The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Rocking Hymn

Hallelujah, or Britain's Sacred Remembrancer

 

Words: George Wither, 1588-1667

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 281-3.

1. Sweet baby, sleep; what ails my dear?
    What ails my darling thus to cry?
Be still, my child, and lend thine ear
    To hear me sing thy lullaby.
        My pretty lamb, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

2. Thou blessed soul, what canst thou fear?
    What thing to thee can mischief do?
Thy God is now thy father dear;
    His holy spouse thy mother too.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

3. Whilst thus thy lullaby I sing,
    For thee great blessings ripening be;
Thine eldest brother is a king,
    And hath a kingdom bought for thee.
        Sweet baby, then, forebear to weep,
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

4. Sweet baby, sleep, and nothing fear,
    For whosoever thee offends,
By thy protector threatened are,
    And God and angels are thy friends.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

5. When God with us was dwelling here,
    In little babes he took delight:
Such innocents as then, my dear,
    Are ever precious in his sight.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

6. A little infant once was he,
    And Strength-in-Weakness then was laid
Upon his virgin-mother's knee,
    That power to thee might be conveyed.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

7. In this thy frailty and thy need
    He friends and helpers doth prepare,
Which thee shall cherish, clothe and feed,
    For of thy weal they tender are.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

8. The King of kings when he was born,
    Had not so much for outward case;
By him such dressings were not worn,
    Nor suchlike swaddling-clothes as these.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

9. Within a manger lodged thy Lord,
    Where oxen lay and asses fed;
Warm rooms we do to thee afford,
    An easy cradle or a bed.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

10. The wants that He did then sustain
    Have purchased wealth, my babe, for thee,
And by His torments and His pain
    Thy rest and ease securŽd be.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

11. Thou hast (yet more), to perfect this,
    A promise and an earnest got
Of gaining everlasting bliss,
    Though thou, my babe, perceiv'st it not.
        Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
        Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 145-8. "From George Wither's Hallelujah, or Britain's Second Remembrancer." He also notes at page 264:

"Witherís besetting fault is his prolixity; he seldom knew when to stop. It is tedious to read through the voluminous list of his forgotten writings, but to read the works themselves is a Herculean task. Yet every student of English poetry knows that some of Witherís songs are miracles of sweetness, and that even in his most arid wastes of prose and verse there are green oases. It is much to be wished that some capable scholar would make an anthology from Wither. From the cradle hymn I ventured to omit the second stanza, which ran thus

ďThough thy conception was in sin,
A sacred bathing thou hast had;
And though thy birth unclean hath bin,
A blameless babe thou now art made:
Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep;
Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sheep.Ē

"The piece would be improved by making a few more omissions. Not so with the carol which follows, written in Witherís blithest strain, perfect from first to last.

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.


Related Hymns and Carols