Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Italian & Spanish
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XIII: Italian—Spanish
 
Sleep
By Baltasar del Alcázar (1530–1606)
 
SLEEP is no servant of the will;
  It has caprices of its own;
  When most pursued, ’tis swiftly gone;
When courted least, it lingers still.
With its vagaries long perplext,        5
  I turned and turned my restless sconce,
  Till, one fine night, I thought at once
I’d master it. So hear my text.
 
When sleep doth tarry, I begin
  My long and well-accustomed prayer,        10
  And in a twinkling sleep is there,
Through my bed-curtains peeping in.
When sleep hangs heavy on my eyes,
  I think of debts I fain would pay,
  And then, as flies night’s shade from day,        15
Sleep from my heavy eyelids flies.
 
And, thus controlled, the winged one bends
  E’en his fantastic will to me,
  And, strange yet true, both I and he
Are friends—the very best of friends.        20
We are a happy wedded pair,
  And I the lord and he the dame;
  Our bed, our board, our dreams the same,
And we’re united everywhere.
 
I’ll tell you where I learned to school        25
  This wayward sleep: a whispered word
  From a church-going hag I heard,
And tried it, for I was no fool.
So, from that very hour I knew
  That, having ready prayers to pray,        30
  And having many debts to pay,
Will serve for sleep, and waking too.
 
 
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