Lisa Mednick Powell

Poetry Blast Aug 6 2011

Had a nightmare the other night. Not unusual, and normally I would not share this. But isn't it universal? Tell me you've never woken up with a start or a scream in the night. So I remembered this poem, where Coleridge distills the essence of why bad dreams are so, well, bad. You don't know if someone is doing something awful to you, or if you have done something awful to someone else--or to yourself. Sleep really can be the "sleep of reason," which, as I think it was Goya who said, "breeds monsters." Right. So, what's my point? Reading this poem will comfort the afflicted. I believe that was Coleridge's purpose when he wrote it. Not afflicted? Take a minute to read it anyway. It's Coleridge, dammit. Then check out Dan Baird on youtube. For your convenience I have provided a link at the end of the poem. The Pains of Sleep By Samuel Taylor Coleridge Ere on my bed my limbs I lay, It hath not been my use to pray With moving lips or bended knees; But silently, by slow degrees, My spirit I to Love compose, In humble trust mine eye-lids close, With reverential resignation No wish conceived, no thought exprest, Only a sense of supplication; A sense o'er all my soul imprest That I am weak, yet not unblest, Since in me, round me, every where Eternal strength and Wisdom are. But yester-night I prayed aloud In anguish and in agony, Up-starting from the fiendish crowd Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me: A lurid light, a trampling throng, Sense of intolerable wrong, And whom I scorned, those only strong! Thirst of revenge, the powerless will Still baffled, and yet burning still! Desire with loathing strangely mixed On wild or hateful objects fixed. Fantastic passions! maddening brawl! And shame and terror over all! Deeds to be hid which were not hid, Which all confused I could not know Whether I suffered, or I did: For all seemed guilt, remorse or woe, My own or others still the same Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame. So two nights passed: the night's dismay Saddened and stunned the coming day. Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me Distemper's worst calamity. The third night, when my own loud scream Had waked me from the fiendish dream, O'ercome with sufferings strange and wild, I wept as I had been a child; And having thus by tears subdued My anguish to a milder mood, Such punishments, I said, were due To natures deepliest stained with sin,— For aye entempesting anew The unfathomable hell within, The horror of their deeds to view, To know and loathe, yet wish and do! Such griefs with such men well agree, But wherefore, wherefore fall on me? To be loved is all I need, And whom I love, I love indeed. ------------------------------------------------------------- And here is one for all my fellow rock 'n' roll English teachers--any questions?