“The Drowsy Sleeper”


A young man comes to his love's window and bids her ask her parents' permission to marry him. They will refuse it; her father is prepared to kill him. Depending on the version, he leaves, or one or the other lover (or both) commits suicide or die of grief


I put [the Silber "Don't Sing Love Songs" text] under "Drowsy Sleeper" rather than "Silver Dagger" because, although a dagger is mentioned, no one uses it. - PJS

In the absence of any other basis, this is a good criterion. The two songs have cross-fertilized heavily; drawing the line can be extremely difficult, especially for fragmentary forms. - RBW

Broadside Bodleian Harding B 28(233): she refuses bread and water; "single I will go to my grave." Broadside Bodleian Firth c.17(25): she says she will go to Botany Bay to be with Jim and asks for her portion of 500 pounds; father gives in and says "you and your true love shall be married, And that will ease you of all your pain." - BS

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 17(183a), "The Maidens Complaint ," T. Birt (London), 1828-1829; also Firth c.17(25), "Awake, Drowsy Sleeper"; Harding B 28(233), "The Drowsy Sleeper"; Harding B 25(452), "Cruel Father" or "The Maiden's Complaint"


  • Dillard Chandler, "Awake, Awake" (on OldLove)
  • Lester A. Coffee, "Awake, Arise, You Drowsy Sleeper" (AFS, 1946; on LC55)
  • Kelly Harrell, "O! Molly Dear Go Ask Your Mother" (Victor 20280, 1926; on KHarrell01 -- with several verses from "East Virginia" inserted in the song)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Little Satchel" (on NLCR17, NLCRCD2)
  • Oaks Family, "Wake Up You Drowsy Sleeper" Victor 23795, 1933; on TimesAint01, KMM)
  • Ken Peacock, "Who Is At My Window Weeping?" (on NFKPeacock)
  • B. F. Shelton, "Oh Molly Dear" (Victor V-40107, 1929; on ConstSor1)
  • Wilmer Watts & the Lonely Eagles, "Sleepy Desert" (Paramount 3282, 1931; on TimesAint03)


  1. Laws M4, "The Drowsy Sleeper"
  2. Belden, pp. 118-123, "Bedroom Window (The Drowsy Sleeper)" (6 texts plus two fragments which might float, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph 52, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (6 texts, 3 tunes)
  4. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 83-85, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 52D)
  5. Eddy 31, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (3 texts plus a fragment, 4 tunes)
  6. Gardner/Chickering 22, "Who Is Tapping at My Bedroom Window?" (1 text plus an excerpt and mention of 3 more, 2 tunes; some of the unprinted texts may have "Silver Dagger" elements)
  7. BrownII 71, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (2 texts plus 3 excerpts; the "B" text is a "Silver Dagger" mix; the "D" excerpt contains "Fair and Tender Ladies" verses)
  8. Chappell-FSRA 45, "Wake Up" (2 texts)
  9. Hudson 46, pp. 161-162, "Willie and Mary" (1 text); also 37, pp. 151-152, "Annie Girl" (1 text, which conflates 2 verses of "The Drowsy Sleeper" [Laws M4], 2 or 3 of "Wheel of Fortune (Dublin City, Spanish Lady)" or "No, John, No: or similar, and 3 verses probably of "Pretty Fair Maid (The Maiden in the Garden; The Broken Token)" [Laws N42])
  10. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 139-142, collectively titled "Awak! Awake!" but with inidividual titles "Katy Dear, or Willie Darling," ""Mollie Dear, Go Ask Your Mother," "Drowsy Sleepers," Little Willie" (4 texts; 2 tunes on p. 399)
  11. Doerflinger, p. 314, "Who's That at My Bedroom Window? (The Drowsy Sleeper)" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Brewster 28, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (2 texts plus a fragment and mention of 3 more, 2 tunes)
  13. Greenleaf/Mansfield 24, "Drowsy Sleeper" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Peacock, pp. 733-734, "Who Is At My Window Weeping?" (1 text, 1 tune)
  15. Mackenzie 30, "Who Is At My Bedroom Window?" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. Leach, pp. 727-730, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (2 texts)
  17. FSCatskills 51, "Awake, Awake, Ye Drowsy Sleepers" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  18. Warner 188, "Wake, O Wake, You Drowsy Sleeper" (1 text, 1 tune)
  19. McNeil-SFB1, pp. 72-73, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (1 text, 1 tune)
  20. SharpAp 57, "Awake! Awake!" (10 texts, 10 tunes)
  21. Sharp-100E 47, "Arise, Arise" (1 text, 1 tune)
  22. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 46, "Arise! Arise!" (1 text, 1 tune, from different informants)
  23. Sandburg, p. 144, "Kind Miss" (1 short text, 1 tune, primarily "Wheel of Fortune" but with one verse of "The Drowsy Sleeper")
  24. Ritchie-SingFam, pp. 200-201, "[Drowsy Sleeper]" (1 text, 1 tune)
  25. SHenry H722, pp. 343-344, "The Sweet Bann Water" (1 text, 1 tune, erroneously listed in the text as Laws M34)
  26. Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 549-550, "The Shining Dagger" (1 text, 1 tune)
  27. LPound-ABS, 21, pp. 51-52, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (1 text; the second text is perhaps influenced by "The Silver Dagger")
  28. JHCox 348, "The Drowsy Sleeper" (2 texts)
  29. Darling-NAS, pp. 114-115, "Awake, Awake, My Old True Lover" (1 text); also pp. 115-116, "Oh, Molly Dear" (1 text, very mixed, with verses from this song, from "East Virginia, and some floaters); also pp. 116-117, "Who's That Knocking" (1 text, even more mixed and with a "Little Sparrow" verse)
  30. Silber-FSWB, p. 193, "Don't Sing Love Songs" (1 text)
  32. Roud #402
  33. BI, LM04


Alternate titles: “Silver Dagger”; “Awake, Awake”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1830 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 17(183a))
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf) Britain(Scotland)