The Night-Watchman’s Song
|HARK, while I sing! our village clock|
|The hour of Eight, good sirs, has struck.|
|Eight souls alone from death were kept,|
|When God the earth with deluge swept:|
|Unless the Lord to guard us deign,||5|
|Man wakes and watches all in vain.|
|Lord! through thine all-prevailing might,|
| Do thou vouchsafe us a good night!|
A medieval night watchman was responsible for the safety of a city's inhabitants. Even though the citizens who slept soundly at night in their beds trusted him to keep the streets inside the high stone walls safe, his status was less than honorable. His pay was low and his job was a dishonorable one. Only the gravedigger and the executioner were lower. His job was dangerous, because he had to guard the city at night like a policeman.
The good citizens went to bed early. The people that he met on the streets were the drunks and the thieves. To protect himself and to show his authority he carried an intimidating weapon called a hellebarde.
The night watchman made his rounds from nine in the evening until three in the morning, relying on the town hall clock to tell him when to sing his "Hour Song," which reminded the people who slumbered safe in their houses that he was still alive and taking care of them.
The night watchma's horn, carried on a chain around his neck, warned the citizens of fire--the worst possible disaster that could strike a city in the days before fire hydrants. Keeping watch over the streets of the inner city, lighting the lanterns and announcing the hours in the still of the night were the duties of a night watchman