Ode to Sleep
by Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
Thou silent pow’r, whose balmy sway
Charms every anxious thought away;
In whose divine oblivion drown’d,
Fatigue and toiling pain grow mild,
Love is with sweet success beguil’d,
And sad remorse forgets her secret wound;
O whither hast thou flown, indulgent God?
God of kind shadows and of healing dews,
O’er whom dost thou extend thy magic rod?
Around what peaceful couch thy opiate airs diffuse?
Lo, midnight from her starry reign
Looks awful down on earth and main.
The tuneful birds like hush’d in sleep,
With all that crop the verdant food,
With all that skim the crystal flood,
Or haunt the caverns of the rocky steep.
No rushing winds disturb the tufted bow’rs;
No wakeful sound the moonlight valley knows,
Save where the brook its liquid murmur pours,
And lulls the waving scene to more profound repose.
O let not me thus watch alone!
O hear my solitary moan!
Descend, propitious, on my eyes;
Not from the couch that bears a crown,
Not from the statesman’s thorny down,
Or where the miser and his treasure lies:
Bring not the shapes that break the murd’rer’s rest;
Nor those the hireling soldier burns to see,
Nor those that haunt the tyrant’s gloomy breast:
Far be their guilty nights, and far their dreams from me!
Nor yet those awful joys present,
For chiefs and heroes only meant:
The figur’d brass, the choral song,
The rescued people’s glad applause,
The list’ning senate, and the laws
Bent on the dictates of TIMOLEAN’S tongue,
Are scenes too grand for fortune’s private ways;
And tho’ they shine to youth’s ingenious view,
The sober gainful arts of modern days,
To such romantic thoughts have bid a long adieu.
B lest be my fate! I need not pray
That lovesick dreams be kept away:
No female charms, or fancy born,
Nor damask cheek, nor sparkling eye,
With me the bands of sleep untie,
Or steal by minutes half the sauntring morn.
Nor yet the courtier’s hope, the giving smile,
(A lighter phantom and a baser chain)
Bids wealth and place the fever’d night beguile,
To gall my waking hours with more vexacious pain.
But, Morpheus, on thy dewy wing
Such fair auspicious visions bring,
As sooth’d great MILTON’S injur’d age,
When in prophetic dreams he saw
The tribes unborn with pious awe
Imbibe each virtue from his heav’nly page:
Or such as MEAD’S benignant fancy knows,
When health’s kind treasures, by his art explor’d,
Have sav’d the infant from an orphan’s woes,
Or to the trembling sire his age’s hope restor’d.