Sleep

S
from the Fifth Villancico  by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
In alternating voices, written for the Feast of the Nativity in Puebla,1689. Because my Lord was born to suffer,
let Him stay awake.

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Lullaby by Bert Meyers
Bert Meyers
1963,
Cuban missile crisis Go to sleep my daughter
go to sleep my son
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Christmas Eve in Whitneyville   by Donald Hall
Donald Hall
December, and the closing of the year;
The momentary carolers complete
Their Christmas Eves, and quickly disappear
Into their houses on each lighted street.

Each car is put away in each garage;
Each husband home from work, to celebrate,
Has closed his house around him like a cage,
And wedged the tree until the tree stood straight.
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Anecdote of the Prince of Peacocks by Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens
In the moonlight
I met Berserk,
In the moonlight
On the bushy plain.

Oh, sharp he was
As the sleepless!

And, “Why are you red
In this milky blue?”
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Song by Stephen Spender
Stephen Spender
Stranger, you who hide my love
In the curved cheek of a smile
And sleep with her upon a tongue
Of soft lies that beguile,
Your paradisal ecstasy
Is justified is justified
By hunger of the beasts beneath
The overhanging cloud
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The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell
From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

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Getting the Child to Bed by Allen Grossman
Allen Grossman
Getting the child to bed is awful work,
Committing that rage to sleep that will not sleep.
The lie rots in my throat saying, “O.K.
There is balm in Gilead. Go to bed.
Honey of generation has betrayed us both.”
And truly it is no wild surmise of darkness
Nor Pisgah purview of Canaan drowned in blood
But only my child saying its say in bed.
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August, 1914 by Vera Mary Brittain
Vera Mary Brittain
God said,“Men have forgotten Me:
The souls that sleep shall wake again,
And blinded eyes must learn to see.”

So since redemption comes through pain
He smote the earth with chastening rod,
And brought destruction's lurid reign;

But where His desolation trod
The people in their agony
Despairing cried,“There is no God.”
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The Troop Ship by Isaac Rosenberg
Isaac Rosenberg
Grotesque and queerly huddled
Contortionists to twist
The sleepy soul to a sleep,
We lie all sorts of ways
And cannot sleep.
The wet wind is so cold,
And the lurching men so careless,
That, should you drop to a doze,
Wind’s fumble or men’s feet
Is on your face.
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A Worm Fed on the Heart of Corinth by Isaac Rosenberg
Isaac Rosenberg
A worm fed on the heart of Corinth,
Babylon and Rome.
Not Paris raped tall Helen,
But this incestuous worm,
Who lured her vivid beauty
To his amorphous sleep.
England! famous as Helen
Is thy betrothal sung.
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Lights Out by Edward Thomas
Edward Thomas
I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn’s first crack,
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink.

Here love ends,
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Retrospect by Rupert Brooke
Rupert Brooke
In your arms was still delight,
Quiet as a street at night;
And thoughts of you, I do remember,
Were green leaves in a darkened chamber,
Were dark clouds in a moonless sky.
Love, in you, went passing by,
Penetrative, remote, and rare,
Like a bird in the wide air,
And, as the bird, it left no trace
In the heaven of your face.
In your stupidity I found
The sweet hush after a sweet sound.
All about you was the light
That dims the greying end of night;
Desire was the unrisen sun,
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Delia 45: Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable Night by Samuel Daniel
Samuel Daniel
Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable Night,
Brother to Death, in silent darkness born:
Relieve my languish, and restore the light,
With dark forgetting of my cares, return;
And let the day be time enough to mourn
The shipwreck of my ill-adventur'd youth:
Let waking eyes suffice to wail their scorn,
Without the torment of the night's untruth.
Cease dreams, th' imagery of our day-desires,
To model forth the passions of the morrow;
Never let rising sun approve you liars,
To add more grief to aggravate my sorrow.
Still let me sleep, embracing clouds in vain;
And never wake to feel the day's disdain.
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The Hug by Thom Gunn
Thom Gunn
It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
Half of the night with our old friend
Who'd showed us in the end
To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
Suddenly, from behind,
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Speech: “To be, or not to be, that is the question” by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
(from Hamlet, spoken by Hamlet) To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
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The Skin of Sleep by Myra Sklarew
Myra Sklarew
The skin of sleep
is thin. It will not hold.
Its contents stumble out.
A nub of bone
lodged in earth
at the bottom of a pit.
A stranger staring
down from the rim.
The skin of sleep is thin.
It cannot hold.
Lost names spill out.
Children engraved
in ash. A sea of blood.
Only you, tenderness,
stillborn, beneath
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Night Feeding by Muriel Rukeyser
Muriel Rukeyser
Deeper than sleep but not so deep as death
I lay there dreaming and my magic head
remembered and forgot. On first cry I
remembered and forgot and did believe.
I knew love and I knew evil:
woke to the burning song and the tree burning blind,
despair of our days and the calm milk-giver who
knows sleep, knows growth, the sex of fire and grass,
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from The Ambition of Ghosts:  I. Remembering into Sleep by Rosmarie Waldrop
Rosmarie Waldrop
I. Separation Precedes Meeting

