From the cradle to the grave

Count Eric Stenbock died on this day in 1895 which was also, as we have seen, the first day of the trial which would eventually condemn Oscar Wilde to hard labour. While far more obscure than Wilde, then as now, Stenbock was one of the most decadent of the Decadents, with a great oily black slick of doom seeping right through his work, a morbid strain which grew deeper and darker as his own premature end neared.

The year before his death, Stenbock published his last volume of verse, Studies of Death. From it comes this fantastically tragic piece which even Arthur Symons, inclined to regard Stenbock as a colossal phony, admired. It’s an eternal lullaby, in which a mother rocks her child to a sleep from which it will never wake. Um…enjoy!

Cradle Song

Sleep on, my poor child, sleep;
Why must thou wake again?
Thou art but born into a world of woe,
Of agony, unending, deep,
Of long-protracted pain.

Wert though not born with tears and travail?
Thy first cry was a wail;
Life is a mystery strange and sad,
A wondrous riddle to unravel,
But who shall lift the veil?

‘Sleep on, my poor child, sleep,
Sleep on,’ the mother said.
‘I will sit here and weep.’
She looked on her child asleep,
And saw that the child was dead:
”Tis well,’ the mother said.

Main image by julia&keld found here.


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  4. MrTchaikovsky

    According to David Tibet’s “The Collected Poems of Eric, Count Stenbock”, this poem appeared in “Love, Sleep & Dreams” from the early 1880s. Furthermore, it has five stanzas, as opposed to three.

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