John Fuller

Lullaby by John Fuller

‘Lullaby’ by John Fuller is a sweet and beautiful cradle song. This poem features a baby’s innocent image by contrasting it with the external ambiance.

Lullaby is a highly structured verse written in adherence to the form of the lullaby or cradle. John Fuller, the son of poet and Oxford professor Roy Fuller, penned down this beautiful poem. His poem presents an image of a baby going to sleep and paints the picture of the outside world that is in stark contrast with the homely imagery. It seems that the house and the parents protect the baby from all the evil forces hovering outside. This scheme is followed in other lullabies as well.

Lullaby by John Fuller


‘Lullaby’ by John Fuller presents a speaker who is lulling her child to sleep. She blesses the infant for the upcoming future and makes sure the baby feels safe with them.

This poem contains three stanzas. In each stanza, the speaker presents three interesting ideas. The first one depicts a sleeping baby. In this section, the speaker blesses her child for the future journey of life.

The second stanza is filled with imagery. Fuller depicts the image of a bat flying around the house. This creature makes the external atmosphere so eerie that it makes even the moon astonished.

The last stanza of the poem contains a repetition of the first two lines as readers can see in other cradle songs. Through this stanza, the speaker blesses the child again and lulls it to sleep.

You can read the full poem here.


This poem consists of three stanzas. Each section contains two rhyming couplets that form a quatrain. The rhyme scheme is AABB and it follows throughout the poem. For example, in the first two lines, “nut” rhymes with “shut”. In the following lines, “you” and “too” rhyme together. As mentioned earlier, it is a highly structured poem. So, the poem is written in a regular meter. It is composed of both the iambic tetrameter and the iambic pentameter. However, there are a few metrical variations as well.

Literary Devices

The lullaby begins with a simile. Fuller compares the baby’s purity to a nut. In the third line, he uses an epigram. The following line contains a metaphor and life is compared to a journey. The child has a long way to go. To prepare itself for the upcoming journey, sleep is needed. In this way, sleep is presented as a stage of rejuvenation.

The second stanza begins similarly with a simile. Fuller infuses humor to the lines to lightening the effect of the image used in this section. For instance, the “bat” is a symbol of evil forces. As it is a cradle song, the poet uses humor in the second line of this stanza. The following lines contain personification and onomatopoeia as well.

In the first line of the last stanza, Fuller uses an antithesis. The following line contains auditory imagery and the last two lines act as a refrain.

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

Sleep little baby, clean as a nut,


Go on your journey. We go too.

Fuller’s ‘Lullaby’ begins in a soft tone. Being a cradle song, the poet uses the repetition of the soft “s” sound in the first line. Besides, there is an interesting comparison here. Readers can find that the poet is comparing the child’s purity to a “nut”. So, here the word “clean” symbolizes the purity of the child’s soul. The nut’s white color is a symbolic reference to innocence.

In the following line, the speaker presents a beautiful image of a baby. When an infant sleeps, its fingers uncurl and its soft eyelids shut slowly. The speaker uses anticipation for giving an instruction to the child indirectly.

The next line, “Your life was ours, which is with you” means that parents give birth to their child. So, the life the child has is a gift of her parents. Lastly, the parent blesses her child to continue the journey of life. It has nothing to fear as her parents are also going with her. Until the child matures, they are always with her.

Stanza Two

The bat is flying round the house


Their bells have come to send you to sleep.

The second stanza of the lullaby presents a contrast by depicting an image of a flying bat. The creature is flying around their house. It is a symbol of dark and evil forces from which the parents always protect their child. In the following line, Fuller uses a simile for making a comparison between the creature to a mouse. According to the speaker, the bat’s wings resemble an umbrella and it looks like a mouse. In this way, she injects humor into this line.

By looking at this creature, the moon is astonished. Even the sheep resting somewhere nearby are fearful of the presence of this creature. This section presents the theme of innocence vs experience. Here, the “sheep” is a symbol of innocence.

In the last line, the speaker says that the sound of bells tied to their neck, lulls the child to sleep. Fuller establishes a connection between the child and the sheep. They are both alike to God, filled with innocence and purity.

Stanza Three

Oh be our rest, our hopeful start.


Your fingers uncurl and your eyes are shut.

The last stanza begins with an epigrammatic idea. For making this idea clear, Fuller uses an antithesis and contrasts “rest” with a “hopeful start”. For undertaking a long journey, one must sleep. This sleep makes one’s spirit ready for the upcoming toil. So, the child needs to sleep in order to mature and grow fully.

The speaker takes her child in between her arms and turns her head to her beating heart. It seems as if the warmth of her bosom protects the child during the night. The sound of her beating heart assures the baby that her parents are always with her, no matter what happens in the future.

The last two lines contain a repetition of the first two lines of the poem. In lullabies, such a repetition is often used to emphasize the main idea that is meant for lulling the child to sleep.

Historical Context

John Fuller’s ‘Lullaby’ was published in his “Collected Poems”. Fuller, a Kent-born poet and author, is the son of poet and Oxford professor Roy Fuller. He was mentored by W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, Robert Graves, and Wallace Stevens. John Fuller’s poems are written in a formal style and metered verse. In the poem, ‘Lullaby,’ readers can find strict adherence to the form. The poet uses repetition, alliteration, and a conventional rhyming scheme. He wrote several poems for children and it is one of the best-known of all.


What is the theme of ‘Lullaby’ by John Fuller?

The main theme of this poem is love and parenthood. Fuller’s speaker lulls her child to sleep by singing this beautiful lullaby.

Who is John Fuller?

John Fuller is an English poet. He was born on 1 January 1937 in Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom. Fuller has published 15 poetry collections. He was mentored by influential figures of modern English literature, such as Auden, Eliot, and Stevens.

What is the meaning of “clean as a nut”?

This phrase contains a comparison between the child’s purity to the white color of a nut.

What does the line “Like an umbrella, turned into a mouse” mean?

This line describes the bat’s image mentioned in the poem. Its wings are like an umbrella and its face resembles that of a mouse.

What does the speaker tell her child in this poem?

The speaker tells her child that they are always with her. She blesses her child for a “hopeful start”.

Similar Poetry

Here is a list of a few poems that are similar to John Fuller’s ‘Lullaby’:

You can also read about the best childhood poems and the poems that will make you smile.

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A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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