O Death Rock Me Asleep

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"O Death Rock Me Asleep" is a Tudor-era poem, usually attributed to Anne Boleyn. It was written shortly before her execution in 1536.


The poem is generally attributed to Anne Boleyn,[1] and is assumed to have been composed whilst she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. However, the evidence for her authorship isn't entirely conclusive. It has been postulated that it was in fact written by Anne's brother Lord Rochford.[2]


The poem was written in the last days of Anne's life, and is a reflection on her suffering. In it she observes that her end cannot be avoided, and that it will at least give her peace and an escape from her present sufferings.


The poem has a fairly loose structure, with most lines either being tetrameter or trimeter. At the end of each major stanza there is a refrain, varying slightly, about the nearing of death and it being inevitable.


O death! rock me asleep,
Bring me on quiet rest;
Yet pass my guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast:
Toll on the passing bell,
Ring out the doleful knell,
Let the sound of my death tell,
For I must die,
There is no remedy,
For now I die
My pains who can express?
Alas! they are so strong,
My dolor will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong:
Toll on the passing bell, etc.
Alone, in prison strong,
I wail my destiny,
Wo worth this cruel hap that I
Should taste this misery:
Toll on the passing bell, etc.
Farewell my pleasures past,
Welcome my present pain;
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now the passing bell,
Rung is my doleful knell,
For the sound my death doth tell,
Death doth draw nigh,
Sound my end dolefully,
For now I die.[3]


  1. ^ Nist, Elizabeth (1984) 'Tattle's Well's Faire: English Women Authors of the Sixteenth Century' in College English Vol. 46, No. 7 (Nov., 1984), (Greensboro: NCTE) pg705
  2. ^ "Elfinspell: George Boleyn, Vicount Rochford, 'O Death, rock me to sleep,' modernized by Susan Rhoads, MD, from Padelford, Early Elizabethan Lyrics, tragic poetry, Renaissance, online text(Boleynstyle)". Retrieved 16 April 2016. 
  3. ^ "Anne Boleyn". Retrieved 16 April 2016.