Saturday, September 26, 2009

William Wordsworth’s Sleepless Nights

It seems that William Wordsworth was well acquainted with insomnia. His poem “To Sleep” describes how he wrestled sleep – and lost – across three restless nights.

Poet Christopher Nield recently wrote
an essay about the poem for the Epoch Times. It’s the latest in his series on “Classic Poetry for Modern Life.”

In the opening lines of the poem Wordsworth describes the futility of his attempts to capture sleep “by any stealth.” Counting sheep. Listening to the imaginary sound of rain. Visualizing a pleasant scene.

“He looks for that elusive key to rest,” comments Nield.

The result? “Still I lie sleepless.”

With dread Wordsworth anticipates hearing the sounds that will signal day’s return. For him the blessing of sleep has become a curse.

He concludes with a desperate, hopeful plea for sleep to come this time:

So do not let me wear tonight away:
Without Thee what is all the morning's wealth?
Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

Nield suggests that the poem remains as relevant today as when it was written.

“How many of us can identify with Wordsworth’s description of lying awake until the birds twitter their dawn chorus?” he asks.

What about you? Are you all too familiar with the struggle Wordsworth describes? Do you find comfort in the words of his poem?

Get insight about insomnia in this Q&A with a sleep specialist on

1 comment:

ultimatecheater said...

I like the poem very much and thank you for your analysis

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