The Pains of Sleep

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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 beloved is all I need,

And whom I love, I love indeed.