‘To Sleep’, a sonnet by one of the leading second-generation Romantic poets, John Keats (1795-1821), addresses sleep as a ‘soft embalmer of the still midnight’. Sleep allows us to escape our own minds, when one’s conscience begins to prick us, keeping us awake. Sleep wraps us up in lovely delicious rest, and allows us to forget the world.
O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the ‘Amen,’ ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities. Read the rest of this entry
‘I dream of you, to wake’ is a sonnet by the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti (1830-94). Although not one of her most famous poems, it’s a marvellous sonnet: addressed to the speaker’s lover, and contrasting the wonderful, perfect dream world that sleep brings with the less perfect reality that we wake to (hence ‘I dream of you, to wake’). If only she could dream all the time, then things would be all right!
‘I dream of you, to wake’ by Christina Rossetti
I dream of you, to wake: would that I might
Dream of you and not wake but slumber on;
Nor find with dreams the dear companion gone,
As, Summer ended, Summer birds take flight.
In happy dreams I hold you full in night.
I blush again who waking look so wan;
Brighter than sunniest day that ever shone,
In happy dreams your smile makes day of night. Read the rest of this entry
‘The stars are mansions built by Nature’s hand’ is not one of the most famous poems by William Wordsworth (1770-1850), nor even one of his more famous sonnets. But it’s a fine poem about the stars, which manages to touch upon the natural world (as we’d expect from a poem by a leading Romantic poet) as well as the divine.
The stars are mansions built by Nature’s hand,
And, haply, there the spirits of the blest
Dwell, clothed in radiance, their immortal vest;
Huge Ocean shows, within his yellow strand,
A habitation marvellously planned,
For life to occupy in love and rest;
All that we see – is dome, or vault, or nest,
Or fortress, reared at Nature’s sage command. Read the rest of this entry