The Pains of Sleep

Original Text: 
S. T. Coleridge, Christabel, 2nd edn. (London: William Bulmer, 1816). D-10 8859 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
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,--
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. Back to Line
45] entempesting: a Coleridge coinage, typical of his word play, especially with prefixes and suffixes. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Kathleen Coburn; R. S. Woof
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.469.