Philipp Nicolai wrote “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” during the bubonic plague. 1300 of his parishioners had recently died of it, and Nicolai was conducting 30 funerals a day. Clearly, we should dust it off and bring it out for this pandemic year.

This is an awesome choral piece arranged by Bach, but I was happy to find the simple arrangement below. This is a very fun song to sing and we rarely hear it like this.

Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying

The United Methodist Hymnal Number 720
Text: Philipp Nicolai, 1556-1608; trans. by Catherine Winkworth, 1827-1878
Music: Philipp Nicolai; harm. by J.S. Bach
Tune: WACHET AUF, Meter: Irr.


1. Wake, awake, for night is flying;
the watchmen on the heights are crying:
Awake, Jerusalem, at last!
Midnight hears the welcome voices
and at the thrilling cry rejoices;
come forth, ye virgins, night is past;
the Bridegroom comes, awake;
your lamps with gladness take:
Alleluia!
And for his marriage feast prepare,
for ye must go and meet him there.

2. Zion hears the watchmen singing,
and all her heart with joy is springing;
she wakes, she rises from her gloom;
for her Lord comes down all-glorious,
the strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her Star is risen; her Light is come.
Ah come, thou blessed One,
God’s own beloved Son:
Alleluia!
We follow till the halls we see
where thou hast bid us sup with thee.

3. Now let all the heavens adore thee,
and saints and angels sing before thee,
with harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;
of one pearl each shining portal,
where we are with the choir immortal
of angels round thy dazzling throne;
nor eye hath seen, nor ear
hath yet attained to hear
what there is ours;
but we rejoice and sing to thee
our hymn of joy eternally.