers arms.

This is on a CD that I bought at Maryland Renaissance Festival. "I Feel My Heart Fly" by Darcy Nair-Bond

31 May 00 - 07:24 PM (#236578)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ian & Sylvia version of 'Drowsy Slee

Thanks, Laura B. I just went through my old recordings to see if I could help you. Now I am listening to "Four Strong Winds" and am 16 again.

31 May 00 - 07:57 PM (#236593)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ian & Sylvia version of 'Drowsy Slee
From: Stewie

There are 2 early recordings of this in Yazoo's excellent 2000 series. The first is by Charlie Oaks, a 1920s street busker from Knoxville. It's on 'Times Ain't What They Used to Be Vol 1' Yazoo 2028. This version is of the 'Katy Dear', 'Silver Dagger' song complex. The second is an interesting variant by Wilmer Watts and His Lonely Eagles from North Carolina. This is titled 'Sleepy Desert' and is on 'Times Ain't What They Used to Be Vol 3' Yazoo 2047.

I first encountered 'Drowsy Sleeper' from an old Mark Spoelstra album. Whatever happened to him? Does he still perform?


01 Jun 00 - 03:44 PM (#236990)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ian & Sylvia version of 'Drowsy Slee
From: GUEST,Flawn

The transcript shown above jibes with my memory, with one exception:

I think in the final stanza the line is,

"It will end my grief, it will end my sorrow"

For many folkies this Ian & Sylvia recording was their first introduction to wide-interval parallel harmony. The chill has never quite subsided!

07 Apr 03 - 10:45 PM (#928343)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE DROWSY SLEEPER (from Bodleian)
From: Jim Dixon

There's an impressive list of recorded variants of this song at a site belonging to the band The Bluegrass Messengers. Here's the oldest version on that list, from the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, Harding B 28(233). Here's my transcription, with the punctuation modernized somewhat:

(c. 1817)

"Awake, awake, ye drowsy sleeper.
Awake, awake! 'Tis almost day.
How can you sleep, my charming creature,
Since you have stole my heart away?"

"Begone, begone! You will awake my mother.
My father he will quickly hear.
Begone, begone, and court some other,
But whisper softly in my ear."

Her father hearing the lovers talking,
Nimbly jumped out of bed.
He put his head out of the window,
But this young man quickly fled.

"Turn back, turn back! Don't be called a rover.
Jemmy, turn back, and sit you by my side.
You may stay while his passion's over.
Jemmy, I will be your lovely bride."

"O daughter, daughter, I will confine you.
Jemmy he shall go to sea,
And you may write your truelove a letter,
As he may read it when far away."

"O father, pay me down my portion,
Which is five thousand pounds, you know,
And I'll cross the wide watery ocean,
Where all the hills are covered with snow."

"No, I will not pay down your portion,
Which is five thousand pounds, I know;
Nor you shan't cross the wide watery ocean,
Where the hills are covered with snow.

"O daughter, daughter, I will confine you,
And all within your private room;
And you shall live upon bread and water
Once a day, and that at noon."

"No, I will have none of your bread and water,
Nor nothing else that you have.
If I can't have my heart's desire,
Single I will go to my grave."

07 Apr 03 - 11:00 PM (#928350)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvia)

The 1817 "The Drowsy Sleeper", Harding B 28(233) was posted 22 Aug 02 in thread 35233. Drowsy Sleeper

08 Apr 03 - 12:32 AM (#928406)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvia)
From: Jim Dixon

Aaargh! I kinda wish you hadn't told me that...

08 Apr 03 - 12:47 AM (#928414)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvia)
From: Malcolm Douglas

Best not to revive old, dead threads when others exist which deal with the subject more comprehensively. It's hard enough to keep track of useful information as it is.

08 Apr 03 - 01:33 PM (#928779)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvia)
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)

...but, as it has been revived: Published in SINGING FAMILY OF THE CUMBERLANDS, J. Ritchie, 1955. Original publisher, Oxford University Press. Book now available in some stores, and on my website.

I also recorded it on one of my old lps- forget which, and it's no longer available. I learned it from my Dad and Uncle Jason Ritchie. Dad wasn't sure of the tune but knew the words. Jason sang it quite confidently but on each succeeding verse, the melody varied...asked about it, he dismissed the question with a 'pshaw!' and a comment that tunes were not important- any old tune would do! I took from his singing what to me were the best elements of the melody, sang it over a few times, added a few notes of my own, here and there, and came out with the tune which Ian & Sylvia used, and which I claim as my own. It DOES have wonderful harmonies, doesn't it? I was pleased with their singing. They were friends, and we were together on many stages...they were on my ballad workshop at one of the Newport Festivals, I remember.

08 Apr 03 - 01:50 PM (#928800)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvi
From: Allan C.

Thank you, Jean, for having made it available in the form Ian & Sylvia used. I have always thought it was the best song they ever did.

08 Apr 03 - 02:15 PM (#928815)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvia)

Getting very difficult to keep track of the threads on Drowsy Sleeper and its progeny, legitimate and illegitimate.

So far I have found threads 766, 1817, 2141, 7379, 14739, 17334, 22105, 35233, 50807, 52328, 56877.

Thread 35233 is the most informative.

08 Apr 03 - 03:29 PM (#928877)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvia)
From: Mudlark

Thanks, Jean, for your input. I still have the album, still listen, and it is one of my favorite songs/harmonies too.

Sign me someone who DOES think the tune matters!

09 Mar 15 - 06:21 PM (#3692718)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Awake Ye Drowsy Sleepers (Ian & Sylvia)
From: GUEST,Claude Soffel

I agree, "it would end my grief..." Is right. Still looking for the line prior to " bride can be."