1748
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Sleep.

Poems on Several Occasions. By the Reverend Mr. Thomas Warton, Batchelor of Divinity, later Vicar of Basingstoke in Hampshire, and sometime Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford.

Rev. Joseph Warton


A retirement ode imitating Milton's Il Penseroso in seven eight-line octosyllabic stanzas. While the poem is published as by the elder Warton, a draft survives in Joseph Warton's handwriting. Imitating the famous "dream" passage in Il Penseroso, the poet imagines himself hearing the voices of Plato and Cicero. David Fairer points out the several echoes from Shakespeare (Henry IV, Henry V, Macbeth) as well as the allusions to Il Penseroso, "Poems of Thomas Warton the Elder?" RES NS 26 (1975) 399.



I.
O Gentle, feather-footed Sleep,
In drowsy Dews my Temples steep;
Softly waving o'er my Head,
The Care-beguiling Rod of Lead:
O leave thy Bed of balmy Flow'rs,
And waken all thy dewy Pow'rs,
And wafted on the silent Wing,
The Dreams, thy little People bring!

II.
Let sobbing Grief, and midnight Feast,
Comus, and loudly-laughing Jest,
Never near my Couch appear,
Nor whistling Whirlwinds wound my Ear,
In Heav'n's avenging Anger sent,
To shake the shatter'd Battlement,
From whence the melancholy Owl,
To wake the Wolf is wont to howl:

III.
But whispering Show'rs from off the Eaves,
Softly dripping on the Leaves,
Mix'd with the mildly-stirring Wind,
Shall woo to rest my weary Mind;
Now Silence o'er the midnight Ground,
Slowly walks his solemn Round,
In Mead or Forest, Dale or Hill,
Commanding Nature to be still.

IV.
Kind Somnus, from the lofty Dome
To my low Cottage deign to come,
Leave murd'rous Tyrants' silken Beds,
No Poppies pour on guilty Heads.
While wailing Ghosts their Slumbers break,
That round their trembling Curtains shriek,
While Thoughts of many a Wretch opprest,
With Terror tear the troubled Breast.

V.
Cramm'd with distressful Bread, the Hind
With weary Limbs and vacant Mind,
By buzzing Night-Flies husht, requires
No lulling Sounds from Lydian Lyres;
Rock'd on the high and giddy Mast,
Regardless of the wint'ry Blast,
How happy the wet Sea-boy lies,
While sweetest Slumbers seal his Eyes.

VI.
Such Joys the virtuous Bosom crown,
While Kings and Statesmen toss on Down:
Somnus, to me such Joys impart,
Balm of hurt Minds, O sooth my Heart:
Lapt in the Folds of soft Repose,
We lose our Labours, Pangs, and Woes;
Thy opiate Influence we bless,
Parent of Forgetfulness!

VII.
Place me, kind God, in lively Dream
Near smooth Ilissus' winding Stream.
In Olive-shade, with ravisht Ear,
While Plato's Voice I seem to hear:
Or from the green, Athenian Mead
To the high Roman Forum lead,
Where Tully's Tongue with Force divine
Confounds pale, trembling Cataline.

[pp. 162-66]