The cat so close
to the fire
I smell scorched
breath. Parents,
silent, behind me,
a feeling of
trees that might fall.
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Sapphics by William Faulkner
William Faulkner
So it is: sleep comes not on my eyelids.
Nor in my eyes, with shaken hair and white
Aloof pale hands, and lips and breasts of iron,
So she beholds me.

And yet though sleep comes not to me, there comes
A vision from the full smooth brow of sleep,
The white Aphrodite moving unbounded
By her own hair.

In the purple beaks of the doves that draw her,
Beaks straight without desire, necks bent backward
Toward Lesbos and the flying feet of Loves
Weeping behind her.

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The City of Sleep by Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Over the edge of the purple down,
Where the single lamplight gleams,
Know ye the road to the Merciful Town
That is hard by the Sea of Dreams –
Where the poor may lay their wrongs away,
And the sick may forget to weep?
But we – pity us! Oh, pity us!
We wakeful; ah, pity us! –
We must go back with Policeman Day –
Back from the City of Sleep!

Weary they turn from the scroll and crown,
Fetter and prayer and plough –
They that go up to the Merciful Town,
For her gates are closing now.
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Number Man by Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg
(for the ghost of Johann Sebastian Bach) He was born to wonder about numbers.

He balanced fives against tens
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20 by Barbara Guest
Barbara Guest
Sleep is 20
remembering the
insignificant flamenco dancer
in Granada
who became
important as you watched
the mountain ridge
the dry hills
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Monuments by Myra Sklarew
Myra Sklarew

Today the moon sees fit to come between a parched earth
and sun, hurrying the premature darkness. A rooster in the yard
cuts off its crowing, fooled into momentary sleep.
And soon the Perseid showers, broken bits
of the ancient universe, will pass through the skin of our
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The Annihilation of Nothing by Thom Gunn
Thom Gunn
Nothing remained: Nothing, the wanton name
That nightly I rehearsed till led away
To a dark sleep, or sleep that held one dream.

In this a huge contagious absence lay,
More space than space, over the cloud and slime,
Defined but by the encroachments of its sway.

Stripped to indifference at the turns of time,
Whose end I knew, I woke without desire,
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dear dusty moth by Robin Blaser
Robin Blaser
dear dusty moth
wearing miller’s cloth,
Sophia Nichols’ soft
voice calls wings
at dusk
across railroads
and sagebrush
to lull me to sleep,
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Serenade by Mary Weston Fordham
Mary Weston Fordham
Sleep, love sleep,
The night winds sigh,
In soft lullaby.
The Lark is at rest
With the dew on her breast.
So close those dear eyes,
That borrowed their hue
From the heavens so blue,
Sleep, love sleep.

Sleep, love sleep,
The pale moon looks down
On the valleys around,
The Glow Moth is flying,
The South wind is sighing,
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Long time a child, and still a child, when years by Hartley Coleridge
Hartley Coleridge
Long time a child, and still a child, when years
Had painted manhood on my cheek, was I,—
For yet I lived like one not born to die;
A thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,
No hope I needed, and I knew no fears.
But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking,
I waked to sleep no more, at once o’ertaking
The vanguard of my age, with all arrears
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Cantico del Sole by Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep.
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The Eagle That Is Forgotten by Vachel Lindsay
Vachel Lindsay
(John P. Altgeld, Governor of Illinois and my next-door neighbor, 1893-1897. Born December 30, 1847; died March 12, 1902.) Sleep softly . . . eagle forgotten . . . under the stone.
Time has its way with you there, and the clay has its own.

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Sleepers Awake by John Ashbery
John Ashbery
Cervantes was asleep when he wrote Don Quixote.
Joyce slept during the Wandering Rocks section of Ulysses.
Homer nodded and occasionally slept during the greater part of the Iliad; he was awake however when he wrote the Odyssey.
Proust snored his way through The Captive, as have legions of his readers after him.
Melville was asleep at the wheel for much of Moby-Dick.
Fitzgerald slept through Tender Is the Night, which is perhaps not so surprising,
but the fact that Mann slumbered on the very slopes of The Magic Mountain is quite extraordinary—that he wrote it, even more so.
Kafka, of course, never slept, even while not writing or on bank holidays.
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To the States, by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad. Why reclining, interrogating? why myself and all drowsing?
What deepening twilight—scum floating atop of the waters,
Who are they as bats and night-dogs askant in the capitol?
What a filthy Presidentiad! (O South, your torrid suns! O North, your arctic freezings!)
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W.H. by Louise Imogen Guiney
Louise Imogen Guiney
1778-1830 Between the wet trees and the sorry steeple,
Keep, Time, in dark Soho, what once was Hazlitt,
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Is My Team Ploughing by A. E. Housman
A. E. Housman
“Is my team ploughing,
That I was used to drive
And hear the harness jingle
When I was man alive?”

