Sleep

Sleep, dear Sleep, sweet harlot of the senses
Delilah of the spirit, you unnerve
The strong man's knees, depose his laughing brain,
And make him a mere mass of steady breathing,
A bag of sluggish automatic tubes

No better than a dog beside a fire,
Soft enemy of will and pure ambition,
Vampire of poets and all who aspire,
You blur and fog the mind with luxury:
I fight against you, grudge you every hour;
If I must yield, I yield unreconciled
And even then my thought shall flutter free
In the creative brightness of a dream.

Here, in our frozen rustic starry stillness
How shall I try to burn your spell away?
To cauterize my aimless beastlike sloth,
To fan that clinkered ashy spark of spirit
And make it blaze and shine, transparent, free,
As in a child who, caught with sudden laughter,
Runs with face of glory to its mother?

I'll read some bitter book to purge my languor;
Think of the city on a winter morning,
Its clumsy turrets verticalled on gold;
Or think of words, words with a brassy sound—
Rivalry, ambition, courage, honour—
Words lovely in black ink and Caslon type.
Call upon all that private giddy madness,
Those fits of happy raving, secret frenzy,
That each man has, unshared, unsaid, unknown.

Think of great winds, of Chaucer, what you please—
Think of the subways roaring through the dark
With rows of stoic faces, never seen,
And station lamps like strings of amber beads;
Windows of mean streets in a wash of rain
Crowded with Christmas tinsels, green and blue.
Think anything, to goad and prick the mind!

O Sleep, loved Sleep, how I will make you hated!
O “soft embalmer” whom great poets praise,
Sleek death and funeral of my happy ardours!
You who have dimmed and dulled so many dreams—
Yes, young and eager and ambitious souls
Drooping to the warm and craven bed
Shall groan and beat the brow and hesitate,
Renew the troubled task, and weary say,
“No longer will I wait on inspiration,
But write, straight-out, what lies within my heart;
Not biding for some lucky gush of words.
For if not now, then when? I dare not sleep!”

Yet, in the end, you take us all, dear Sleep—
And not as now, when, even while we drowse
The mind, still rocking like an ocean bird,
Knows itself poised upon the unknowing gulf;
But when, all grateful and without wild words
The dark sea-rim enfolds us, circle-round.
A clear unrippled sea of endless calm
And on the wave, not even a lonely gull.
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