It is a small relief to discover that “A Charm”, no. 4 from A Charm of Lullabies Op. 41, by Benjamin Britten, was indeed intended as comical by the poet Thomas Randolph (1605-1635).
Picture: William Blake. Cerberus. National Gallery of Victoria.
Sleep! or I will make
Erinnys whip thee with a snake,
And cruel Rhadamanthus take
Thy body to the boiling lake,
Where fire and brimstones never slake;
Thy heart shall burn, thy head shall ache,
And ev’ry joint about thee quake;
And therefor dare not yet to wake!
Sleep! or thou shalt see
The horrid hags of Tartary,
Whose tresses ugly serpants be,
And Cerberus shall bark at thee,
And all the Furies that are three
The worst is called Tisiphone,
Shall lash thee to eternity;
And therefor sleep thou peacefully
Then there’s always this:
The cats nestle close to their kittens now.
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear
Please go the fuck to sleep.
Read Macy Halford’s comments in New Yorker 2011.