Sleep-Kenneth Slessor Kenneth Slessor Part One - Poetica - ABC Radio National (Australian  Broadcasting Corporation)

About the Author:

  • Born in South wales, Australia (1901-1971)
  • He was one of Australia’s leading poets, notable particularly for the absorption of modernist influences into Australian poetry.
  • Writer Hal Porter described Slessor as “a city lover, fastidious and excessively courteous, in those qualities resembles Baudelaire, as he does in being incapable of sentimentalizing over vegetation, in finding in nature something cruel, something bordering on effrontery. He prefers chiselled stone to the disorganization of grass”.

Summary:

  • The poem is a celebration of sleep. It uses child birth and motherhood as a metaphor to describe how intimate sleep is. 
  • There are two speakers in this poem, one being sleep and the other being the mother. 
  • The poem talks about how once man submits to sleep its as if they are in total peace and they are taken care of by sleep like how a mother takes care of her unborn child. 
  • This goes on untill the last stanza where the sleeper is abruptly woken in other context the mother goes through painful labor.

Speaker:

  • Slessor uses second person to personify “sleep” as a maternal figure and to demonstrate her voice
  • The addressee in the poem is a male persona (might be Slessor himself) who is cradled by sleep until he is forced to wake up and deal with life

Audience:

The audience of this poem is everyone since everyone has experienced sleep but it is especially resonates with mothers who have gone through the experience of childbirth.

Structure

1Do you give yourself to me utterly, 
2Body and no-body, flesh and no-flesh 
3Not as a fugitive, blindly or bitterly, 
4But as a child might, with no other wish? 
5Yes, utterly. 


6Then I shall bear you down my estuary, 
7Carry you and ferry you to burial mysteriously, 
8Take you and receive you, 
9Consume you, engulf you, 

10In the huge cave, my belly, lave you 
11With huger waves continually. 
12And you shall cling and clamber there 
13And slumber there, in that dumb chamber, 
14Beat with my blood’s beat, hear my heart move 
15Blindly in bones that ride above you, 
16Delve in my flesh, dissolved and bedded, 
17Through viewless valves embodied so – 

18Till daylight, the expulsion and awakening, 
19The riving and the driving forth, 
20Life with remorseless forceps beckoning – 
21Pangs and betrayal of harsh birth.

First Stanza

1Do you give yourself to me utterly, 
2Body and no-body, flesh and no-flesh 
3Not as a fugitive, blindly or bitterly, 
4But as a child might, with no other wish? 
5Yes, utterly.

Stanza 2

6Then I shall bear you down my estuary, 
7Carry you and ferry you to burial mysteriously, 
8Take you and receive you, 
9Consume you, engulf you, 

10In the huge cave, my belly, lave you 
11With huger waves continually. 

Stanza 3

12And you shall cling and clamber there 
13And slumber there, in that dumb chamber, 
14Beat with my blood’s beat, hear my heart move 
15Blindly in bones that ride above you, 
16Delve in my flesh, dissolved and bedded, 
17Through viewless valves embodied so – 

Stanza 4


18Till daylight, the expulsion and awakening, 
19The riving and the driving forth, 
20Life with remorseless forceps beckoning – 
21Pangs and betrayal of harsh birth.

Conclusion 

The poem is a celebration of sleep. The poet uses the extended metaphor of the relationship between a mother and child to describe the sanctuary of sleep. The process of sleeping each night is  shown as a return to the womb – a state of pre-conscious existence, safe from the harsh reality of consciousness and life and life is the harsh reality that forces the child out of the womb to face the reality of the world

References

https://litstudents.com/sleep-by-kenneth-slessor/
https://lardcave.net/hsc/english.2ug.slessor.sleep.html

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