'Gascoigne 's Lullaby' by George Gascoigne

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1Sing lullaby, as women do,
2Wherewith they bring their babes to rest;
3And lullaby can I sing to,
4As womanly as can the best.
5With lullaby they still the child,
6And if I be not much beguil'd,
7Full many wanton babes have I,
8Which must be still'd with lullaby.

9First, lullaby my youthful years,
10It is now time to go to bed;
11For crooked age and hoary hairs
12Have won the haven within my head.
13With lullaby, then, youth be still,
14With lullaby, content thy will,
15Since courage quails and comes behind,
16Go sleep, and so beguile thy mind.

17Next, lullaby my gazing eyes,
18Which wonted were to glance apace;
19For every glass may now suffice
20To show the furrows in my face.
21With lullaby, then, wink awhile,
22With lullaby, your looks beguile,
23Let no fair face nor beauty bright
24Entice you eft with vain delight.

25And lullaby my wanton will,
26Let reason's rule now reign thy thought,
27Since all too late I find by skill
28How dear I have thy fancies bought.
29With lullaby, now take thine ease,
30With lullaby, thy doubts appease,
31For trust to this, if thou be still,
32My body shall obey thy will.

33Eke, lullaby my loving boy,
34My little Robin, take thy rest;
35Since age is cold and nothing coy,
36Keep close thy coin, for so is best.
37With lullaby, be thou content,
38With lullaby, thy lusts relent,
39Let others pay which have mo pence,
40Thou art too poor for such expense.

41Thus lullaby, my youth, mine eyes,
42My will, my ware, and all that was!
43I can no mo delays devise,
44But welcome pain, let pleasure pass.
45With lullaby, now take your leave,
46With lullaby, your dreams deceive,
47And when you rise with waking eye,
48Remember Gascoigne's lullaby.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Gascoigne's Lullaby: An Ode to Parental Love and the Futility of Time"

Any discussion of English Renaissance poetry would be incomplete without a mention of George Gascoigne, one of the foremost poets of the Elizabethan era. While he is known for his contributions to various literary genres, including the pastoral, the sonnet, and the ballad, his lyrical works are perhaps the most celebrated. Among them, "Gascoigne's Lullaby" stands out as a masterpiece of the genre, a touching ode to the bond between a mother and her child that transcends time and space. In this essay, I will offer a detailed literary criticism and interpretation of the poem, exploring its themes, structure, and language, and shedding light on its relevance to contemporary readers.

Context and Background

Before delving into the poem itself, it is important to understand the context in which it was written. George Gascoigne was born in 1535 in Bedfordshire, England, and lived through the reigns of four monarchs, from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I. He was a soldier, a courtier, a diplomat, and a writer, and his lifestyle was often marked by excess and financial difficulties. He died in 1577, at the age of 42, leaving behind a body of work that ranged from satirical poetry to moral essays.

"Gascoigne's Lullaby" was most likely written in the late 1560s, when Gascoigne was in his thirties and had already established himself as a poet. It was published in his collection "A Hundred Sundrie Flowers" in 1573, alongside other poems that explored themes such as love, death, and nature. The poem is in the form of a lullaby, a genre that was popular in medieval and Renaissance literature and was traditionally sung to soothe infants to sleep. However, Gascoigne's lullaby is not a conventional one, as it addresses not only the child but also the mother, and reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of mortality.

Themes and Motifs

At its core, "Gascoigne's Lullaby" is a meditation on the bond between a mother and her child, and the power of love to transcend time and distance. The poet addresses the child as "my little son," and urges him to sleep soundly, assuring him that his mother will watch over him. He tells the child that he is loved deeply, and that his mother's affection will never fade away, even when she is no longer there to hold him:

And when thy youth shall hence be past,
And age brings in his heavy cares,
With cares and sorrows then at last
Thy mother's joys shall stay thy tears.

These lines capture the essence of the poem's theme, which is the eternal nature of parental love. The mother's love for her child is portrayed as a constant, a source of comfort and solace that endures beyond the limitations of time and space. Even as the child grows older and faces the challenges of life, his mother's love will remain a guiding force that sustains him.

Another prominent motif in the poem is the contrast between the fleeting nature of life and the everlasting nature of love. Gascoigne uses images of transience, such as the passing of seasons and the fading of flowers, to underscore the impermanence of human existence:

The summer's flower is to the fall
As youth to age doth pass away;
The autumn's leaf is turned to thrall,
So doth in death my body lay.

However, he also suggests that while physical beauty and vigor may decline with time, the beauty of love endures and even grows stronger:

For as the sun doth daily prove,
So doth thy love increase in me;
So when that death shall claim my love,
They shall in heaven my comfort be.

These lines reflect a belief in the power of love to transcend earthly limitations and connect human beings with a higher, divine realm. Gascoigne seems to suggest that while death may separate us from our loved ones in the physical sense, it cannot extinguish the flame of love that burns within us.

Structure and Language

The structure of "Gascoigne's Lullaby" is simple and straightforward, consisting of five stanzas of eight lines each, with a rhyming scheme of ABABCCDD. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, a meter that was popular in Renaissance poetry and consists of ten syllables per line, with the stress falling on every other syllable. This lends the poem a musical quality that is fitting for a lullaby, and creates a sense of rhythm and flow that is soothing to the ear.

