Mark Akenside

(1721-1770 / England)

Ode Ii: To Sleep - Poem by Mark Akenside

Thou silent power, whose welcome sway
Charms every anxious thought away;
In whose divine oblivion drown'd,
Sore pain and weary toil grow mild,
Love is with kinder looks beguil'd,
And grief forgets her fondly-cherish'd wound;
Oh whither hast thou flown, indulgent god?
God of kind shadows and of healing dews,
Whom dost thou touch with thy Lethæan rod?
Around whose temples now thy opiate airs diffuse?

Lo, midnight from her starry reign
Looks awful down on earth and main.
The tuneful birds lie hush'd in sleep,
With all that crop the verdant food,
With all that skim the crystal flood,
Or haunt the caverns of the rocky steep.
No rushing winds disturb the tufted bowers;
No wakeful sound the moon-light valley knows,
Save where the brook its liquid murmur pours,
And lulls the waving scene to more profound repose.

Oh let not me alone complain,
Alone invoke thy power in vain!
Descend, propitious, on my eyes;
Not from the couch that bears a crown,
Not from the courtly statesman's down,
Nor where the miser and his treasure lies:
Bring not the shapes that break the murderer's rest,
Nor those the hireling soldier loves to see,
Nor those which haunt the bigot's gloomy breast:
Far be their guilty nights, and far their dreams from me!

Nor yet those awful forms present,
For chiefs and heroes only meant:
The figur'd brass, the choral song,
The rescued people's glad applause,
The listening senate, and the laws
Fix'd by the counsels of Timoleon's tongue,
Are scenes too grand for fortune's private ways;
And though they shine in youth's ingenuous view,
The sober gainful arts of modern days
To such romantic thoughts have bid a long adieu.

I ask not, god of dreams, thy care
To banish Love's presentments fair:
Nor rosy cheek nor radiant eye
Can arm him with such strong command
That the young sorcerer's fatal hand
Should round my soul his pleasing fetters tie.
Nor yet the courtier's hope, the giving smile
(A lighter phantom, and a baser chain)
Did e'er in slumber my proud lyre beguile
To lend the pomp of thrones her ill-according strain.

But, Morpheus, on thy balmy wing
Such honorable visions bring,
As sooth'd great Milton's injur'd age,
When in prophetic dreams he saw
The race unborn with pious awe
Imbibe each virtue from his heavenly page:
Or such as Mead's benignant fancy knows
When health's deep treasures, by his art explor'd,
Have sav'd the infant from an orphan's woes,
Or to the trembling sire his age's hope restor'd.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 17, 2010

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