To Sleep

Summary / Review / Appreciation

When we find it difficult to fall asleep, we come to know the importance of sleep in our life.    In the poem “To Sleep”, William Wordsworth deals with the theme of sleep and sleeplessness.

The poet is troubled by sleeplessness, not just for one day, but for three days in a row.  He plays some traditional tricks to woo sleep.  He tries counting sheep, imagining sounds of rain and murmuring of bees and visualising winds, seas, fields, lakes and pure sky.  But none of them works.

All the tricks he tries to ‘steal’ sleep fail. Staying awake in bed he now will start to hear the birds’ melodies and the melancholy cry of the cuckoos. So he prays to Sleep not to let him wear the night away.

In the final stanza the poet presents sleep as a blessed barrier between day and day.  Further it is described as mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health.  Without sleep, all the morning’s wealth is worthless.  The morning’s wealth refers to all the wonders of a new day.  There are many blessings at the beginning of the day like the bird song described earlier.  But all of them can be enjoyed only after a time of rest.

The poem is written in the form of a sonnet.  The traditional Petrarchan sonnet form with a rhyme scheme of abba, abba, cdc, cdc is used here.  The octave introduces the problem, expresses a desire and reflects on reality.  The sestet introduces and change in tone and makes a comment on the problem.  Thus the poem is a clear exploration of the Petrarchan sonnet conventions.
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