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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Baltasar del Alcázar (1530–1606)

SLEEP is no servant of the will,

It has caprices of its own:

When most pursued,—’tis swiftly gone;

When courted least, it lingers still.

With its vagaries long perplext,

I turned and turned my restless sconce,

Till one bright night, I thought at once

I’d master it; so hear my text!

When sleep will tarry, I begin

My long and my accustomed prayer;

And in a twinkling sleep is there,

Through my bed-curtains peeping in.

When sleep hangs heavy on my eyes,

I think of debts I fain would pay;

And then, as flies night’s shade from day,

Sleep from my heavy eyelids flies.

And thus controlled the winged one bends

Ev’n his fantastic will to me;

And, strange, yet true, both I and he

Are friends,—the very best of friends.

We are a happy wedded pair,

And I the lord and she the dame;

Our bed—our board—our hours the same,

And we’re united everywhere.

I’ll tell you where I learnt to school

This wayward sleep:—a whispered word

From a church-going hag I heard,

And tried it—for I was no fool.

So from that very hour I knew

That having ready prayers to pray,

And having many debts to pay,

Will serve for sleep and waking too.