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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806–61

The Sleep


OF all the thoughts of God that are

Borne inward into souls afar,

Along the Psalmist’s music deep,

Now tell me if that any is

For gift or grace surpassing this—

“He giveth His beloved, sleep”?

What would we give to our beloved?

The hero’s heart to be unmoved,

The poet’s star-tun’d harp to sweep,

The patriot’s voice to teach and rouse,

The monarch’s crown to light the brows?—

He giveth His beloved, sleep.

What do we give to our beloved?

A little faith all undisproved,

A little dust to overweep,

And bitter memories to make

The whole earth blasted for our sake:

He giveth His beloved, sleep.

“Sleep soft, beloved!” we sometimes say

Who have no tune to charm away

Sad dreams that through the eyelids creep:

But never doleful dream again

Shall break the happy slumber when

He giveth His beloved, sleep.

O earth, so full of dreary noises!

O men, with wailing in your voices!

O delved gold, the wailers heap!

O strife, O curse, that o’er it fall!

God strikes a silence through you all,

And giveth His beloved, sleep.

His dews drop mutely on the hill,

His cloud above it saileth still,

Though on its slope men sow and reap:

More softly than the dew is shed,

Or cloud is floated overhead,

He giveth His beloved, sleep.

Ay, men may wonder while they scan

A living, thinking, feeling man

Confirm’d in such a rest to keep;

But angels say, and through the word

I think their happy smile is heard

“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

For me, my heart that erst did go

Most like a tired child at a show,

That sees through tears the mummers leap,

Would now its wearied vision close,

Would childlike on His love repose

Who giveth His beloved, sleep.

And friends, dear friends, when it shall be

That this low breath is gone from me,

And round my bier ye come to weep,

Let One, most loving of you all,

Say, “Not a tear must o’er her fall!

He giveth His beloved, sleep.”