The beautiful words of “The Cradle Song” by William Blake contain much more than the essence of a lullaby. The lullaby is there throughout to be sure, which one can hear in the rocking motion of my music.
But as the lullaby proceeds the music acquires more depth and melancholy, as the mother begins to see in her baby the image of the Christ Child, and eventually all the suffering He endured in order to redeem the fallen world. With this realization she is moved to tears. The rocking motion comes to a halt.
Alone and unaccompanied the chorus then delivers the lyric, “Sweet babe, in thy face Holy image I can trace.” The rocking motion begins again as the mother, still gazing at her child, perceives that through the weakness of the human condition the Christ Child has redeemed the world and the smiles she and we see from His radiant face are smiles of reconciliation and peace. The music ends with quite pleas for peace.
Sweet dreams form a shade,
O'er my lovely infants head.
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams,
By happy silent moony beams
Sweet sleep with soft down.
Weave thy brows an infant crown.
Sweet sleep Angel mild,
Hover o'er my happy child.
Sweet smiles in the night,
Hover over my delight.
Sweet smiles Mothers smiles,
All the livelong night beguiles.
Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes,
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.
Sleep sleep happy child,
All creation slept and smil'd.
Sleep sleep, happy sleep.
While o'er thee thy mother weep
Sweet babe in thy face,
Holy image I can trace.
Sweet babe once like thee.
Thy maker lay and wept for me
Wept for me for thee for all,
When he was an infant small.
Thou his image ever see.
Heavenly face that smiles on thee,
Smiles on thee on me on all,
Who became an infant small,
Infant smiles are His own smiles,
Heaven and earth to peace beguiles.
William Blake (1757-1827)