Thursday, January 25, 2007


More on Sleep

In response to yesterday's post on sleep, Javier Álvarez writes:
There are some remarkable Spanish and Italian texts about sleep and insomnia. Apart from a composition by Quevedo, quoted in Sonnets to Morpheus, I recommend you to read this sonnet of Giovanni della Casa. Unfortunately, I could not find the text of Fernando de Herrera's "Ode to Sleep" in the Internet. It is worth reading. Maybe I'll post it soon in Edad de Oro.
If you follow the link to della Casa's beautiful sonnet, you'll find an English translation by Laurie Stras. Among other Italian poems translated by Stras I see the anonymous Il dolce sonno (Sweet sleep).

Buce of Palookaville, author of Underbelly, also writes:
Re sleep, seems to me that no one beats Shax, in many places but particularly Henry IV:
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king?
The words immediately following in Henry IV are perhaps more familiar: "Then, happy low, lie down! / Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."

Roughly contemporary with Shakespeare is Sir Philip Sidney, who addressed this sonnet to sleep (Astrophel and Stella, XXXIX):
Come Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
Th' indifferent judge between the high and low.
With shield of proof shield me from out the prease
Of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw:
O make in me those civil wars to cease;
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
A rosy garland and a weary head:
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.
Finally, Benedetto Accolti wrote an Ode to Sleep, printed in Latin Writings of the Italian Humanists. Selections by Florence Alden Gragg (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927), pp. 353-354. I can't find a translation, and I don't have time or energy to translate it myself, but here is the Latin:
Nox ruit et caelum fuscis invecta quadrigis
  umbrosam molli frigore opacat humum
atque adeo curis hominum genus omne repulsis
  languida concepto membra sopore levat.
Nulla tamen fessam reparant oblivia mentem
  et refugis nostras tu quoque, Somne, preces.
Somne, animi requies, curarum, Somne, levamen,
  huc ades et sanctum fer, taciturne, pedem,
imbutumque gerent lethaeo gurgite ramum,
  fac rore immadeant tempora victa levi.
Curarum obstantes demum propelle catervas
  et mihi securo sit tua dona sequi,
ut neque me eversi tangant incommoda saecli
  nec removent tristes tempora saeva metus.
Ipse tibi floresque feram casiamque recentem,
  dulce sonans facili qua fugit unda pede,
et tibi, purpurea insurgat cui vertice crista,
  ales dissecto gutture tinguet humum.
Nunc tua defessos tandem vis alliget artus,
  dum iuvat et caelo lucida signa cadunt.

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