Home » Mourning Literature & Custom » IT SLEEPETH.

IT SLEEPETH.

I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog. 

 

The metaphor of sleep in relation to death seems to have appeared forever in art. Here we have it in poetry as it relates to the heartbreaking loss of a baby. I have previously written of this subject in relation to a locket in my collection. How difficult to accept that moment when a child looks peacefully asleep, to hope that a mere loving touch will awaken them.

IT SLEEPETH.

TRANQUILITY it sleepeth
On its mother’s breast,
Gentle thoughts have won it
Lovingly to rest.

Lo ! how deep its slumber,
Like a summer lake ;
Kiss it, mother, kiss it,
That it may awake.

Press it to thy bosom,
Warm it with thy smile;
Let its sunny glances
Gladden us awhile.

Lo ! a shadow stealeth
O’er it, dim and dark ;
Can’st thou hear its breathing
Woo the silence ? Hark !

Silent ! Lay thy finger
Gently on its heart ;
Silly one ! it sleepeth,
Wherefore dost thou start ?

Sleepeth ! ay, it sleepeth
In its beauty, where
Mother’s love avails not,
And the angels are.

Dying girl with mother; ambrotype, c.1860 courtesy The Thanatos Archive.  One image of many extraordinary early post mortem and unusual photography.

Dying girl with mother; ambrotype, c.1860 courtesy The Thanatos Archive. One image of many extraordinary early post mortem and unusual photography. To learn more of this fascinating visual history see The Thantos Archive membership site and Facebook page.

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