Tinted lithograph after Margaret Gillies, courtesy of Conway Hall Ethical Society
The words of the song were written by Eliza’s sister
Sarah Flower Adams (1805-1848)
Poet, Singer and Actor
It is one of many songs the sisters wrote together, but there is something particularly poignant about this lullaby written by two childless women, yet describing, not a romantic idyll but the very real scenario of a mother trying to find a way of getting her baby to sleep in scorching hot July weather (unlike this year!) with insects rather annoyingly flying around (probably rather more of them than sadly we have now).
As with most of the other songs in the volume, the score has the 1st verse written out with an indication to sing the 2nd verse to the same music – the full text appears on a separate page. However, echoing Flower’s scene setting in her Musical Illustrations of the Waverley Novels (Sir Walter Scott), there is an added introduction which only appears on the score, seemingly intended to be spoken before the song begins – we’ve added an extra piano chorus underneath. It depicts a woman, a traveller, who ties her baby’s cradle to a tree, and as she rocks it she sings and improvises on a well-known song.
Did Sarah actually see this happen or was it perhaps a scene from one of their favourite novels? The “well known tune Rising of the Lark” bears no relation to the Welsh folk song of the same name (Haydn made a setting of that one), so perhaps there was another, even possibly one of Eliza’s own tunes.
Whatever the truth behind this gorgeous lullaby, it is certainly one which should be well known once more.