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The Night Visiting Song / Adieu Unto All True Lovers

[ Roud 22568 ; G/D 4:783 ; Ballad Index Ord089 ; trad.]

Ray and Archie Fisher sang The Night Visiting Song on their 1961 Topic EP Far Over the Forth. The tracks from this EP were also included in 1965 on the compilation album Bonny Lass Come O'er the Burn. Norman Buchan commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

This is a composite version from field-recordings made by Hamish Henderson. There is a whole series of night-visiting songs in Scotland, ranging from the bawdy, such as The Laird o' Windy Wa's to the tender. This is a particular good version of the latter. An English version, The Grey Cock, but with a supernatural theme, may be found in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Thirty years later, Ray Fisher recorded the Night Visiting Song for a second time for her CD Traditional Songs of Scotland.

John Pearse sang the Night Visiting Song in 1966 on the album Folk Scene: A Selection of Songs from Britain's Finest Folk Music Magazine.

Norman Kennedy sang the Night Visiting Song on his 1968 Topic album Scots Songs and Ballads. This track was also added to the CD reissue of the album The Bird in the Bush: Traditional Songs of Love and Lust. Peter Hall commented in Kennedy's album's sleeve notes:

Before the times of Puritanism in Scotland, it seems the country was quite permissive in sexual matters, and the practice of bundling is still remembered in the Orkney Isles. The custom was to allow a courting couple to be bedded together with sacks tied round the waists to prevent complete consummation of their love, although presumably what could be tied could also be untied. The night visiting songs common to the whole of Northern Europe were a celebration of this practice. The crowing of the cock at the end of the song is not usual in this type of song and probably indicates a fusion with The Grey Cock (Child 248) in which the lover is a visitor from beyond the grave and must, like all such spirits, return before the break.

John Reilly sang Adieu Unto All True Lovers in a recording made by Tom Munnelly in his own home in Dublin in Winter 1967. It was published in 1977 on Reilly's Topic LP The Bonny Green Tree: Songs of an Irish Traveller. Tom Munnelly commented in the album notes:

Dr. Hugh Shields suggests that The Grey Cock was in its earliest form a dawn song related to the Alba of the medieval troubadours. In this form it carried no supernatural elements for the hero and heroine of the narrative were entirely human. The subsequent mutation of some versions of the ballad into revenant form came with its acquisition of verses from supernatural ballads, notably Sweet William’s Ghost.

That the returned lover in this version is back from the grave is evident enough but it is also interesting to record that on asking John to explain the ‘burning temples’ referred to in the final verse he said: “I suppose he was a soul from purgatory and he had to return to it.”

Ellen Mitchell learned I Must Away, Love from Pete Shepheard. She sang it in 2000 or 2001 on her and her husband Kevin's Musical Traditions anthology Have a Drop Mair. (The album notes catalogue this as a variant of Child 248, The Grey Cock, but it fits here better.)

Jack Beck sang The Night Visiting Song in 2001 on his Tradition Bearers CD Half Ower, Half Ower tae Aberdour. He commented in his liner notes:

One [of] a family of songs which reflect the difficulties of courting in rural areas with long distances involved, before the days of modern transport. The reference to the ‘grey cock’ is a remnant from earlier versions of the song where the young man is in fact the ghost of the girl's dead lover and must leave before cock-crow or be doomed to join the ‘un-dead’! My version is based on a recording of Bella Higgins and Andra Stewart made by Hamish Henderson and Kenneth Goldstein in the mid 1950s.

Al O'Donnell learned The Night Visiting Song from Ray Fisher and sang it on his 2008 album Ramble Away, both in a studio and in a live version. This video shows him at Jimmy Crowley's Cork Folk Club at The Windsor LV Hotel, Cork, on June, 28 2012:

Kate Rusby sang The Night Visit in 2014 on her CD Ghost.

Lyrics

Ray and Archie Fisher sing The Night Visiting Song

I must away now, I can no longer tarry,
This morning's tempest I have to cross.
I must be guided without a stumble
Into the arms I love the most.

