You know me much closer and touch me much deeper
Than any could ever before –
You bring to your table this soundest of sleepers,
And open me up to explore.
You rend me asunder with gentle‘est plunder,
To survey my hintermost-lands;
You ease my distress with your tender caress,
With my life firmly held in your hands.
An angel came into my room
One night, and hovered by my bed,
With subtle beats of golden wings,
And gentle light about his head.
And while my shock about my guest
Continued, so he spoke to me:
“Why, pray, shall you so hate God
When all He shows is love for thee ?”
“The Lord…?” I stammered once or twice,
Then found some voice from who knows where
To make reply “I hate him not,
The truth is that I do not care.”
“Now come,” the angel mocked with jest,
“For all your claims of disbelief,
Why would you spend so much strong speech
On what should matter slight and brief ?
If you upon such proof insist
As only science can provide,
Then, please, we wish you go in peace,
And as you go, let us abide.”
And as his light began to fade
And too his form began to fly,
I softly said, perhaps too late:
“So I shall you. Shall you so I ?”
Oh, I could sleep for a hundred years –
Sleep through bombardment or brass band or earthquake,
Sleep through a hundred-fold stampeding steers,
Sleep with more passion and vigour than when I’m awake,
With a beautiful absence of fears –
For so comes my guardian muse.
You’ll think me too-slumbered, encoma’d, unwound –
An elegant study in prone and supine.
With hardly a care if I never come round,
Each whispering breath but a sigh of repletion divine –
So sweet is the stupor, so stormless the snooze.
And tenderly, warmly, and soft she sedates,
My deadlines dissolve and my duties unstream,
My tension unstraps and my hasslements scatter –
For there on my pillow, my mesmerous mistress awaits.
And do I dream ?
Perhaps. It really doesn’t matter.
The beds that I’ve slept in, the beds that I’ve known:
Each harder than vapour and softer than stone,
From four-poster boasters to flea-bitten heaps –
I’ve sailed on their billows and sunk in their deeps.
From headboards to bedsteads, from duvets to sheets,
From brass-knobs to tassels, from casters to pleats,
With mattresses lumpy or stuffed to the seams:
They each one and ev’ry are beds of my dreams.
But they never will be perfect;
They’re close, but they never will.
In all my sleeping days alive
In which I ply my greatest skill,
The bliss of never-knowning five ayem
Is never quite as good in them.
However much they rest me,
They are always second-best –
Why climb the hill to Bedfordshire
To lie alone atop its crest ?
The bed I most desire to keep
Is in beside wherever you may sleep.
The beds that I’ve slept in, the beds I’ve called home:
To lie down on eiderdown, horsehair and foam.
From top-bunk to futon, from hammock to cot,
I’ve slept in the worst and the best of the lot.
Springs within pockets and springs within springs,
From the smallest of cribs to the sizes of kings.
A third of our lives is spend under their care,
From a bench in a park to the Great Bed of Ware.
One night, I swear I’ll drift away,
A hundred years a-snore,
And float amid the elves and fay
To where no dreamers dare explore,
And free my delta-waves to play
Where only Nemo came before.
Until I’m tossed upon your shore again,
To share once more your counterpane.
For the perfect place for counting sheep
Is right beside wherever you may sleep.
The title comes from Shakespeare, though not from his plays.