Ay, the horses trample,
The harness jingles now;
No change though you lie under
The land you used to plough.

“Is football playing
Along the river shore,
With lads to chase the leather,
Now I stand up no more?”

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Ancestral by Archibald MacLeish
Archibald MacLeish
The star dissolved in evening—the one star
The silently
and night O soon now, soon
And still the light now
and still now the large
Relinquishing
and through the pools of blue
Still, still the swallows
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Awaking in New York by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou
Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
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Ballet School by Babette Deutsch
Babette Deutsch
Fawns in the winter wood
Who feel their horns, and leap,
Swans whom the bleakening mood
Of evening stirs from sleep,
Tall flowers that unfurl
As a moth, driven, flies,
Flowers with the breasts of a girl
And sea-cold eyes.
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The Evening-Watch: A Dialogue by Henry Vaughan
Henry Vaughan
BODY

Farewell! I go to sleep; but when
The day-star springs, I’ll wake again.

SOUL

Go, sleep in peace; and when thou liest
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Fifteen Epitaphs I by Louise Imogen Guiney
Louise Imogen Guiney
I laid the strewings, darling, on thine urn;
I lowered the torch, I poured the cup to Dis.
Now hushaby, my little child, and learn
Long sleep how good it is.

In vain thy mother prays, wayfaring hence,
Peace to her heart, where only heartaches dwell;
But thou more blest, O mild intelligence!
Forget her, and Farewell.
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Hymn from a Watermelon Pavilion by Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens
You dweller in the dark cabin,
To whom the watermelon is always purple,
Whose garden is wind and moon,

Of the two dreams, night and day,
What lover, what dreamer, would choose
The one obscured by sleep?

Here is the plantain by your door
And the best cock of red feather
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Lullaby by John Fuller
John Fuller
Sleep little baby, clean as a nut,
Your fingers uncurl and your eyes are shut.
Your life was ours, which is with you.
Go on your journey. We go too.

The bat is flying round the house
Like an umbrella turned into a mouse.
The moon is astonished and so are the sheep:
Their bells have come to send you to sleep.
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The Morning-Watch by Henry Vaughan
Henry Vaughan
O joys! infinite sweetness! with what flow’rs
And shoots of glory my soul breaks and buds!
All the long hours
Of night, and rest,
Through the still shrouds
Of sleep, and clouds,
This dew fell on my breast;
Oh, how it bloods
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Ode by Henry Timrod
Henry Timrod
Sung on the occasion of decorating the graves of the Confederate dead, at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S. C., 1866 Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause!—
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Praise by Stanley Moss
Stanley Moss
for Yehuda Amichai 1.

Snow clouds shadow the bay, on the ice the odd fallen gull.
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Robinson at Home by Weldon Kees
Weldon Kees
Curtains drawn back, the door ajar.
All winter long, it seemed, a darkening
Began. But now the moonlight and the odors of the street
Conspire and combine toward one community.

These are the rooms of Robinson.
Bleached, wan, and colorless this light, as though
All the blurred daybreaks of the spring
Found an asylum here, perhaps for Robinson alone,
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Sad Wine (II) by Cesare Pavese
Cesare Pavese
The hard thing’s to sit without being noticed.
Everything else will come easy. Three sips
and the impulse returns to sit thinking alone.
Against the buzzing backdrop of noise
everything fades, and it’s suddenly a miracle
to be born and to stare at the glass. And work
(a man who’s alone can’t not think of work)
becomes again the old fate that suffering’s good
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Tossing and Turning by John Updike
John Updike
The spirit has infinite facets, but the body
confiningly few sides.
There is the left,
the right, the back, the belly, and tempting
in-betweens, northeasts and northwests,
that tip the heart and soon pinch circulation
in one or another arm.
Yet we turn each time
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The Waking by Theodore Roethke
Theodore Roethke
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground!I shall walk softly there,
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Weariness by Eva Gore-Booth
Eva Gore-Booth
Amid the glare of light and song
And talk that knows not when to cease,
The sullen voices of the throng,
My weary soul cries out for peace,
Peace and the quietness of death;
The wash of waters deep and cool,
The wind too faint for any breath
To stir oblivion’s silent pool,
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Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight by Vachel Lindsay
Vachel Lindsay
(In Springfield, Illinois) It is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
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After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost
Robert Frost
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
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After Making Love We Hear Footsteps by Galway Kinnell
Galway Kinnell
For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
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Astrophil and Stella 39: Come Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace by Sir Philip Sidney
Sir Philip Sidney
Come Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
Th' indifferent judge between the high and low.
With shield of proof shield me from out the prease
Of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw:
O make in me those civil wars to cease;
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
A rosy garland and a weary head:
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.
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Choriambics by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Love, what ailed thee to leave life that was made lovely, we thought, with love?
What sweet visions of sleep lured thee away, down from the light above?

