Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SLEEP, by BERNARD BARTON



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SLEEP, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What is it that stills the sigh of sorrow
Last Line: Is his through a blissful eternity!
Alternate Author Name(s): Quaker Poet
Subject(s): Sleep


WHAT is it that stills the sigh of sorrow,
And forbids her tears to flow?—
That allows the desolate-hearted to borrow
A transient relief from wo?
It is thou, sweet Sleep! O then listen to me!
Be it but in thy dreams, while I sing of thee.

Could I embody the thoughts which now
Pass my soul's living tablet over,
No being more lovely and fair than thou,
Before mortal eye could hover:
Not deathly and pale, like a spectre stealing
On the slumb'rer, whose eyes thy power is sealing;—

But a form full of beauty, of joy, and grace,
And features with kindness bright,
Such as Raphael would love to trace;
A creature of glory and light,
With a silvery cloud, to chasten each hue
Too radiant else, should arise to view.

With angel eye, and a brow that never
Had been other than meekly calm;
And lips which a soft smile seems to sever,
Such as shed round a soothing charm;
With a step more light than zephyr's sigh,
Would I paint thee, in loveliness passing by.

Such could I fancy thee, roving far
Beneath the pale moon's glistening beam;
Or the fainter light of heaven's fairest star,
Attended by many a shadowy dream:
Those purer visions, in mercy given
To slumbering souls, when they dream of heaven!

By an infant's couch I behold thee sit,
Its widow'd parent's earthly treasure;
And over its features, like sunshine, flit
Bright gleams of half-unconscious pleasure:
Smiles of a spirit that knows no fears,
Such as belong not to after years.

And then to its parent disconsolate-hearted
But for that cherub, thou turn'st; and lo!
The undried tear, which perhaps had started
Before those eye-lids could slumber know,
Like a dew-drop at morn is exhal'd, in the union
Of souls, still mingling in blest communion.

And last, to the bed of some dying saint,
I can fancy thee gliding with noiseless foot,
Who, worn out with anguish, and ready to faint,
Ere thou drew'st nigh, was patiently mute:
Thou comest; and straight on his closing lids
Falls a spell, that protracted pain forbids.

As soon as his eyes soft slumbers seal,
He forgets all the anguish he felt before;
And the glory his faded features reveal
Tells whither his thoughts exulting soar:
He seems to have cast off his mortal array,
"And walks in the light of a sunless day."

Must he awake upon earth, to prove
The vision but cheated? O! rather say,
That HE, who is goodness, compassion, and love,
Permits him in slumber to pass away;
And all in that dream he could feel or see,
Is his through a blissful eternity!





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