Christina Rossetti: Sleep at Sea

Sleep at Sea

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.