What strange faces of dreams, voices that called, hands that were raised to wave,
Lured or led thee, alas, out of the sun, down to the sunless grave?

Ah, thy luminous eyes! once was their light fed with the fire of day;
Now their shadowy lids cover them close, hush them and hide away.

Ah, thy snow-coloured hands! once were they chains, mighty to bind me fast;
Now no blood in them burns, mindless of love, senseless of passion past.

Ah, thy beautiful hair! so was it once braided for me, for me;
Now for death is it crowned, only for death, lover and lord of thee.

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The Cricket by Edwin Markham
Edwin Markham
The twilight is the morning of his day.
While Sleep drops seaward from the fading shore,
With purpling sail and dip of silver oar,
He cheers the shadowed time with roundelay,
Until the dark east softens into gray.
Now as the noisy hours are coming—hark!
His song dies gently—it is growing dark—
His night, with its one star, is on the way!
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Dream Land by Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti
Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.
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The Folk Who Live in Backward Town by Mary Ann Hoberman
Mary Ann Hoberman
The folk who live in Backward Town
Are inside out and upside down.
They wear their hats inside their heads
And go to sleep beneath their beds.
They only eat the apple peeling
And take their walks across the ceiling.
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For My Contemporaries by J. V. Cunningham
J. V. Cunningham
How time reverses
The proud in heart!
I now make verses
Who aimed at art.

But I sleep well.
Ambitious boys
Whose big lines swell
With spiritual noise,
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The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me by Delmore Schwartz
Delmore Schwartz
“the withness of the body” The heavy bear who goes with me,
A manifold honey to smear his face,
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Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud by John Donne
John Donne
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

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The Lake by Daryl Hine
Daryl Hine
dans le simple appareil
D’une beauté qu’on vient d’arracher au sommeil. Smoothed by sleep and ruffled by your dreams
The surface of the little lake
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Lines for a Prologue by Archibald MacLeish
Archibald MacLeish
These alternate nights and days, these seasons
Somehow fail to convince me. It seems
I have the sense of infinity!

(In your dreams, O crew of Columbus,
O listeners over the sea
For the surf that breaks upon Nothing—)

Once I was waked by the nightingales in the garden.
I thought, What time is it? I thought,
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Love's Nocturn by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Master of the murmuring courts
Where the shapes of sleep convene!—
Lo! my spirit here exhorts
All the powers of thy demesne
For their aid to woo my queen.
What reports
Yield thy jealous courts unseen?

Vaporous, unaccountable,
Dreamland lies forlorn of light,
Hollow like a breathing shell.
Ah! that from all dreams I might
Choose one dream and guide its flight!
I know well
What her sleep should tell to-night.
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Made Shine by Josephine Miles
Josephine Miles
This face had no use for light, took none of it,
Grew cavernous against stars, bore into noon
A dark of midnight by its own resources.

Yet where it lay in sleep, where the pillows held it
With the blind plaster over it and the four walls
Keeping the night carefully, it was undone.

Sixty-watt light, squared to a window frame,
Across a well of air, across wind and window
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On Being a Householder by Alan Dugan
Alan Dugan
I live inside of a machine
or machines. Every time one
goes off another starts. Why
don’t I go outside and sleep
on the ground. It is because
I’m scared of the open night
and stars looking down at me
as God’s eyes, full of questions;
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from The Princess: Sweet and Low by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother's breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
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Safe in their Alabaster Chambers (124) by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
Safe in their Alabaster Chambers -
Untouched by Morning -
and untouched by noon -
Sleep the meek members of the Resurrection,
Rafter of Satin and Roof of Stone -

Grand go the Years,
In the Crescent above them -
Worlds scoop their Arcs -
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Something Childish, but Very Natural by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Written in Germany If I had but two little wings
And were a little feathery bird,
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Song by Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton
(From Crossportion’s Pastoral) The bottom of the sea has come
And builded in my noiseless room
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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
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44
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Willie Winkie by William Miller
William Miller
Wee Willie Winkie
Rins through the toun,
Up stairs and doun stairs
In his nicht-gown,
Tirling at the window,
Crying at the lock,
“Are the weans in their bed,
For it’s now ten o’clock?
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31
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