Sunday, 18 December 2011

Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber

Last year around Christmas I was interested in (and posted here) a number of medieval lullaby carols. It's a genre I find particularly moving, I think because it's so personal and intimate; not having my own baby to sing lullabies to, I'll have to be content with the carols! So I'm going to post a few later examples this Christmas season, starting with this, which is known as 'Watts' Cradle Song'. It was written by Isaac Watts but seems to have entered folk tradition, set to this tune; in that form it was collected by Vaughan Williams in Northumberland.

Seven verses of Watts' fourteen are included in The Oxford Book of Carols, but with the assistance of Google Books, I've included four more (nos. 5-7 and 11 here) because I like them.

1. Hush! my dear, lie still and slumber;
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently falling on thy head.

2. Sleep, my babe; thy food and raiment,
House and home, thy friends provide,
All without thy care and payment,
All thy wants are well supplied.

3. How much better thou'rt attended
Than the Son of God could be
When from heaven he descended
And became a child like thee.

4. Soft and easy is thy cradle;
Coarse and hard thy Saviour lay,
When his birthplace was a stable
And his softest bed was hay.

5. Blessed Babe! What glorious features,
Spotless fair, divinely bright!
Must he dwell with brutal creatures?
How could angels bear the sight?

6. Was there nothing but a manger
Cursed sinners could afford
To receive the heavenly stranger?
Did they thus affront their Lord?

7. Soft, my child, I did not chide thee,
Though my song might sound too hard;
'Tis thy mother sits beside thee
And her arms shall be thy guard.

8. See the lovely Babe a-dressing;
Lovely Infant, how he smiled!
When he wept, the mother's blessing
Soothed and hushed the holy Child.

9. Lo, he slumbers in his manger,
Where the horned oxen fed;
Peace, my darling! here's no danger;
Here's no ox a-near thy bed.

10. Mayst thou live to know and fear him,
Trust and love him all thy days:
Then go dwell for ever near him,
See his face and sing his praise.

11. I could give thee thousand kisses,
Hoping what I most desire;
Not a mother's fondest wishes
Can to greater joys aspire.

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