Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby
By Richard Rowlands (c. 1550–1640)
 
UPON 1 my lap, my Sovereign sits,
  And sucks upon my breast;
Meanwhile his love sustains my life,
  And gives my body rest.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,        5
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
When thou hast taken thy repast,
  Repose, my babe, on me.
So may thy mother and thy nurse,
  Thy cradle also be.        10
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
I grieve that duty doth not work
  All that my wishing would,
Because I would not be to thee        15
  But in the best I should.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
Yet as I am and as I may,
  I must and will be thine,        20
Though all too little for thyself
  Vouchsafing to be mine.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
My wits, my words, my deeds, my thoughts,        25
  And else what is in me,
I rather will not wish to use,
  If not in serving thee.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.        30
 
My babe, my bliss, my child, my choice,
  My fruit, my flower, and bud,
My Jesus, and my only joy,
  The sum of all my good.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,        35
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
My sweetness, and the sweetest most
  That heaven could earth deliver,
Soul of my love, spirit of my life,
  Abide with me for ever.        40
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
Live still with me, and be my love,
  And death will me refrain,
Unless thou let me die with thee,        45
  To live with thee again.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
Leave now to wail, thou luckless wight
  That wrought’st thy race’s woe,        50
Redress is found, and foilèd is
  Thy fruit-alluring foe.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
The fruit of death from Paradise        55
  Made the exiled mourn;
My fruit of life to Paradise
  Makes joyful thy return.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.        60
 
Grow up, good fruit be nourished by
  These fountains two of me,
That only flow with maiden’s milk,
  The only meat for thee.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,        65
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
The earth has now a heaven become,
  And this base bower of mine,
A princely palace unto me,
  My son doth make to shine.        70
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
His sight gives clearness to my sight,
  When waking I him see,
And sleeping, his mild countenance        75
  Gives favour unto me.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
When I him in mine arms embrace,
  I feel my heart embraced,        80
Even by the inward grace of his,
  Which he in me hath placed.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
And when I kiss his loving lips,        85
  Then his sweet-smelling breath
Doth yield a savour to my soul,
  That feeds love, hope, and faith.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.        90
 
The shepherds left their keeping sheep,
  For joy to see my lamb;
How may I more rejoice to see
  Myself to be the dam.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,        95
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
Three kings their treasures hither brought
  Of incense, myrrh, and gold;
The heaven’s treasure, and the king
  That here they might behold.        100
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
One sort an angel did direct,
  A star did guide the other,
And all the fairest son to see        105
  That ever had a mother.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
This sight I see, this child I have,
  This infant I embrace,        110
O endless comfort of the earth,
  And heaven’s eternal grace.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
Thee sanctity herself doth serve,        115
  Thee goodness doth attend,
Thee blessedness doth wait upon,
  And virtues all commend.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.        120
 
Great kings and prophets wishèd have
  To see that I possess,
Yet wish I never thee to see,
  If not in thankfulness.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,        125
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy;
 
Let heaven and earth, and saints and men,
  Assistance give to me,
That all their most concurring aid
  Augment my thanks to thee.        130
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
And let the ensuing blessèd race,
  Thou wilt succeeding raise,
Join all their praises unto mine,        135
  To multiply thy praise.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
And take my service well in worth,
  And Joseph’s here with me,        140
Who of my husband bears the name,
  Thy servant for to be.
    Sing, lullaby, my little boy,
    Sing, lullaby, my livës joy.
 
Note 1. Richard Rowlands entered Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1565, but being a zealous Catholic he declined the essential tests, and left without a degree. He removed, soon after this, to Antwerp, and abandoning his English name, assumed the surname of his Dutch grandfather, Verstegen. In Antwerp he set up a press; wrote books, some of the cuts for which he engraved with his own hand; and acted as agent for the transmission of Catholic literature and letters between England, Spain, Rome, and the Netherlands. The date of his birth and of his death is unknown, but he was living in Antwerp in 1620. Four stanzas appeared in Martin Peerson’s Private Music, 1620. Most anthologies give only the first three stanzas, and in some it appears under the name of Richard Verstegen, which, perhaps, is the more correct nomenclature, as it does not appear that Rowlands ever returned to the use of his patronymic. [back]
 
 
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