Further reading

Jones, Emrys, ed. Poems. Clarendon Medieval and Tudor

Series. oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964. Woods, Susanne. Natural Emphasis: English Versification from Chaucer to Dryden. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library Press, 1984.

Kreg Segall

"LULLABIE" George Gascoigne (1573) George Gascoigne's "Lullabie" appears as one of the poems attributed to him in the 1573 anthology A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres and again in the same work revised and attributed exclusively to him in 1575, entitled Posies. In the latter volume, the poem appears among the "Flowers" section, which Gascoigne notes as reserved for those poems "invented upon a verie light occasion" and having in them "some rare invention." Yet "Lullabie" only seems light on the surface, while conveying to the reader a very dark understanding of human mutability and loss. It connects the nurturing notion of mothers singing their babies to sleep with the stark and fretful one of losing to old age and the grave a personal sense of youth, beauty, imagination, and even sexual virility.

The poem is comprised of six eight-line stanzas, rendered in iambic tetrameter, and in its content it resembles a lament, echoing the lamentations of the biblical Job and the classical Roman Boethius, without offering any of the spiritual consolation they received. Moreover, because Gascoigne maintains the hushed tones of a soothing lullaby used to lull babies to sleep, the poem grows increasingly cynical with each additional loss the poet describes. This cynicism is furthered through the haunting repetition of "lullabie" from the beginning to the end, where the moralizing poet extols the reader to "welcome payne" and "let pleasure pass," because all must recognize the inevitability of old age and loss in a world where lullabies of the gentler kind deceive even dreams.

Gascoigne's use of soft tones and soothing repetition contribute to this poem's cynical effect, in addition to suggesting the gloomy state of the poet himself. Gas-coigne had spent much of his adult life playing the spendthrift dandy at Queen Elizabeth I's court, only to realize his folly later in life, when he was cast off by the court. The poem thus also serves as a vehicle for the kind of emotionally dark honesty that critics have long recognized as a signature of his work.

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