by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 - 1861)

How he sleepeth! having drunken
Language: English 
How he sleepeth! [ having drunken
            Weary childhood's mandragore,
        From his pretty eyes have sunken
            Pleasures, to make room for more---
Sleeping near the withered nosegay, which he pulled the day before.

        Nosegays! leave them for the waking:
            Throw them earthward where they grew.
        Dim are such, beside the breaking
            Amaranths he looks unto---
Folded eyes see brighter colours than the open ever do.

        Heaven-flowers, rayed by shadows golden
            From the paths they sprang beneath,
        Now perhaps divinely holden,
            Swing against him in a wreath---
We may think so from the quickening of his bloom and of his breath. ]1

        Vision unto vision calleth,
            While the young child dreameth on.
        Fair, O dreamer, thee befalleth
            With the glory thou hast won!
Darker wert thou in the garden, yestermorn, by summer sun.

        We should see the spirits [ringing]2
            Round thee, -- were the clouds away.
        'Tis the child-heart draws them, singing
            In the silent-seeming clay --
Singing! -- Stars that seem the mutest, go in music all the way.

      [  As the moths around a taper,
            As the bees around a rose,
        As the gnats around a vapour,---
            So the Spirits group and close
Round about a holy childhood, as if drinking its repose.

        Shapes of brightness overlean thee,---
            Flash their diadems of youth
        On the ringlets which half screen thee,---
            While thou smilest, . . . not in sooth
Thy smile . . . but the overfair one, dropt from some aethereal mouth.

        Haply it is angels' duty,
            During slumber, shade by shade:
        To fine down this childish beauty
            To the thing it must be made,
Ere the world shall bring it praises, or the tomb shall see it fade.]1

        Softly, softly! make no noises!
            Now he lieth [dead]3 and dumb --
        Now he hears the angels' voices
            Folding silence in the room --
Now he muses deep the meaning of the Heaven-words as they come.

[         Speak not! he is consecrated --
            Breathe no breath across his eyes.
        Lifted up and separated,
            On the hand of God he lies,
In a sweetness beyond touching -- held in cloistral sanctities.

        Could ye bless him -- father -- mother ?
            Bless the dimple in his cheek?
        Dare ye look at one another,
            And the benediction speak?
Would ye not break out in weeping, and confess yourselves too weak? ]1

        He is harmless -- [ye]4 are sinful, --
            [Ye]4 are troubled -- he, at ease:
        From his slumber, virtue winful
            Floweth outward with increase --
Dare not bless him! but be blessed by his peace -- and go in peace.

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View original text (without footnotes)
1 omitted by Elgar
2 Elgar: "rising"
3 Elgar: "still"
4 Elgar: "we"


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Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:01:23
Line count: 60
Word count: 414