Gateway to the Classics: Oxford Book of English Verse, Part 1 by Arthur Quiller-Couch
Oxford Book of English Verse, Part 1 by  Arthur Quiller-Couch

A Cradle Song

From The Arbor of Amorous Devices  (1593-4)

Come little babe, come silly soul,

Thy father's shame, thy mother's grief,

Born as I doubt to all our dole,

And to thyself unhappy chief:

Sing lullaby, and lap it warm,

Poor soul that thinks no creature harm.

Thou little think'st and less dost know

The cause of this thy mother's moan;

Thou want'st the wit to wail her woe,

And I myself am all alone:

Why dost thou weep? why dost thou wail?

And know'st not yet what thou dost ail.

Come, little wretch—ah, silly heart!

Mine only joy, what can I more?

If there be any wrong thy smart,

That may the destinies implore:

'Twas I, I say, against my will,

I wail the time, but be thou still.

And dost thou smile? O, thy sweet face!

Would God Himself He might thee see!—

No doubt thou wouldst soon purchase grace,

I know right well, for thee and me:

But come to mother, babe, and play,

For father false is fled away.

Sweet boy, if it by fortune chance

Thy father home again to send,

If death do strike me with his lance,

Yet mayst thou me to him commend:

If any ask thy mother's name,

Tell how by love she purchased blame.

Then will his gentle heart soon yield:

I know him of a noble mind:

Although a lion in the field,

A lamb in town thou shalt him find:

Ask blessing, babe, be not afraid,

His sugar'd words hath me betray'd.

Then mayst thou joy and be right glad;

Although in woe I seem to moan,

Thy father is no rascal lad,

A noble youth of blood and bone:

His glancing looks, if he once smile,

Right honest women may beguile.

Come, little boy, and rock asleep;

Sing lullaby and be thou still;

I, that can do naught else but weep,

Will sit by thee and wail my fill:

God bless my babe, and lullaby

From this thy father's quality.

— Nicholas Breton (?)

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