Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Ode to Sleep
By Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830–1886)
BEYOND the sunset and the amber sea
  To the lone depths of ether, cold and bare,
Thy influence, soul of all tranquillity,
  Hallows the earth and awes the reverent air;
Yon laughing rivulet quells its silvery tune;        5
  The pines, like priestly watchers tall and grim,
  Stand mute against the pensive twilight dim,
Breathless to hail the advent of the moon;
From the white beach the ocean falls away
  Coyly, and with a thrill; the sea-birds dart        10
  Ghostlike from out the distance, and depart
With a gray fleetness, moaning the dead day;
The wings of Silence, overfolding space,
  Droop with dusk grandeur from the heavenly steep,
And through the stillness gleams thy starry face,—        15
          Serenest Angel, Sleep!
Come! woo me here, amid these flowery charms;
  Breathe on my eyelids; press thy odorous lips
Close to mine own; enwreathe me in thine arms,
  And cloud my spirit with thy sweet eclipse;        20
No dreams! no dreams! keep back the motley throng,—
  For such are girded round with ghastly might,
And sing low burdens of despondent song,
  Decked in the mockery of a lost delight;
I ask oblivion’s balsam! the mute peace        25
  Toned to still breathings, and the gentlest sighs;
  Not music woven of rarest harmonies
Could yield me such elysium of release:
The tones of earth are weariness,—not only
  ’Mid the loud mart, and in the walks of trade,        30
But where the mountain Genius broodeth lonely,
  In the cool pulsing of the sylvan shade;
Then bear me far into thy noiseless land;
  Surround me with thy silence, deep on deep,
          Until serene I stand        35
Close by a duskier country, and more grand
  Mysterious solitude, than thine, O Sleep!
As he whose veins a feverous frenzy burns,
  Whose life-blood withers in the fiery drouth,
Feebly and with a languid longing turns        40
  To the spring breezes gathering from the south,
So, feebly and with languid longing, I
Turn to thy wished nepenthe, and implore
  The golden dimness, the purpureal gloom
Which haunt thy poppied realm, and make the shore        45
  Of thy dominion balmy with all bloom.
In the clear gulfs of thy serene profound,
Worn passions sink to quiet, sorrows pause,
  Suddenly fainting to still-breathèd rest:
Thou own’st a magical atmosphere, which awes        50
  The memories seething in the turbulent breast;
Which, muffling up the sharpness of all sound
Of mortal lamentation, solely bears
  The silvery minor toning of our woe,
  All mellowed to harmonious underflow,        55
Soft as the sad farewells of dying years,—
  Lulling as sunset showers that veil the west,
      And sweet as Love’s last tears
When over-welling hearts do mutely weep:
  O griefs! O wailings! your tempestuous madness,        60
  Merged in a regal quietude of sadness,
Wins a strange glory by the streams of sleep!
Then woo me here, amid these flowery charms;
  Breathe on my eyelids, press thy odorous lips
Close to mine own; enfold me in thine arms,        65
  And cloud my spirit with thy sweet eclipse;
And while from waning depth to depth I fall,
Down lapsing to the utmost depths of all,
  Till wan forgetfulness obscurely stealing
    Creeps like an incantation on the soul,        70
And o’er the slow ebb of my conscious life
  Dies the thin flush of the last conscious feeling,
    And like abortive thunder, the dull roll
  Of sullen passions ebbs far, far away,—
O Angel! loose the chords which cling to strife,        75
Sever the gossamer bondage of my breath,
  And let me pass, gently as winds in May,
  From the dim realm which owns thy shadowy sway,
To thy diviner sleep, O sacred Death!

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