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Sleep at Sea

by Christina Rossetti
Sound the deep waters:—
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Sleep at Sea

by Christina Rossetti
Sound the deep waters:—
  Who shall sound that deep?—
Too short the plummet,
  And the watchmen sleep.
Some dream of effort
  Up a toilsome steep;
Some dream of pasture grounds
  For harmless sheep.
White shapes flit to and fro
  From mast to mast;
They feel the distant tempest
  That nears them fast:
Great rocks are straight ahead,
  Great shoals not past;
They shout to one another
  Upon the blast.
Oh, soft the streams drop music
  Between the hills,
And musical the birds' nests
  Beside those rills:
The nests are types of home
  Love-hidden from ills,
The nests are types of spirits
  Love-music fills.
So dream the sleepers,
  Each man in his place;
The lightning shows the smile
  Upon each face:
The ship is driving, driving,
  It drives apace:
And sleepers smile, and spirits
  Bewail their case.
The lightning glares and reddens
  Across the skies;
It seems but sunset
  To those sleeping eyes.
When did the sun go down
  On such a wise?
From such a sunset
  When shall day arise?
'Wake,' call the spirits:
  But to heedless ears:
They have forgotten sorrows
  And hopes and fears;
They have forgotten perils
  And smiles and tears;
Their dream has held them long,
  Long years and years.
'Wake,' call the spirits again:
  But it would take
A louder summons
  To bid them awake.
Some dream of pleasure
  For another's sake;
Some dream, forgetful
  Of a lifelong ache.
One by one slowly,
  Ah, how sad and slow!
Wailing and praying
  The spirits rise and go:
Clear stainless spirits
  White as white as snow;
Pale spirits, wailing
  For an overthrow.
One by one flitting,
  Like a mournful bird
Whose song is tired at last
  For no mate is heard.
The loving voice is silent,
  The useless word;
One by one flitting
  Sick with hope deferred.
Driving and driving,
  The ship drives amain:
While swift from mast to mast
  Shapes flit again,
Flit silent as the silence
  Where men lie slain;
Their shadow cast upon the sails
  Is like a stain.
No voice to call the sleepers,
  No hand to raise:
They sleep to death in dreaming,
  Of length of days.
Vanity of vanities,
  The Preacher says:
Vanity is the end
  Of all their ways.

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