Come Sleep! Oh Sleep
Lines 9-14 Summary Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
A rosy garland and a weary head:
- Line 9 is often a crucial moment in a sonnet. It's the turning point (technically called "the volta"), the beginning of the end. This is the place where something really important usually happens—the resolution of a problem begins, the speaker changes his mind, that sort of thing.
- There's nothing too dramatic about this line 9, but things do start to change a little bit. The speaker makes Sleep an offer (where, in the first 8 lines, he had just been going on and on about how great Sleep is and how much despair he's been enduring).
- The phrase "take thou of me" means "take from me," so the speaker busts out his alliterative skills (with all these S words) and tells Sleep to take some smooth pillows, his sweetest bed, perfect sleeping quarters ("deaf to noise and blind to light"), and a few other things that we'll get to in just a sec.
- Supposedly, this is an example of the perfect sleeping chamber. We bet Sleep would just love it (we would too, actually)
- The reason the speaker is offering all these things is because it's Sleep he's talking to. In other words, Sleep loves sleeping (duh), so all these things would be a welcome "tribute."
- The other reason he's doing this is because he's supposed to. Or, rather, Sidney is supposed to. This whole offering gifts to Sleep thing is a poetic convention, something that was expected of poets writing during this time and used most notably by Geoffrey Chaucer (of Canterbury Tales fame) in his Book of the Duchess.
- Now, let's tackle the last gifts in the sequence. "Weary head" pretty much sums up how the speaker's been feeling this whole time: weary, sad, depressed, no good—bad times.
- The "rosy garland" is a bit trickier. Technically, a "garland" is a wreath or circular object of some kind (usually a laurel or ivy wreath). Rosy could mean that it's a reddish color (like when you get rosy cheeks), or composed (made up) of roses.
- Either way, the word "rosy" makes us think of roses—of beauty, redness, and, yes, thorns. Well… that's no good. It makes sense, though, in a poem that is about weariness, despair, emotional civil wars, and the like.
- Whether or not the speaker is actually wearing something around his head is less important than the basic idea: there is something on his mind (a metaphorical garland), something that is both great (rosy, red, flowery), and potentially painful (thorny).
- (Side note: here's what came up first when we Googled "rosy garland." Apparently there's a woman named Rosie Garland. Good to know.)
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.
- Even though Sleep loves sleep, and all things sleep-related, there's a chance he might not accept the speaker's offer. That's the whole point of the "if."
- "If these things" (the bed, the pillows, etc.) don't strike Sleep's fancy, the speaker will come up with something else.
- Well, he doesn't really say it quite like that. He says something about moving his heavy grace, which is like saying "strike your pleasure or charity that is difficult ("heavy") to move or influence."
- In other words, if Sleep is gonna be too rigid about the whole thing, the speaker will offer up something better than pillows: an image of Stella (see "In a Nutshell" for more on her), which Sleep will be able to see inside the speaker.
- Obviously, the speaker doesn't have a computer monitor inside his chest cavity with all his digital photos on display. But he is referring to something kind of like a digital photo: a mental image.
- Imagine that somebody could look inside your brain and see the mental picture you have of somebody you really love. That's the idea here (in the Renaissance, poets liked to imagine such a picture residing on one's heart).
- Anyway, even though this is a mental or imaginative image, the speaker says that Sleep will see Stella "livelier [inside me] than elsewhere."
- Now "lively" could mean more lively or animated, but the word is probably meant to be more literal than that: looking more alive than she does anywhere else.
- In other words, the speaker's mental or imaginative image of Stella is more real, more alive, than any vision of Stella that Sleep might conceivably see "elsewhere" (like, uh, in real life).
- Wait a minute—how is this possible? It's not like the real Stella is inside the speaker, is she? Well, she's not, but it'd be a lot cooler if she was.
- The speaker's point is that his imagination, or mental vision, is pretty killer, so killer that it can make something that isn't technically real (an idea) seem alive.
- This is important because it tells us a lot about the speaker. It tells us that he has a vivid imagination (which we already know, just based on all the creative metaphors he uses throughout the poem).
- It also tells us that love is pretty powerful—powerful enough to cause us to imagine there is somebody else living inside of us, controlling us, affecting our lives, for good or ill.
- Well, we're glad we know that now. Did you also know that there's a lot of alliteration and assonance going on in these lines?
- You can't go anywhere and not run into some sound play (take a look at all the Th words and long I sounds, for example).
- (Check out "Sound Check" for more on this poem's sound.)
- The last six lines of a sonnet usually constitute a group (called a "sestet"), and these lines are no exception. Their rhyme scheme (CDCDEE) is different than the first eight (called the "octet"), as is their content.
- The sestet is the speaker's offer to Sleep, while the octet is pretty much a description of all the things Sleep does for people, and of the speaker's own internal struggles.
- Lots of sonnets end with two lines that rhyme, as does this one. That's called a couplet (it's like a little pair or couple), and it usually offers a final summary or quip—something that rounds out the poem very neatly.