The Poem The Pains of Sleep

The Pains of Sleep


Ere on my bed my limbs I lay, 

It hath not been my use to pray 

With moving lips or bended knees; 

But silently, by slow degrees, 

My spirit I to Love compose, 

In humble trust mine eye-lids close, 

With reverential resignation 

No wish conceived, no thought exprest, 

Only a sense of supplication; 

A sense o’er all my soul imprest 

That I am weak, yet not unblest, 

Since in me, round me, every where 

Eternal strength and Wisdom are.

But yester-night I prayed aloud 

In anguish and in agony, 

Up-starting from the fiendish crowd 

Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me: 

A lurid light, a trampling throng, 

Sense of intolerable wrong, 

And whom I scorned, those only strong! 

Thirst of revenge, the powerless will 

Still baffled, and yet burning still!

Desire with loathing strangely mixed 

On wild or hateful objects fixed. 

Fantastic passions! maddening brawl! 

And shame and terror over all! 

Deeds to be hid which were not hid, 

Which all confused I could not know 

Whether I suffered, or I did: 

For all seemed guilt, remorse or woe, 

My own or others still the same 

Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame. 

So two nights passed: the night’s dismay 

Saddened and stunned the coming day. 

Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me 

Distemper’s worst calamity. 

The third night, when my own loud scream 

Had waked me from the fiendish dream, 

O’ercome with sufferings strange and wild, 

I wept as I had been a child; 

And having thus by tears subdued 

My anguish to a milder mood, 

Such punishments, I said, were due 

To natures deepliest stained with sin,— 

For aye entempesting anew 

The unfathomable hell within, 

The horror of their deeds to view,

To know and loathe, yet wish and do! 

Such griefs with such men well agree, 

But wherefore, wherefore fall on me? 

To be loved is all I need, 

And whom I love, I love indeed

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