Culture & Society

  • Issue 100 / July - August 2014



    Lullaby, My Baby

    Safiye Arslan

    Sleep, baby, sleep
    Your father tends the sheep
    Your mother shakes the dreamland tree
    And from it fall sweet dreams for thee
    Sleep, baby, sleep
    Sleep, baby, sleep. [1]

    Babies are such cute bundles of joy. They are simply adorable and very innocent. The birth of a baby is a miraculous event, and all babies deserve to be loved, no matter where they are born.

    Lullabies are love songs written for them. Parents sing lullabies to their precious loved ones to send them sweetly into their dreams. In almost every culture, lullabies are inspirations and prayers for precious little children. Such songs hand down the hopes and dreams of parents, from generation to generation.

    "Hush-a-bye" is a lullaby with a story behind it. It was collected by Alan Lomax, who learned it from his mother, who took it from North Carolina to Texas after the Civil War [2]. It was originally sung by an African American slave. The "lambie" symbolizes the slave-mother's child, for whom she is unable to care because she is too busy taking care of her owner's child, to whom the song is being sung. The lullaby's sourness is cleverly hidden in the comparison between the two children: one is a protected white child growing up privileged and the other is a black baby, left defenseless in nature [3].

    Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
    Go to sleepy little baby.
    When you wake, you'll have cake,
    And all the pretty little horses.

    Black and bay, dapple and grey,
    Coach and six little horses,
    Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
    Go to sleepy little baby.
    Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
    Go to sleepy little baby,
    When you wake, you'll have cake,
    And all the pretty little horses.

    Way down yonder, down in the meadow,
    There's a poor wee little lamby.
    The bees and the butterflies pickin' at its eyes,
    The poor wee thing cried for her mammy.

    Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
    Go to sleepy little baby.
    When you wake, you'll have cake,
    And all the pretty little horses.

    Other than being musical stories, lullabies are also beautiful gifts from a parent's heart to a baby's ear. Every parent around the world sings a delightful lullaby in her native tongue to relax their child. Lullabies are great examples of how we show love in similar ways all around the world. There is no difference between us and the people on the other end of the world when it comes to our affection for our babies. We all love our babies and open our hearts to them with these songs. There are different lyrics or different rhythms, but they express the same love, support, and concern for the little human beings.

    For example, in an Armenian lullaby, a mother says:

    The south wind rocks you back and forth
    Let the stars converse with you
    And the sun and moon calm you
    The wild deer will offer its milk
    Sleep, sleep. [5]

    And an Azerbaijani lullaby goes as follows:

    Every passing bird, every river
    Says lay-lay to you my baby
    In our most joyful and beautiful motherland
    You are my pride and joy
    You are my soul that is within my own soul
    Your breath is so clean and innocent
    Like the light wind in the field. [6]

    Although there is a long history of conflict between the two south Caucasus countries, there is no difference in a parent's compassion and warm wishes for their children. They both pick nature up as their babies' playmates and want them to grow up within that nature. Both of the lullabies can comfort a baby with a familiar voice.

    Below are two lullabies from Israel and an Arabic country, Morocco. Would you be able to tell which one is from which country?

    The first one is:

    Sleep, my little girl, sleep
    Sleep, my darling one, sleep
    Daddy has gone off to work.
    To work, to work he's gone.
    He'll be back when the moon rises
    With a gift for his little one. [7]

    And the other one is:

    Sleep my baby
    Until the meal's ready.
    And if it isn't,
    The neighbor's will be.

    Sleep my baby
    Until your mommy's arrived
    The bread is on the table
    The sweets are on the tray. [8]

    The former is from Israel and the latter from Morocco, but universal love is embedded into the message of both lullabies. They both touch our hearts. They are both very special in every way. No stereotypes, no wars, no hatred is passed on to babies; only love, and peace, are fostered in lullabies. Thus, lullabies provide an excellent tool to teach children to love all creatures. They allow the sharing of emotions that are filtered and softened by mothers' heart. When people comfort their babies or make them feel more secure by singing them a lullaby, they also teach them the biggest life lessons. Lullabies smoothly whisper the essentials of life, the common needs of all human beings to babies' ears.

    Talking about the essentials of life, the adversities in life are a fact that the children must also be prepared for. But even when talking about the negative aspects of life, lullabies introduce them gently. An intelligent lullaby from Turkey passes along good wishes to a child, but also teaches a valuable lesson.

    Dandini dandini dastana
    Into the garden the calves did stray.
    Gardener quickly chases them away.
    Don't let them eat the cabbages,
    Huuu huuu huuu

    Dandini dandini danadan
    A moon is born from a mother's womb,
    God has not withheld anything from him
    May God protect him from the Evil Eye
    Huuu huuu huu hu

    Dandini dandini danayli
    May our pots be coated with tin
    May my daughter be a bride in a mansion
    And my son dwell in a palace
    Huuu huuu huu hu. [4]

    In this lullaby, a mother's desire for her son not to get married to a girl she does not approve is hidden beneath the lyrics in an amazingly clever way. The calf symbolizes the son and the garden represents life, while the gardener is the father, and cabbage is the girl that is not approved of by the boy's mother. So the mother wants the father to keep that girl away.

    There are lullabies like the one above that are very personal and private, in which the narrator expresses how she really feels and thinks about certain issues while telling her stories. Such songs can help a parent express their own emotions more clearly, too, especially when they are unable to share them with others. Thus, lullabies soothe and help not only the babies but also the adults.

    Lullabies are helpful to put babies to sleep and are useful for adults to enjoy the time that is spent with their children. A lullaby's magic comes to life in a parent's voice. These gentle melodies allow parents, who are a child's first teachers, to impart valuable lessons in a soothing way. A personal message or story is planted elegantly into the lyrics. A loving parent embraces their precious baby with a beautiful lullaby. Plenty of joy, peace and love fill up the room at night when a loving voice smoothly sings:

    Goodnight moon, goodnight stars and goodnight my little angel,
    Close your eyes and open them to sweet dreams my sweetheart...

    References:
    [1]. http://www.romantic-lyrics.com/lullabylyrics/sleepbabysleep.shtml
    [2]. http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/lyrics/prettyhorses.htm
    [3]. http://www.robertbohm.com/publications/3.html
    [4]. http://lullabiesofeurope.wetpaint.com/page/Lullabies+(Turkish)
    [5]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lullabies_of_Armenia
    [6]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lullaby
    [7]. http://www.hebrewsongs.com/song-numinumi.htm
    [8]. http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=1249&c=168

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