One Night as I Lay on My Bed

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"One Night As I Lay On My Bed" is a traditional folksong.

Synopsis[edit]

A young woman lies in bed thinking of her lover. She hears him tapping at her window, asking to be allowed in. She warns him that her parents will hear them. He replies that they are sound asleep. She lets him in.

Commentary[edit]

The theme of the song is so common in the UK, USA and Canada that the phrase "Night-visiting song" has been coined to cover all possible versions. This category is so huge that even minor variations are classed as being a different song. "Cold Haily Windy Night" has the same story but takes place in the rain. It is Roud 135. "Blow The Candle Out" has the same story but has the discussion taking place inside the bed rather than outside the house. It is classed as Roud 368. In addition there is "The Grey Cock" (Child 248, Roud 179) where the couple are woken by a cock, and "I'm A Rover" (Roud 3135) where alcohol is a significant element.

Historical background[edit]

A fragment of a song in Johnson's "Scots Musical Museum" inspired Robert Burns to write a fuller version, published in 1803.

Cultural relationships[edit]

Romeo and Juliet is the best-known story to contain the theme of a secret sexual liaison.

Standard references[edit]

  • Roud 672
  • Laws M4

Broadsides[edit]

"Drowsy sleeper" in Bodleian 1817.

Textual variants[edit]

The song exists under the titles:

  • Go From My Window
  • The Drowsy Sleeper
  • Farewell to Bonny Galaway
  • Katie Dear
  • Darling Corey

The tune for "Darlin' Corey" (Roud 5723) is similar to one of the tunes for "Drowsy Sleeper". Most versions concern a hard-drinking woman who is fond of moonshine, and avoids hard work. One version, as sung by The Kingston Trio, has the chorus "Wake up, wake up, darlin' Corey. What makes you sleep so sound? The revenue officer's a comin', gonna tear your still house down." This might possibly be a relic of its origins in the song "Who's that Knocking on My Window". It could be considered as a female version of "I'm A Rover".


Literature[edit]

The opening paragraphs of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights might have been inspired by the song, but in this case the lover is a ghost.


Television and movie references[edit]

Sung by Dick Dewey (James Murray) and the rest of the church choir to Fancy Day (Keeley Hawes) in Nicholas Laughland's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Under the Greenwood Tree", 2005.


Recordings[edit]

Album/Single Performer Year Variant Notes
Blue Sky Boys 1938 Katie Dear
Carter Family 1938 Who's That Knocking On My Window
At the Cafe de Paris Marlene Dietrich 1954 Go 'Way from my Window
Singing Family of the Cumberlands Jean Ritchie 1955 Awake Awake Ye Drowsy sleeper
I Wander As I Wander John Jacob Niles 1958 Go 'Way From My Window
Hedy West Hedy West 1963 Awake Awake
Old Love Songs and Ballads Dillard Chandler 1963 Awake Awake
Four Strong Winds Ian and Sylvia 1963 Katie Dear
Joan Baez 5 Joan Baez 1964 Go 'Way From My Window
Early Morning Rain Ian and Sylvia 1965 Awake Ye Drowsy Sleeper
Manchester Angel Ewan MacColl and Peggey Seeger 1966 One Night As I Lay On My Bed
Hark! The Village Wait Steeleye Span 1970 One Night As I Lay On My Bed
Adieu To Old England Shirley Collins 1974 One Night As I Lay On My Bed
Abyssinians June Tabor 1983 One Night As I Lay On My Bed
The Rose in June Louis Killen 1989 One Night As I Lay On My Bed
Voices in Harmony Swan Arcade Go From My window
Lady Diamond Bryony Griffith & Will Hampson 2011 Arise, arise

Musical variants[edit]

  • "Silver Dagger", made famous by Joan Baez, is a related song. (Baez also recorded "Go 'way From My Window")
  • "The Grey Cock" is another night-visiting song.


References[edit]


External links[edit]