“Lullaby and Good Night”

"…For so He giveth His beloved sleep" (Ps. 127:2)

     INTRO.: A song which reminds us how that God can give His beloved, especially little children, sleep is "Lullaby and Good Night." The text is of unknown origin. Two stanzas were published in 1868 as Wiegelied, Op. 49, No. 4, beginning "Guten Abend, gute Nacht, mid Rosen bedacht," with the tune (Cradle Song) composed by Johannes Brahms, who was born on May 7, 1833, in Hamburg, Germany. His father, Johann Jakob Brahms, had come to Hamburg from Dithmarschen, seeking a career as a town musician, and married Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen, a seamstress, who was seventeen years older than he was. Johann Jakob gave first musical training to his son who then studied piano from the age of seven with Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel and later with Eduard Marxsen. Johannes first visited Vienna, Austria, in 1862, stayed there over the winter, and based himself increasingly in Vienna, soon making it his home.

     During the succeeding years in Vienna, Brahms was a leader of the musical scene, composing for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, voice, and chorus. An accomplished pianist, he gave the first performance of many of his own pieces and worked with the leading performers of his time, with many of his compositions becoming staples of the modern concert repertoire. Nineteenth century conductor Hans von Bülow grouped him with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the "Three Bs." Brahms was both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music was firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and classical masters, yet he created bold new approaches to harmony and timbre which challenged existing notions of tonal music. Brahms developed cancer (sources vary on whether this was in the liver or pancreas), and he died on April 3, 1897, in Vienna.

     Concerning the song that has come to be known as "Brahms’ Lullaby," several sources say that the reputed author of the original two stanzas was a German writer and poet named Karl Joseph Simrock (1802-1876). However, other sources say that the first stanza was taken from a collection of German folk poems called Das Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn), edited by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Bretano, and published in Heidelberg between 1805 and 1808. It is possible that Simrock borrowed a stanza from it and then provided his own second stanza, or just used a couple of stanzas from the folk collection and perhaps arranged them. The translator of the standard English version is unknown. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared with two stanzas in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson, who provided his own translation for stanza 2. Further stanzas from various sources have been added to lengthen the song.

     The song is obviously intended to help in putting a small child to sleep.

I. Stanza 1 talks the blessing of sleep
"Lullaby, and good night! With roses bedight,
With lillies bespread (o’er-spread) Is baby’s wee bed;
Lay thee down now and rest: May thy slumber be blest;
Lay thee down now and rest: May thy slumber be blest."
Arthur Wesbrook provided this alternate translation:
"Lullaby and goodnight! With roses bedight,
Creep into thy bed, There pillow thy head.
If God will thou shalt wake When the morning doth break.
If God will thou shalt wake When the morning doth break."
 A. "Bedight" is am archaic word that is seldom used today; it is defined to mean "deck out, array, equip, adorn." The idea of having the bed decked out with roses and lillies suggests the sweetness and blessing of sleep: Eccl. 5:12
 B. The bed, of course, is the place of sleep: Ps. 63:6
 C. The purpose of sleep is so that we may lie down and rest, which is something that we need: Mk. 6:31

II. Stanza 2 talks about dreaming of Paradise
"Lullaby and good night! Dream of Paradise bright,
While near thee, at hand, The angels shall stand.
If God wills, thou shalt wake When the morning doth break;
If God wills, thou shalt wake When the morning doth break."
The standard translation reads:
"Lullaby and good night! Thy mother’s delight,
Bright angels beside My darling abide.
They will guard thee at rest, Thou shalt wake on my breast;
They will guard thee at rest, Thou shalt wake on my breast."
(One version has: "Soft and warm is your bed, Close your eyes, rest your head")
Arthur Westbrook’s alternate translation is as follows:
"Lullaby and goodnight! Those blue eyes close tight;
Bright angels are near, So sleep without fear.
They will guard thee from harm, With fair dreamland’s sweet charm;
They will guard thee from harm, With fair dreamland’s sweet charm."
 A. Paradise, coming from a Persian word that means "beautiful garden," in the Bible refers either to the place of comfort which the souls of the righteous (or safe) go at death and by extension perhaps the eternal home of God’s
people: Lk. 23:43, 2 Cor. 12:4, Rev. 2:7
 B. There is much about the activities of angels that we do not know because it is not revealed in scripture, but with reference to children, Jesus did make reference to "their angels": Matt. 18:10
 C. After dreams of Paradise while possibly being guarded by angels during the night, we can look forward to waking when the morning breaks: Ps. 139:17-18

III. Stanza 3 talks about the care of parents and angels
"Sleepyhead, close your eyes, Mother’s right here beside you.
I’ll protect you from harm, You will wake in my arms.
Guardian angels are near, So sleep on with no fear;
Guardian angels are near, So sleep on with no fear."
 A. A mother who truly loves her children as God’s word commands will certainly be concerned for them even while they sleep: Tit. 2:4
 B. One of the roles of parents, including mothers, in laying up for their children and providing for their own is to protect them from harm to whatever extent they can: 2 Cor. 12:14, 1 Tim. 5:8
 C. Again, there is great debate among Bible believers as to whether the scriptures teach the concept of "guardian angels" or not, but God’s word does say that angels are ministering spirits sent forth for those who will inherit salvation: Heb. 1:13-14

IV. Stanza 4 talks about awakening in the morning
"Lullaby, and sleep tight. Hush! my darling is sleeping,
On his sheets white as cream, With his head full of dreams.
When the sky’s bright with dawn, He will wake in the morn;
When the sky’s bright with dawn, He will wake in the morn."
(or the last line: When noontide warms the world, He will frolic in the sun.")
 A. God made the night for sleeping: Prov. 3:24
 B. God made the dawn to bring in the new day: Matt. 28:1
 C. Then we can awaken for the events and activities of the day: Ps. 3:5

     CONCL.: There is another "further" stanza that some might find amusing.
"Go to sleep, little one, Think of puppies and kittens;
Go to sleep, little one, Think of butterflies in spring.
Go to sleep, little one, Think of sunny bright mornings;
Go to sleep, little one, Sleep tight through the night."
Whether this is a "hymn" or even a spiritual song would be a matter of debate, especially if it came to using it in a worship service. Some might argue that it does mention God and angels and Paradise, while others might argue that it is primarly secular in nature and  just happens to have some religious references. Each will have to make his own decisions as to its usefulness. However, there is certainly nothing wrong with singing about God to a small child when we tell it "Lullaby and Good Night."


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