Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A CHILD ASLEEP, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A CHILD ASLEEP, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: How he sleepeth, having drunken
Last Line: Dare not bless him! But be blessed by his peace, and go in peace.
Subject(s): Children; Sleep; Childhood


How he sleepeth, having drunken
Weary childhood's mandragore!
From its pretty eyes have sunken
Pleasures to make room for more;
Sleeping near the withered nosegay which he pulled the day before.


Nosegays! leave them for the waking;
Throw them earthward where they grew;
Dim are such beside the breaking
Amaranths he looks unto:
Folded eyes see brighter colors than the open ever do.


Heaven-flowers, rayed by shadows golden
From the palms they sprang beneath,
Now perhaps divinely holden,
Swing against him in a wreath:
We may think so from the quickening of his bloom and of his breath.


Vision unto vision calleth
While the young child dreameth on:
Fair, O dreamer, thee befalleth
With the glory thou hast won!
Darker wast thou in the garden yestermorn by summer sun.


We should see the spirits ringing
Round thee, were the clouds away:
'T is the child-heart draws them, singing
In the silent-seeming clay --
Singing! stars that seem the mutest go in music all the way.


As the moths around a taper,
As the bees around a rose,
As the gnats around a vapor,
So the spirits group and close
Round about a holy childhood as if drinking its repose.


Shapes of brightness overlean thee,
Flash their diadems of youth
On the ringlets which half screen thee,
While thou smilest ... not in sooth
Thy smile, but the overfair one, dropt from some ethereal mouth.


Haply it is angels' duty,
During slumber, shade by shade
To fine down this childish beauty
To the thing it must be made
Ere the world shall bring it praises, or the tomb shall see it fade.


Softly, softly! make no noises!
Now he lieth dead and dumb;
Now he hears the angels' voices
Folding silence in the room:
Now he muses deep the meaning of the Heaven-words as they come.


Speak not! he is consecrated;
Breathe no breath across his eyes:
Lifted up and separated
On the hand of God he lies
In a sweetness beyond touching, held in cloistral sanctities.


Could ye bless him, father -- mother,
Bless the dimple in his cheek?
Dare ye look at one another
And the benediction speak?
Would ye not break out in weeping and confess yourselves too weak?


He is harmless, ye are sinful;
Ye are troubled, he at ease;
From his slumber virtue winful
Floweth outward with increase.
Dare not bless him! but be blessed by his peace, and go in peace.

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