Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BED, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

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THE BED, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Thou, of all god's gifts the best
Last Line: Softest, safest, blessedest.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Beds; Dreams; Sleep; Youth; Nightmares


"THOU, of all God's gifts the best
Blessed Bed!" I muse, and rest
Thinking how it havened me
In my dazed Infancy --
Ere mine eyes could bear the kind
Daylight through the window-blind,
Or my lips, in yearning quest,
Groping found the mother-breast,
Or mine utterance but owned
Minor sounds that sobbed and moaned.


Gracious Bed that nestled me
Even ere the mother's knee, --
Lulling me to slumber ere
Conscious of my treasure there --
Save the tiny palms that kept
Fondling, even as I slept,
That rare dual-wealth of mine, --
Softest pillow -- sweetest wine! --
Gentlest cheer for mortal guest,
And of Love's fare lordliest.


By thy grace, O Bed, the first
Blooms of Boyhood-memories burst: --
Dreams of riches, swift withdrawn
As I, wakening, find the dawn
With its glad Spring-face once more
Glimmering on me as of yore:
Then the bluebird's limpid cry
Lulls me like a lullaby,
Till falls every failing sense
Back to sleep's sheer impotence.


Or, a truant, home again, --
With the moonlight through the pane,
And the kiss that ends the prayer --
Then the footsteps down the stair;
And the close hush; and far click
Of the old clock; and the thick
Sweetness of the locust-bloom
Drugging all the enchanted room
Into darkness fathoms deep
As mine own pure childish sleep.


Gift and spell, O Bed, retell
Every lovely miracle --
Up from childhood's simplest dream
Unto manhood's pride supreme! --
Sacredness no words express, --
Lo, the young wife's fond caress
Of her first-born, while beside
Bends the husband, tearful-eyed,
Marveling of kiss and prayer
Which of these is holier there.


Trace the vigils through the long,
Long nights, when the cricket's song
Stunned the sick man's fevered brain,
As he tossed and moaned in pain
Piteous -- till thou, O Bed,
Smoothed the pillows for his head,
And thy soothest solace laid
Round him, and his fever weighed
Into slumber deep and cool,
And divinely merciful.


Thus, O Bed, all gratefully
I would ever sing of thee --
Till the final sleep shall fall
O'er me, and the crickets call
In the grasses where at last
I am indolently cast
Like a play-worn boy at will. --
'Tis a Bed befriends me still --
Yea, and Bed, belike, the best,
Softest, safest, blessedest.

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