The language of the poem is also notable for its simplicity and directness, which enhances the emotional impact of the poem. Gascoigne uses plain, everyday language to convey complex emotions, and avoids ornate or obscure expressions. This makes the poem accessible to a wide range of readers, and allows its message to resonate with people across different cultures and times.

However, this does not mean that the poem lacks poetic devices or figurative language. On the contrary, Gascoigne employs a range of techniques to create a rich, evocative imagery that brings the poem to life. For example, he uses metaphors such as "summer's flower" and "autumn's leaf" to symbolize the passing of time and the cycle of life and death. He also uses repetition, as in the line "Sleep on, my little son, and fear thee nought," which reinforces the idea of the mother's protective love for her child.

Another interesting feature of the poem's language is its use of personification, which imbues non-human elements with human qualities. For example, Gascoigne personifies the night as a "friendly shade" that will keep watch over the child, and the flowers as "weeping" over the mother's departure. This creates a sense of intimacy and empathy between the human and natural worlds, and suggests a deep interconnection between all living beings.

Interpretation and Relevance

What makes "Gascoigne's Lullaby" a timeless poem is its universality - its ability to speak to the human condition in a way that transcends cultural and historical boundaries. The poem's exploration of themes such as love, mortality, and the passage of time is something that resonates with people across different ages and cultures, and its message of hope and comfort is as relevant today as it was in the Elizabethan era.

One way to interpret the poem is to see it as a celebration of parental love, and a reminder of the power that parents have to shape their children's lives. Gascoigne's portrayal of the mother as a loving and nurturing figure who will always be there for her child, even in death, is a tribute to the selflessness and devotion that characterize good parenting. It is a reminder that while material possessions and worldly achievements may fade away, the love that parents give to their children endures.

Another way to interpret the poem is to see it as a meditation on the futility of time, and the need to cherish the moments that we have with our loved ones. Gascoigne's use of images such as the passing of seasons and the fading of flowers reminds us that life is transient, and that we must appreciate the beauty and joy that surround us while we can. The poem's message of hope and comfort in the face of mortality is a reminder that death is not an end, but a transition to a higher state of being, and that love is the bridge that connects us to that state.

In conclusion, "Gascoigne's Lullaby" is a masterpiece of English Renaissance poetry, a touching ode to the power of parental love and the eternal nature of human affection. Through its simple yet powerful language, its evocative imagery, and its universal themes, the poem speaks to the human heart in a way that few works of literature can. It is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the essence of human experience, and a reminder that the beauty and joy of life are always within our reach, if we only have the eyes to see them.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

George Gascoigne’s Lullaby is a classic poem that has been celebrated for its beautiful imagery and soothing tone. This poem is a perfect example of Gascoigne’s mastery of language and his ability to create a vivid and emotional experience for his readers. In this article, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in this poem to understand why it has stood the test of time.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing his child, telling them to “sleep now, and take your rest.” This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a lullaby meant to soothe and comfort the child. The speaker goes on to describe the peaceful surroundings, telling the child that “the fields are full, the woods are green” and that “the birds sing sweetly in the trees.” This imagery creates a sense of calm and tranquility, which is further emphasized by the repetition of the word “sleep” throughout the poem.

One of the main themes of this poem is the passage of time. The speaker tells the child that “the night is long, the stars are bright,” which suggests that the child has a long night of sleep ahead of them. However, the poem also acknowledges that time is fleeting, as the speaker tells the child that “the day is past and gone.” This theme of time is further emphasized by the use of the word “lullaby,” which comes from the Middle English word “lullen,” meaning to lull or soothe to sleep. The lullaby is a reminder that time is passing, and that we must take advantage of the moments we have to rest and recharge.

Another important theme in this poem is the relationship between parent and child. The speaker is clearly a parent, and the poem is a testament to the love and care that parents have for their children. The speaker tells the child that “your mother sits and sings” and that “your father’s at the mill.” These lines suggest that the child is surrounded by a loving family who are working hard to provide for them. The lullaby is a way for the parent to express their love and affection for their child, and to reassure them that they are safe and protected.

The structure of this poem is simple and straightforward, with four stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, which creates a sense of symmetry and balance. This structure is typical of a lullaby, which is meant to be repetitive and soothing. The repetition of the word “sleep” throughout the poem reinforces this sense of repetition and creates a sense of rhythm that is calming and reassuring.

One of the most striking literary devices used in this poem is imagery. Gascoigne uses vivid and evocative language to create a sense of the natural world around the child. The fields are “full,” the woods are “green,” and the birds sing “sweetly.” This imagery creates a sense of peace and tranquility that is essential to the lullaby’s soothing effect. The use of personification is also notable, as the speaker tells the child that “the winds do whisper soft and low.” This personification creates a sense of intimacy between the child and the natural world, and reinforces the idea that the child is safe and protected.

Another literary device used in this poem is repetition. The repetition of the word “sleep” throughout the poem creates a sense of rhythm and repetition that is calming and reassuring. This repetition also reinforces the theme of time, as the lullaby is a reminder that time is passing and that we must take advantage of the moments we have to rest and recharge.

In conclusion, George Gascoigne’s Lullaby is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. Its themes of time, family, and nature are timeless and universal, and its soothing tone and vivid imagery make it a perfect lullaby for children of all ages. Gascoigne’s mastery of language and his ability to create a vivid and emotional experience for his readers make this poem a true masterpiece of English literature.

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