“Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (I)”


A child's prayer, asking the apostles for a blessing: "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John / Bless the bed that I lie on / Four bright angels at my bed / Two at the bottom and two at the head / Two to hear me as I pray / And two to bear my soul away"

Supplemental text

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (I)
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

White Paternoster
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

From Helen Hartness Flanders and Marguerite Olney, Ballads
Migrant in New England, p. 33. From Harry C. Ridlon of
Bennington, Vermont, but perhaps influenced by John Jacob Niles.
Collected 1945.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on.
Four bright angels at my bed,
Two at the bottom and two at the head,
Two to hear me as I pray, and
Two to bear my soul away


The first two lines of this piece can be dated to Thomas Ady in 1656 -- but could easily have been used in another context. Similar pieces are common (e.g. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 95 runs "Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Hold the horse till I leap on; Hold it succar, hold it sure, Till I win o'er the misty moor").

I'm not really convinced, e.g., the Chase and Flanders/Olney texts are the same -- but how do you separate two pieces with the same words and no tune? - RBW

Cross references


  1. Flanders/Olney, p. 33, "White Paternoster (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) (1 short text)
  2. Chase, p. 209, "The Bedtime Prayer" (1 text)
  3. Opie-Oxford2 346, "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John" (4 texts)
  4. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #548, p. 221, "(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)"
  5. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #457, "Before Sleeping" (1 composite text, of a number of children's prayers; it may have inspired some later uses of the text.)
  6. ST FO033 (Full)
  7. BI, FO033


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1891 (Baring-Gould); original probably from 1656 (Ady, according to Opie-Oxford2)
Keywords: nonballad religious
Found in: US(Ap,NE)