Sweet sleep

Music: Sheena Phillips, Words: William Blake

Voicing: SSAAA

Performance time approx: 3m 00s

Words by William Blake (1757-1827) from 'A Cradle Song'

Price code: C


The words to this piece come from one of Blake’s ‘songs of innocence’, many of which express great tenderness towards children. In this setting, alto voices form a rocking underlay in 5/4, singing different fragments of the verses, while the soprano line arches above, alternately working with and pulling against the underlying rhythm. The mother wishes sweet dreams on her happy child even though she herself, we find out at the end, is weeping – a hint of the bitter-sweet world which Blake often portrays.

Sweet dreams, form a shade
O'er my lovely infant's head;
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
By happy, silent, moony beams.
Sweet sleep, with soft down
Weave thy brows an infant crown.
Sweet sleep, Angel mild,
Hover o'er my happy child.
Sweet smiles, in the night
Hover over my delight;
Sweet smiles, Mother's smiles,
All the livelong night beguiles.
Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes.
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.
Sleep, sleep, happy child,
All creation slept and smil'd;
Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,
While o'er thee thy mother weep.
William Blake
from 'A Cradle Song'

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Sweet sleep

Sheena Phillips


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