A Cradle Song: by William Blake - Summary and Analysis

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A Cardle Song

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 smile,
All the livelong night beguile.

Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thine eyes!
Sweet moan, sweeter smile,
All the dovelike moans beguile.

Sleep, sleep, happy child!
All creation slept and smiled.
Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,
While o’er thee doth 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 and Analysis

       'A Cradle Song' is a lullaby. A lullaby is a song sung to charm a child into slumber. Obviously, this poem has a touch of maternal affection and tenderness. Though the repeated, structurally careless use of 'beguiles' may be felt monotonous, it is a rhythmic piece with a religious colour.

'A Cradle Song' commences addressing dreams, sleep and smiles to hover over the sleeping boy so as to guard him against any disquieting perturbation.
A Cradle Song


      'A Cradle Song' commences addressing dreams, sleep and smiles to hover over the sleeping boy so as to guard him against any disquieting perturbation. The mother prays for pleasant dreams for her child, such dreams that provide the sights of streams drenched in moonlight. The Angel of Sleep is next implored to guard over the child by weaving a soft, balmy feathery infant crown and thus making his sleep sound and safe. The mother wishes for sweet infant smiles in his face which will help her redress and outlive all the other trivial human cares and worries. The first three stanzas containing the mother's sincere and motherly feelings strike a slight note of pathos. In the fourth stanza the mother is anxious over the smiles and moans of her child in course of his sleep. She prays to them not to harass the slumber of the infant. Sweet moans and sweeter smiles are asked to pacify or attenuate the (unavoidable) moans of her child. It is in the fifth stanza that the reader can sense a turning point which almost frankly suggests the note of pathos. It is all the more evident in the lines:

"Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,

While o'er thee thy mother weep."

      From Stanza 6 Onwards the poem assumes a religious appeal in which the mother beholds the 'Holy image' of Christ in the face of her child. And then she turns to equate the 'weeping' of her child with that of Christ's and by the end of the poem she attains her heights of comparison between the child and Christ and thus exhorts the Christian religion. She says that like her child Christ also wept. though for another end. Christ wept in compassion to see the sufferings and tribulations of mankind whom he perceived as sinners. The mother, looking at the child's innocent face. presumes that ner child sees the image of Christ always. In the last stanza the smile of the child converges into the smile of the Infant Jesus which brought peace and tranquility into heaven and earth.

      Perhaps, it is in The Little Black Boy that the chord of sadness has been first struck before this poem. But like 'The Little blake Boy' this poem too culminates in an affirmation of child is innocence and God's benevolence.

      The Most Pathetic Stanzas so far, Blake's world of innocence was not the least desecrated by tears of sorrow except for the 'The Little Black Boy'. In 'A Cradle song' though the mother is thoroughly conscious of her child's comfort in course of his sleep. in the innermost of her heart she keeps some hidden, suppressed sorrow which finds vent through her words:

"Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,

While o'er thee thy mother weep."

      It is quite usual that a child, during his sleep lets out soft sighs and indistinct smiles. But the mother senses something untoward and prays for the help of sweet moans and sweeter smiles to cover the dove-like moan of her child. Nevertheless, she wishes a happy sleep to her child and simultaneously sheds tear. May be this is because of her intuitive awareness of the future oppression in life, perhaps social taboos which will suppress the individuality of the developing child in the world of experience.

The Infant and Jesus:

      Having been in touch with Blake's world of innocence so long it is not difficult for us to realise that Christ and the child often hold a bilateral linkage, the link being that of innocence. This bilateral tie is further brought into the world of human beings and is used to encompass the whole world. Here in 'A Cradle Song' the child and his infantile smile and weeping are aptly compared to the smiles and weeping of Christ. However christ wept from the pain and pity that struck his heart on viewing his fellow beings suffer and sin. Similarly, Christ's smile, which in other words implies his blessing. redeemed many from the sloughs of sin and showered happiness and peace everywhere. So the mother prays for the vision of Jesus Christ for her child. The smile of the child is, in the end of the poem, described as Christ's own smile which was pacifying, soothing, and attenuating. Thus. the poem is something more than a mother's yearnings for her child's consolation: it is marvellously embroidered with manifold aspects of Christ-Christ the Saviour, Christ as infant Jesus, and Christ as the apostle of peace and salvation. As Northrop Frye says: For Blake there is no God but Jesus, who is also man and who exists neither like the historical Jesus, nor in the future like the Jewish Messiah, but now in a real present.

The Sexual Implication:

 A critic of Blake's poems has gone deeper into 'A Cradle Song and has offered a new outlook. 'Thy Maker', as he points out, has an implication to the father of the child. The critic holds that Blake suggests the love shown by the child's father during his sexual intercourse with the mother. The weeping of the mother is also supposed to be her weeping at the climax of procreation after which the father becomes a small infant beguiled into peace when "all creation slept and smiled". On the face of her child the mother beholds the image of its father. This is, indeed, a far-fetched though ingenious reading of 'A Cradle Song'.

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