At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And, softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin molders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
All Beauty sleeps!- and lo! where lies
Irene, with her Destinies!

O, lady bright! can it be right-
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop-
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully- so fearfully-
Above the closed and fringed lid
‘Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,
That, o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come O’er far-off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress,
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
For ever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold-
Some vault that oft has flung its black
And winged panels fluttering back,
Triumphant, o’er the crested palls,
Of her grand family funerals-
Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portal she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone-
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Sleeper

6 Comments

  1. Thes Leeper says:

    This is a great poem for an interpretive speech.

  2. kitty says:

    This poem has several themes that parallel to macbeth
    .sleep- the word sleep is constantly meantioned within this poem and within macbeth there is a constant problem of both macbeth and lady macbeth getting sleep
    .death- death is implied when the author mentions worms which are underground and the pallor of her skin which indeicates she is underground and rather an unearthly tone of skin again indicating death
    .insanity- the author of this poem seems to be insane becuase they are asking the dead person questions even though she can not respond,also it seems that he cannot seem to come to terms with her death
    .magic- the author says wizard rout which lets us think that there is a rather mystical and magical air to the poem especially in the first stanza where they paint a magical scene with certain words

  3. Luthien says:

    I allways had an image of the dead lover laid out to look like she is sleeping, with long hair around her (like Padamai on Star Wars if youve seen that)
    It could be that it was cut after death, I had not thought of that, but based on the fact that Poe is writing a romantic poem I think long flowing tresses of hair are more likely, as the image of a beautiful dead lover with shaven hair isnt very romantic!

  4. Camille says:

    hey. anyone have any ideas why he says
    “Strange, above all, thy length of tress”

    what’s weird about her hair length? did they cut it because she was dead? or is it too long?

  5. Eric says:

    Basically, the speaker of this poem seems unable to forget about his dead lover who nows lies within her grave. We see that he wants to forget about his lover (via the line: Looking about the Lethe, see!) We also see symbols for rememberance in the form of rosemary. The speaker of the poem is conflicted. He doesn’t want to accept that his lover is dead (strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress! strange, above all, thy length of tress, and this all solemn silentness!)

    The most interesting image though comes with the lines: I pray to God that she may lie/Forever with unopened eye,/while the pale sheeted ghosts go by.

    By adding these extra “ghosts”, Poe is making a statement on the relationship between love and death. The lover inside the casket can’t join the ghosts because his love refuses to move on and quit his mourning (or perhaps even accept that she is truly dead) and thus has captured her in this state of dreaming.

    Poe spends an awful amount of time describing the dead lover in a state of dreaming. It should be noted that dreams are typically contrasted with reality (and Poe has done this in other poems, see: “Dreams” and “A Dream Within a Dream”.) The earlier comments about how he expected his lover to appear also show that the speaker is trying to deny reality. By picturing her dreaming, the speaker further tries to mitigate the concept of death (by comparing it to an eternal sleep where one dreams of wonders). In reality, the speaker is the one dreaming and unable to accept reality. He romanticizes death, almost turning it into a game and something wonderful, which seems morbid but is really trying to deal with the loss of a loved one.

    But that still begs the question: Why is this poem important outside of the poem itself?

    Although most of us don’t go around talking about how wonderful worms crawling over our skin must feel (Oh may her sleep,/ as it is lasting, so be deep!/Soft may the worms about her creep!) humanity does, indeed, romantacize death. The religious among us believe in an eternal heaven after death, “He/she’s gone onto a better place”, “Forty virgins are waiting up there for you!”, etc. What at first seems like Poe romantacizing death in a creepy way, typical of his style, ends up creating a poem that turns out to have a deeper meaning in the context of human society. By depicting this almost insane romantic death filled with morbid details (that isn’t really death, but a kind of dreaming) he is ironically attacking the idea of romantacizing death as would be done in mainstream society through religion.

  6. amy says:

    i luv it i luv him

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