"Sleep" (Autumn Journal)
Sleep, my body, sleep, my ghost,
Sleep, my parents and grand-parents,
And all those I have loved most:
One man’s coffin is another’s cradle.
Sleep, my past and all my sins,
In distant snow or dried roses
Under the moon for night’s cocoon will open
When day begins.
Sleep, my fathers, in your graves
On upland bogland under heather;
What the wind scatters the wind saves,
A sapling springs in a new country.
Time is a country, the present moment
A spotlight roving round the scene;
We need not chase the spotlight,
The future is the bride of what has been.
Sleep, my fancies and my wishes,
Sleep a little and wake strong,
The same but different and take my blessing —
And sleep, my various and conflicting
Selves I have so long endured,
Sleep in Asclepius’ temple
And wake cured.
And you with whom I shared an idyll
Five years long,
Sleep beyond the Atlantic
And wake to a glitter of dew and to bird-song.
And you whose eyes are blue, whose ways are foam,
Sleep quiet and smiling
And do not hanker
For a perfection which can never come.
And you whose minutes patter
To crowd the social hours,
Curl up easy in a placid corner
And let your thoughts close in like flowers.
And you, who work for Christ, and you, as eager
For a better life, humanist, atheist,
And you, devoted to a cause, and you, to a family,
Sleep and may your beliefs and zeal persist.
Sleep quietly, Marx and Freud,
The figure-heads of our transition.
Cagney, Lombard, Bing and Garbo,
Sleep in your world of celluloid.
Sleep now also, monk and satyr,
Cease your wrangling for a night.
Sleep, my brain, and sleep, my senses,
Sleep, my hunger and my spite.
Sleep, recruits to the evil army,
Who, for so long misunderstood,
Took to the gun to kill your sorrow;
Sleep and be damned and wake up good.
While we sleep, what shall we dream?
Of Tir nan Og or South Sea Islands
Of a land where all the milk is cream
And all the girls are willing?
Or shall our dream be in earnest of the real
Future when we wake?
Design a home, a factory, a fortress
Which, though with effort, we can really make?
What is it we want really?
For what end and how?
If it is something feasible, obtainable
Let us dream it now
And pray for a possible land
Not of sleep-walkers, not of angry puppets
But where both heart and brain can understand
The movements of our fellows
Where life is a choice of instruments and none
Is debarred his natural music
Where the waters of life are free from the ice blockade of hunger
And thought is as free as the sun
Where altars built to sheer power and mere profit
Have fallen to disuse
Where nobody sees the use
of buying money and blood at the cost of blood and money.
Where the individual, no longer squandered
In self-assertion works with the rest endowed
With the split vision of a juggler, the quick lock of a taxi
Where the people are more than a crowd.
So sleep in hope of this, but only for a little
Your hope must wake
While the choice is yours to make
The mortgage not foreclosed, the offer still open.
Sleep serene, avoid the backward
Glance; go forward, dreams, and do not halt
(Behind you in the desert stands a token
Of doubt — a pillar of salt).
Sleep, the past, and wake, the future,
And walk out promptly through the open door;
But you, my coward doubts, may go on sleeping,
You need not wake again — not any more.
The New Year comes with bombs, it is too late
To dose the dead with honourable intentions:
If you have honour to spare, employ it on the living;
The dead are dead as Nineteen-Thirty-Eight.
Sleep to the noise of running water
To-morrow to be crossed, however deep;
This is no river of the dead or Lethe,
To-night we sleep
On the banks of Rubicon — the die is cast;
There will be time to audit
The accounts later, there will be sunlight later
And the equation will come out at last.