Goblin Market, and other poems, by Christina Rossetti

Sleep at Sea

Sound the deep waters:—

    Who shall sound that deep? —

Too short the plummet,

    And the watchmen sleep.

Some dream of effort

    Up a toilsome steep;

Some dream of pasture grounds

    For harmless sheep.

White shapes flit to and fro

    From mast to mast;

They feel the distant tempest

    That nears them fast:

Great rocks are straight ahead,

    Great shoals not past;

They shout to one another

    Upon the blast.

Oh, soft the streams drop music

    Between the hills,

And musical the birds’ nests

    Beside those rills:

The nests are types of home

    Love-hidden from ills,

The nests are types of spirits

    Love-music fills.

So dream the sleepers,

    Each man in his place;

The lightning shows the smile

    Upon each face:

The ship is driving, driving,

    It drives apace:

And sleepers smile, and spirits

    Bewail their case.

The lightning glares and reddens

    Across the skies;

It seems but sunset

    To those sleeping eyes.

When did the sun go down

    On such a wise?

From such a sunset

    When shall day arise?

‘Wake,’ call the spirits:

    But to heedless ears:

They have forgotten sorrows

    And hopes and fears;

They have forgotten perils

    And smiles and tears;

Their dream has held them long,

    Long years and years.

‘Wake,’ call the spirits again:

    But it would take

A louder summons

    To bid them awake.

Some dream of pleasure

    For another’s sake;

Some dream, forgetful

    Of a lifelong ache.

One by one slowly,

    Ah, how sad and slow!

Wailing and praying

    The spirits rise and go:

Clear stainless spirits

    White as white as snow;

Pale spirits, wailing

    For an overthrow.

One by one flitting,

    Like a mournful bird

Whose song is tired at last

    For no mate is heard.

The loving voice is silent,

    The useless word;

One by one flitting

    Sick with hope deferred.

Driving and driving,

    The ship drives amain:

While swift from mast to mast

    Shapes flit again,

Flit silent as the silence

    Where men lie slain;

Their shadow cast upon the sails

    Is like a stain.

No voice to call the sleepers,

    No hand to raise:

They sleep to death in dreaming,

    Of length of days.

Vanity of vanities,

    The Preacher says:

Vanity is the end

    Of all their ways.


Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33