A Cradle Song

A Cradle Song

By William Blake

Sweet dreams, form a shade
O’er my lovely infant’s 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, mother’s 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 smiled.
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.

Summary of Cradle Song

  • Popularity of “Cradle Song”: Written in 1789 by William Blake, a renowned English romantic poet, this beautiful lullaby got published the same year. It occurred in his popular collection, Songs of Innocence. Although it is based on its title, its suggestive pull lies in its rhythm balanced through its rhyme scheme and thematic strands. The popularity of the song lies in its love a mother demonstrates for her infant.
  • Cradle Song” As a Representative of Motherly Love: The speaker of this song is a mother who sings these rhymes to her son who is going to sleep in the cradle. The mother is singing this song in her tunes to keep her son staying asleep. She is signing these verses in an exclamatory tone, saying that her baby has a sweet smile that makes angles hover over him. This continues for the entire night until she hears the sweet sighs and moans of her child and sees Jesus in her face, at which she recalls the Maker, or God. She is of the view that her child is peaceful, which means the whole creation is peaceful and sleeping. Yet, she sees how Jesus is the Savior of the world and that His smiles are the smiles of the infants, adding this is how heaven and earth keep peace on this earth.
  • Major Themes in “Cradle Song”: Motherly love, the innocence of infants, the role of Jesus in our lives, and faith in Jesus are major themes of this song. Although this song seems a simple lullaby, Blake has beautifully immersed the theme of motherly love in his religious inclinations. The view of the innocence of children is apparent from the sweet smiles bedecked on the face of the infant. The role of Jesus is clarified through the similarity that the mother finds between her child and Jesus which points to the Maker of this universe, showing how the whole creation appears on the face of the infant. This also shows how Jesus has saved the world and its innocence. This is how Blake has made religion part of the lullabies, giving his poetic output a religious color.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Cradle Song

William Blake’s art not only lies in poetic writing but also in using literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem. Some of the major literary devices in this poem are as follows.

  1. Allusion: This literary device means to use references from culture, history, or philosophy to show the significance of the main idea. The poem uses the allusions of religion, such as the Maker and Jesus.
  2. Anaphora: It means to use the repetition of the words, phrases, or clauses in the beginning of successive verses, such as “Sweet dreams” and “Sweet Sleep” appears several times but not in exact successive verses though they appear intermittently.
  3. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ in “Sweet dreams of pleasant streams” and the sound of /o/ in “Hover over my delight.”
  4. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /s/ in “Sweet Sleep” and “Sweet Smiles.”
  5. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /d/ and /s/ in “Sweet dreams, form a shade” and the sound of /m/ and /s/ in “Sweet smiles, mother’s smiles.”
  6. Enjambment: It is a device in which a verse rolls over to the next without having any pause or punctuation mark. The song shows the use of enjambment, such as;

Sweet babe, in thy face
Holy image I can trace;
Sweet babe, once like thee
Thy Maker lay, and wept for me:

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. William Blake used imagery in this poem, such as “Wept for me, for thee, for all”, “Thou His image ever see” and “Infant smiles are His own smiles.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects that are different in nature. The poet used different metaphors, such as the metaphor of sleep having brows or smiles that hover over the infant or the infant that is the delight of the mother.
  3. Simile: It is a figure of speech for direct comparison to understand the meaning of a thing being compared. For example, the poet used similes such as the sighs are like doves, or moans are beguiling like doves.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as shade, head, beams, night, delight, and smiles to show motherly love.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Cradle Song

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal and poetic diction with a theological touch.
  2. End Rhyme: It means to show end words rhyming with each other. For example, the second stanza shows end rhymes such as down/crown and mild/child.
  3. Quatrain: It is a Persian stanza having four verses. This song has eight quatrains.
  4. Repetition: This poetic device or rhetorical device means to repeat words or phrases for the impact, such as smiles, sleep, and sweet in different verses.
  5. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This song has eight stanzas, with each having four verses.
  6. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a loving, affectionate, and religious tone in different places.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about God and His creation, the heaven and the earth.

Smiles on thee, on me, on all,
Who became an infant small;
Infant smiles are His own smiles;
Heaven and earth to peace beguiles.