Hush my babe, lie still in slumber
Holy angels guard thy bed
Sweetest blessings without number
Gently fall upon thy head.
Hush, my babe, lie still in slumber,
Cold and hard thy saviour lay
When his birthplace was a stable
And his softest bed was clay.
Bushes and Briars, Ed Roy Palmer, ISBN 1-86143-072-8
Collected from Mr Thompson, Dunstan, Northumberland by Vaughan Williams, British Library MSS 54187/91
This text is not yet listed in the Roud Index, but is probably Roud 8885, of which one example, from Kentucky, is included. It appears to be a much cut-down oral form of A Cradle Hymn
, written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), which can be seen in the Oxford Book of English Verse
(ISBN 0-19-214182-1). More information in an old discussion in the Mudcat Forum: Christmas Lullaby by Doc Watson
Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the editors of "The Oxford Book of Carols"(ISBN 0-19-353314-6), along with Percy Dearmer and Martin Shaw. Carol 130 is "Watt's Cradle Song" and the melody is described as "Northumbrian (Freely arr M.S.)". The notes further say "Watt's words are here set to a traditional carol tune, sung to these words and noted in Northumberland by R. Vaughan Williams". All would therefore seem totally clear - except the copyright confusingly is by Martin Shaw, not RVW as you might expect. This is because Martin Shaw's copyright relates to the arrangement, which was by him, rather than the melody.
Two versions are given in Elizabeth Poston, The Second Penguin Book of Christmas Carols
(1970, pp. 43-46). The tune to "Watts's Cradle Song" (no. 4) is a Tennesee version of RESTORATION (or ARISE, I WILL ARISE, ATHENS; Doc Watson's tune); the second (no. 5) is a variant of SWEET AFFLICTION (or GREENVILLE, IMPORTUNITY, ROUSSEAU'S DREAM; "Aunt Rhody"). The only tune in The New Oxford Book of Carols
(no. 115) comes from SWEET AFFLICTION, the editors commenting: "Although the hymn has appeared in several modern carol-books, the lack of a good tune denied it the popularity it deserves until Elizabeth Poston, in The Second Penguin Book of Christmas Carols
(1970), married it to the tune that forms our bars 1-16" (p. 411). A correction: the "marriage" was not by Poston; according to Bin Ebisawa (in Musunde Hiraite Ko
, 1986, pp. 131-133; score given), "[Watts's] Cradle Hymn" with the GREENVILLE tune was in J.P. McCaskey's Franklin Square Song Collection
(New York: Harper & Brothers, 1881, p. 22), and later in Heart Songs
(Boston: Chapple, , p. 133).
(Search Roud index at VWML)
Watts' Cradle Song (Poston Tunes)
(thematic) Watts's Cradle Song