And when he came to his true love's dwelling
He knelt down gently upon a stone,
And through the window he's whispered lowly
“Is my true lover within at home?”

She's lifted her head from off her down-white pillow,
She's lifted the blankets from off her breast
And through the window she's whispered lowly,
“Who's that disturbing me at my night's rest?”

“Wake up, wake up, love, it is your own true lover,
Wake up, wake up, love, and let me in;
For I am wet, love, and o so weary,
For I am wet, love, into my skin.”

She's raised her up with the greatest of pleasure,
She's raised her up to let him in,
And they were locked in each other's arms
Until the long night was past and gone.

And when the long night was past and over,
And when the small clouds began to grow,
He's ta'en her hand, aye, they've kissed and parted,
Then he's saddled and mounted and away did go.

Norman Kennedy sings The Night Visiting Song

The time has come, I can no longer tarry;
This morning's tempest I must shortly brave
To cross the moors and high towering mountains
Until I'm in the arms of the one I love.

And when he came to his true love's dwelling
He knelt down gently upon a stone
And whispered softly into the window
“Does my own true love lie there alone?”

She lifted her head from off her down-white pillow,
She's lifted the blankets from off her breast
And raised herself up onto an elbow,
“Who's that disturbing me from my night's rest?”

“It's I, it's I, it's I, your own true lover,
Oh open the door, love, and let me in;
For I am wet love and also wearied,
For I am wet love into the skin.”

She raised herself up with the greatest of pleasure,
She's raised her up and she's let him in;
And all night long they rolled in each other's arms
Until the long night was past and gone.

And when the long night was past and over
And when the small cocks began to crow,
He shook her hand, aye, they've kissed and parted.
He's saddles and mounted and away did go.

John Reilly sings Adieu Unto All True Lovers

For here's adieu unto all true lovers
And to my true lover where'er she'll be.
This very night I mean to be with her
Though she is a many a long mile away.

If the night was dark and as dark as a dunghill
And no daylight, love, for to appear,
Saying, “I'll be guided without a stumble
Into the arms of you, my dear.”

Oh, when he came to his own love's cottage
He'd kneel down gently all on a stone,
Through a pane o' glass he had whispered slowly,
“I say, true love, are you all alone?”

“Who's that? Who's that at my bed window
Disturbing me from my long night's rest?”
“Oh, I say, lover, do not discover,
Open the door, love, and let me in.
I say, true lover, do not discover
Besides I'm wet, love, unto the skin.”

Oh, she rose up off her soft down pillow,
Opened the door and let her love in.
Where they both caught hands and they kissed each other;
A welcome night it did soon begin.

They still kept hands and they embraced each other
Until the long night was at an end.
Saying, “ Willie, Willie, where is your flushes?
Where is your flushes you had years ago?”
Saying “Molly Bann, sure cold clay has changed 'em
The raging seas between me and you.”

They still kept hands and they 'braced each other
Until the cocks they begin to crow
And then shook hands and he cried and parted:
“To the burning temples, love, I have to go.”

Ellen Mitchell sings I Must Away, Love

Although the night be as dark as dungeon,
Wi' no' a star tae be seen above,
I will be guided without one stumble
Intae the arms of my ain true love.

He stepped up tae her bedroom window,
He knelt down gently upon a stone,
And through the window he whispered softly,
“My darling dear, do you lie alone?”

She rose up fae her down-white pillow
And threw her arms around her breast.
“Who's that, who's that at my bedroom window,
Disturbing me at my long night's rest?”

“'Tis I, 'tis I, love, it is your ain true lover.
Open the door, love, and let me in,
For I am come on a long night's journey,
And I am drenched now untae the skin.”

She rose up wi' the greatest o' pleasure,
She opened the door and she's let him in,
And then they kissed and embraced each other
Until the long night was past and gone.

And when the long night was past and over,
And all the small cocks began tae crow,
They kissed and parted,
He saddled and bridled,
He sounded his trumpet and away did go.

“I must away, love, I can no longer tarry.
This morning's tempest I hae tae cross,
But I'll be guided without a stumble,
Since I've been in the airms o' the one I love best.”