I am Awake (Tá Mé ‘ Mo Shuí) is a beautiful song I first heard from the band Altan many years ago. It is a very simple traditional tune (the best ones are), that I used to busk on the streets of Chichester many, many years ago. I used to busk for money to buy shoes for my children, not just for beer money – adds to the urgency of it.
The featured image to this post was taken in a place called Brandy Hole Copse in Chichester, West Sussex. It was taken in Autumn and the light that day had a magical quality – I wasn’t sure if I was asleep or awake.
The actual song is about a lovesick heart who can’t sleep thinking of the one they love, keeping them awake at night. Happens to me all the time; my wife is truly gorgeous. So many of the tunes I love have an air of sadness about them. I don’t think I’m generally miserable (you would have to ask my wife and children), but I am deeply moved by this very simple chord progression in this tune.
It really is worth having a listen to Altan’s version of this traditional song found on their album Blackwater, available on iTunes. My version sounds a bit pitiful when compared with theirs – but that’s OK, it’s something I ‘knocked up’ at home and cost me nothing to do.
There are many other versions of this song, including one from Clannad.
The words to ‘I Am Awake’ in English are traditional:
I have not slept since the moon lit the heavens last night
Just setting the fire and stroking the ember to light
The household’s retired and I am left here to sigh
The roosters are crowing all the world is asleep barring I
My soul is enthralled with your mouth your face and your brow
For your sparkling blue eyes I abandoned contentment and glee
Due to longing for you I’m unable to travel the way
Oh friend of my bosom the hills come between me and you
Wise men proclaim that lovesickness can leave one unwell
I did not believe it until my poor heart came under its spell
A malaise in my craze I failed to ignore
With a hundred and more aching pangs it’s pierced my heart to the core
I met a banshee by the Fairyrath near Ballina
I asked her politely if one could be cured of this “grá”
And she answered me kindly in tones so simple and low
“Once it sets in the heart it cannot be freed evermore”