Midweek Review

The Theme - Cumaratunga's Lullaby

(This first appeared in "Shikshamargaya" - III, 24th September 1933.)

In this poem the mother who lulls the baby to sleep, is carried away by the thought, that all the animate and inanimate things in the environment, turn out to be contributory factors in maintaining perfect silence for the sound sleep of the infant. It is remarkable to note, how the poetic melody moves smoothly and easily. Once you listen to the Cradle-Rhythm evoked by the Sinhalese poem, you may be able to feel flowing through it, the silent sweet music of the lullaby. It is indeed the mother’s lulling-flute that lures all of us for a soothing silence. Cumaratunga’s most remarkable poetic genius, has brought out quite well, the suggestive - associations pertaining to the theme and above all, the poetic artistry to fit the meaning to purpose, has set the suitable metere for a Cradle rhythm, and the soothing tone is glowing over the whole poem. As observed by Tagore, words are for those who have received command to ornate the hall of live for its festivities.

When compared with English Lullabies in Mother Goose, (The complete book of Nursery Rhymes), first published in 1919, and later in 1760, and 1785, Cumaratunga’s lullaby ranks very high both in content and Form, for an example, compare and contrast these with the following:-


"Hush - a - bye baby, lie still with thy daddy,

The mother has gone to the mill, to get some wheat to make some meat.

So pray my baby dear lie still."

Hush - bye - baby on the tree top.

Hush - a bye baby on the tree top.

When the wind blows the cradle will rock,

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.

Down will come baby, bough, cradle and all."


An appreciation of Cumaratunga’s Lullaby appeared in ‘Kavi - Shikshava’ in 1933, with special reference to the verses 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. commenting on the aesthetic merits and the elegance of the language. The following English Versification is for those who are not conversant with the original verses in Sinhala.


1. The cradle cosy and nice,

Swings to the tune precise

Hearing the sweet lullaby

Sleep dear baby.


2. Here comes Mamy Sleep

Her embrace will she keep.

Sleep baby sleep.


3. "As the Sun - beams are far too heaty",

The beams in the deep submerge.

To wet them and emerge.

Just see the love that’s hearty.


4. As the moon is bitter cold

The hare took a leap bold

Doesn’t this good fellow

Keep half the beama mellow.


5. Lest the baby be taken by fright

Nestlings are not in noisy - plight.

Hardly any use of the lullaby.

The female birds sleep thereby.

6. Refraining from nack - scratching,

Checking the tinkling and bells resounding,


Their urge to grace with ease

The calves, do along with cease.


7. Gekos chase over hot on the trail

After flies, their sounds not to prevail.

Mouth to mouth compression there.

Thus the baby’s silence they care.


8. Our timepiece there to keep

Well the baby’s peace of sleep,

To denote the passing time,

Dosen’t give the lamenting - chime.


9. The wind embracing ordour

Of diverse flower - groves moves

softend by the window - curtains

Inducing the infant’s smile and colour.


10. Trees with rustling nature bound

Allow the soft breeze

To move through with ease

Not evoking any sound.


11. The river with wind together

Avoiding the usual chatter

In dumb silence bears,

The rapping of the oars.


12. On moon-lit sandy planes

Scattering flowers, the nymphs,

Dance devoid of anklets,

Casting this way their glances.


13. The heavenly - hosts young,

Without drums and Veenas -

By means of heads and hands

Evoke tune, not in high rung.


14. The moon without casting to the ground,

The beams alike and from - bound,

By the filtering cloud - process.

Sends mild beamlets without stress.


15. Setting the tree - shade - darkness around,

Without the least possible sound

The moon - beams on the river,

Dance with lifted feet sober.


16. When moon - beams often beat,

The Saman flowers - the cherubs

Lest it hurts the tender ears,

Hold up their tender hands.


17. "The studded stars bright glare

Seems too much for the cradle - care."

So thinking the stars shudder

As if in Awe - striken manner.


18. To kiss you with love sheer

The nymphs ivying with each other

Fear - striken they tip-toe

Pressing the ground below.


19. Saraswathi - The muse

To your mouth her kiss will infuse.

Lakshami the godess of well-being

Will embrace your very being.


20. Here comes Mammy - Sleep

Her embrace will she keep.

Sleep baby sleep

Sleep baby sleep.

The Summary and the English Versification by Sandadas Coperahewa