Sleep and Death

by William Wycherley

William Wycherley

O Sleep! thou dost thy healing Virtues lend,
At once t'instruct our Nature, and befriend.
Do'st to our wearied Limbs fresh Strength supply,
And giv'st Ideas what 'twill be to die.
Brother of Death! In Office how the same!
Both lent us to repair our shatter'd Frame;
Yet diff'ring here, that Sleep at best can grant
A Short Refreshment in our present Want;
But Death, when it arrests our mould'ring Clay,
Prepares us for a State of Undecay.
In other Circumstances, gentle Sleep,
Like Death, on Man can equal Blessings heap.
With him thou do'st this common Province share,
To make the Graves that bury all our Care:
Like him, the wrong'd and luckless thou dost bless,
With Ease, Rest, Quiet, and Forgetfulness.
Like him thou art an humble Leveller,
Since all Degrees in Thee alike appear:
Like him most Rest do'st to such Mortals give,
As most by Rule and sober Temp'rance live;
Like him do'st silence busie Life's alarms,
Subdue our Passions, and prevent our Harms.

O Sleep, thou common, yet thou partial Joy,
Oft kind to Plenty, but more often coy;
That still prefer'st the humble tranquil State,
And least are compass'd by the Proud and Great:
With waking Cares the rich and great are curst,
Cares, that the Seals of brittle Slumbers burst!
Thou, like thy Sister Innocence, do'st fly
The Court, and all it's empty Pageantry,
And still delight'st thy balmy Gifts to shed,
Upon the honest lab'ring Rustick's Head:
In Cities rarely do'st thou chuse to dwell,
Constant as Cobwebs to the humble Cell;
Lost in soft Beds, but in each hard one found,
And, like a Country Mistress, on the Ground.

Thou only can'st each absent Blessing grant,
Which, but asleep, we languish for and want:
Thou'rt the chast Comfort of the Widow's Bed,
That kindly do'st restore the Husband dead;
And, O, thou full Refreshment to the Maid,
Who do'st, in Dreams, her feav'rish Passion aid;
Do'st give her Pleasure, yet her Shame prevent,
Ease her Desire, yet keep her innocent.
No Man's undone, who seems opprest by Thee;
Debtors are, under thy Arrest made free:
Thou can'st poor Slaves from Chains awhile release,
In Durance, give them Freedom, Health and Ease.
By Thee, our Cares in diff'rent Lights are rang'd,
And black Despair for chearful Hopes exchang'd;
Distance and Time thou can'st at Will oe'rleap,
And compremise whole Years in one short Sleep.
By Thee divided Friends embrace in Thought,
And absent Lovers are together brought.
O let me this last Benefit enjoy,
And Lucia 's Image the dear Dream employ,
A Prophet's Vision shall seem flat and poor,
To the rich Transport of that blissful Hour.

Last updated May 19, 2019