• Soprano, Tenor
  • 9 min
  • Sir Thomas Browne, Julian of Norwich

Programme Note

John Joubert: Sleep Canticle

This was written by John Joubert for the 1974 Conference of the National Federation of Gramophone Societies in Norwich. The texts are drawn from the two famous Norwich writers, the lady Julian (1343-1443) and Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82). Browne's two verses - from the poem in Religio Medici beginning: 'The night is come, like to the day' - are set for all the voices, the prose that frames them set as a tenor solo, sung by Gordon Pullin. Julian's words, overriding the verse ends, are given to a solo soprano, Alison Furniss.


We term sleep a death; and yet it is waking that kills us, and destroys those spirits which are the house of life. It is that death by which we may be literally said to dye daily; a death which Adam dyed before his mortality; a death whereby we live a middle and moderating point between life and death: in fine, so like death, I dare not trust it without my prayers, and an half adieu unto the World, and take my farewell in a Colloquy with GOD.

Sleep is a death; O make me try
By sleeping, what it is to die;
And gently lay my head
On my grave, as now my bed.

These are my drowsie days; in vain
I do now wake to sleep again:
O come that hour, when I shall never
Sleep again, but wake for ever.

This is the Dormative I take to bedward;
I need no other Laudanum than this to make
me sleep; after which I close mine eyes in
security, content to take my leave of the
Sun, and sleep unto the Resurrection.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82)

And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Julian of Norwich (1343-1443)