Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Book of Lullabies

I just unearthed another of my finds at the big used book sale in October in my study today (I am slowly getting the piles sorted and back in order now that the whirlwind of storytelling in October and November is slowing down).

 The Book of Lullabies was published in 1925. Compiled by Elva S. Smith, the book includes mostly British lullaby poems and songs but there are a few from other countries and even a few American verses. These old books have such beautiful covers. This one is gray with gilt letters and pink flowers, with a 1920's mother holding her baby on the cover. Just lovely to look at, and nice to hold too. My copy is not in perfect condition, but it's readable and if you're into shabby chic, it's perfect.

I was browsing through the book this evening, looking to see if there were any familiar songs in it. There was only one, Wee Willie Winkie, and it had many verses I've never heard before. I don't know many lullabies, actually: the old standard, Rock-a-Bye Baby, of course, and All the Pretty Little Horses, and Bye Baby Bunting pretty much sum up my lullaby knowledge.

Many of the included songs in this book are religious; there is a whole chapter of lullabies to the Christ child, for example. Many are saccharine-sweet by today's standards, and others use racial words that we consider taboo today. The language and sentiments date the entries, and yet that is what makes the book interesting to me---did people really use a wider vocabulary than we do today? If the books published pre-1940 are any indication it would seem so.

There is one whole section that makes the book, in my view: fairy lullabies, like this Irish one:

 The Fairy Nurse

Sweet babe, a golden cradle holds thee,
Ans soft the snow-white fleece enfolds thee;
In airy bower I'll watch they sleeping,
Where branching boughs to the winds are sweeping.
Shyheen sho, lulo lo!

And this Russian fairy lullabye:


Lullaby, my pretty baby,
Close thy eyes so bright,
While the moon pours o'er your cradle
all her silvery light;
I will tell thee tales of fairies,
Lull thee with a song,
While the moon, heaven's lonely wand'rer,
Creeps the sky along.

Doesn't this poem etch a picture in your mind? It does mine. And with tonight being a blue moon, it's rather timely.

I wish the melodies, if there were any, were included with the rhymes, but even without them, this is an interesting book to browse on a cold November night. Well worth my $1.00 investment, just for those two little lullabies above.

Enjoy the moon tonight. I hope the clouds stay away in your area so you can see this blue moon.


Farmchick said...

I do love a good $1.00 vintage book. It is so telling of earlier times. I also love all things Irish and these lullabies are quite nice.

Granny Sue said...

You and I share these tastes, Farmchick. There were quite a few Irish lullabies included. I would really like to hear someone sing them,; I bet they're beautiful.

DGranna said...

As a former Kindermusik teacher, including classes for mommies and babies, I might be able to match some melodies to your lullabies. I'm sure there are too many to list, but would love to see the titles or first lines. I love these old collections. A dollar... Wow!

Nance said...

and I love this bottom photo, Sue. Is it yours, or borrowed. I like the added illumination in the bottom right along with that beautiful misty moon.

Elizabeth Nimmons said...

These poems are awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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