Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying

Tune: Wachet auf

Downloads: Booklet

Of the voice at midnight, and of the wise virgins, who go to meet their heavenly Bridegroom, Matt. 25.

  1. Wake, awake, for night is flying,”
    The watchmen on the heights are crying;
    “Awake, Jerusalem, arise!”
    Midnight hears the welcome voices
    And at the thrilling cry rejoices:
    “Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise?
    The Bridegroom comes, awake!
    Your lamps with gladness take!
    With bridal care
    Yourselves prepare
    To meet the Bridegroom, who is near.”

  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 ris’n, her Light is come.
    “Now come, Thou worthy Crown,
    Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,
    Hail! Hosanna!
    The joyful call
    We answer all
    And follow to the nuptial hall.”

  3. Gloria to Thee is ringing,
    With tongues of men and angels singing,
    With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone.
    Of twelve pearls the shining portals,
    Where, dwelling with the blest immortals,
    We gather round Thy radiant throne.
    No eye hath e’er beheld,
    No ear hath heard the swell
    Of such glory;
    Therefore will we
    Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee.

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
Philipp Nicolai, 1599
Tr. Catherine Winkworth, alt.

Note: The letters in bold form a reverse acrostic: WZG, Graf zu Waldeck, a student of hymn writer Philipp Nicolai’s who died of the plague at the age of 15.

German Text

Tune: Wachet auf

Von der Stimm zu Mitternacht, und von den klugen Jungfrauen, die ihrem himmlischen Bräutigam begegnen, Matt. 25.

  1. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
    Der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne,
    Wach auf, du Stadt Jerusalem!
    Mitternacht heißt diese Stunde,
    Sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde:
    Wo seid ihr klugen Jungfrauen?
    Wohlauf, der Bräutgam kömmt,
    Steht auf, die Lampen nehmt!
    Macht euch bereit
    Zu der Hochzeit,
    Ihr müsset ihm entgegen gehn.

  2. Zion hört die Wächter singen,
    Das Herz tut ihr für Freuden springen,
    Sie wacht und stehet eilend auf.
    Ihr Freund kommt vom Himmel prächtig,
    Von Gnaden stark, von Wahrheit mächtig,
    Ihr Licht wird hell, ihr Stern geht auf.
    Nun komm, du werte Kron,
    Herr Jesu, Gottes Sohn!
    Wir folgen all
    Zum Freudensal
    Und halten mit das Abendmahl.

  3. Gloria sei dir gesungen
    Mit Menschen– und englischen Zungen,
    Mit Harfen und mit Cymbeln schön.
    Von zwölf Perlen sind die Pforte
    An deiner Stadt, wir sind Konsorten*)
    Der Engel hoch um deinen Thron.
    Kein Aug hat je gespürt,
    Kein Ohr hat mehr gehört
    Solche Freude;
    Des sind wir froh,
    I-o, i-o,
    Ewig in dulci jubilo.**)
    *) Genossen. **) in süßem Jubel.

Philipp Nicolai, 1599
Source: C.F.W. Walther’s Kirchen-Gesangbuch, No. 436 (cf. No. 484, “neue Form”)

Note: The letters in bold form a reverse acrostic: WZG, Graf zu Waldeck, a student of hymn writer Philipp Nicolai’s who died of the plague at the age of 15.


“Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme),” the “King of Chorales,” was published by Philipp Nicolai in 1599, together with “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star (Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern),” the “Queen of Chorales,” in his devotional book, Frewdenspiegel deß ewigen Lebens (Joyful Mirror of Eternal Life). The circumstance was a terrible plague that was ravaging his parish. Nicolai’s devotions, together with the concluding hymns, were intended for the consolation of those for whom death was a constant reality.

"Wachet auf" as it first appeared in Philipp Nicolai's devotional book, Frewdenspiegel deß ewigen Lebens

“Wachet auf” as it first appeared in Philipp Nicolai’s devotional book, Frewdenspiegel deß ewigen Lebens

There is little doubt that Nicolai himself is the composer of the tune, which is as essential to the power of the hymn as the text itself. The tune as it originally appeared evinced some rhythmical awkwardness, and within the next five years two slightly simplified and much more singable versions arose. These and variants based upon them became standard in the Lutheran chorale tradition. The version of the melody found in The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, No. 609, inherited from earlier German sources in the Missouri Synod tradition, has been chosen in a slightly modified form for the Free Lutheran Chorale-Book. The translation found in The Lutheran Hymnal and, with slight modifications, the Lutheran Service Book, 2006, No. 516, is an altered version of the 1863 translation by Catherine Winkworth, which is a model of German hymn translation, balancing fidelity to the source material with English poetic expression. The translation has been only slightly modified for the Free Lutheran Chorale-Book to conform more closely to the scriptural language of Nicolai’s German. Also preserved in the Free Lutheran Chorale-Book is the reverse acrostic found in the original: the three stanzas begin with the letters W (“Wachet“), Z (“Zion“), and G (“Gloria“), which stand for Graf zWaldeck (Count of Waldeck), a student of Nicolai’s who perished during the plague at the age of 15.

The text and music here provided are in the public domain and may be freely used and reproduced for any purpose whatever. They are offered with the prayer that they may serve for the edification of Christian people everywhere.