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Short poem

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

The Pains of Sleep

              1Ere on my bed my limbs I lay,
              2It hath not been my use to pray
              3With moving lips or bended knees;
              4But silently, by slow degrees,
              5My spirit I to Love compose,
              6In humble trust mine eye-lids close,
              7With reverential resignation
              8No wish conceived, no thought exprest,
              9Only a sense of supplication;
            10A sense o'er all my soul imprest
            11That I am weak, yet not unblest,
            12Since in me, round me, every where
            13Eternal strength and Wisdom are.

            14But yester-night I prayed aloud
            15In anguish and in agony,
            16Up-starting from the fiendish crowd
            17Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me:
            18A lurid light, a trampling throng,
            19Sense of intolerable wrong,
            20And whom I scorned, those only strong!
            21Thirst of revenge, the powerless will
            22Still baffled, and yet burning still!
            23Desire with loathing strangely mixed
            24On wild or hateful objects fixed.
            25Fantastic passions! maddening brawl!
            26And shame and terror over all!
            27Deeds to be hid which were not hid,
            28Which all confused I could not know
            29Whether I suffered, or I did:
            30For all seemed guilt, remorse or woe,
            31My own or others still the same
            32Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame.

            33So two nights passed: the night's dismay
            34Saddened and stunned the coming day.
            35Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me
            36Distemper's worst calamity.
            37The third night, when my own loud scream
            38Had waked me from the fiendish dream,
            39O'ercome with sufferings strange and wild,
            40I wept as I had been a child;
            41And having thus by tears subdued
            42My anguish to a milder mood,
            43Such punishments, I said, were due
            44To natures deepliest stained with sin,--
            45For aye entempesting anew
            46The unfathomable hell within,
            47The horror of their deeds to view,
            48To know and loathe, yet wish and do!
            49Such griefs with such men well agree,
            50But wherefore, wherefore fall on me?
            51To be loved is all I need,
            52And whom I love, I love indeed.


1] Sent in a letter to Southey in September 1803, and first published in 1816 with Christabel. This poem was written out of explicit experiences, intensified at this date by a walking trip in Scotland at first with William and Dorothy Wordsworth, then alone, during which Coleridge tried by extraordinary physical exertion (263 miles in the last eight days of the tour) to abstain from opium. The pains of "withdrawal" undoubtedly increased the "guilt, remorse or woe" that constantly pursued him.

45] entempesting: a Coleridge coinage, typical of his word play, especially with prefixes and suffixes.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: S. T. Coleridge, Christabel, 2nd edn. (London: William Bulmer, 1816). D-10 8859 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1816
RPO poem editor: Kathleen Coburn, R. S. Woof
RP edition: 3RP 2.469.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/20

Composition date: September 1803
Form note: irregular (couplets and quatrains)

Other poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge