Sleep by K. Slessor

Kenneth Slessor was born in Orange, New South Wales, in 1901. He published his first poetry in the Bulletin magazine while still at school. He worked on the Sydney Sun newspaper from 1920 to 1925, and for a while on the Melbourne Punch and Melbourne Herald. He returned to Sydney in 1927 to work on Smith’s Weekly, where he stayed until 1939.


Do you give yourself to me utterly,

Body and no-body, flesh and no-flesh

Not as a fugitive, blindly or bitterly,

But as a child might, with no other wish?

Yes, utterly.

Then I shall bear you down my estuary,

Carry you and ferry you to burial mysteriously,

Take you and receive you,

Consume you, engulf you,

In the huge cave, my belly, lave you

With huger waves continually.

And you shall cling and clamber there

And slumber there, in that dumb chamber,

Beat with my blood’s beat, hear my heart move

Blindly in bones that ride above you,

Delve in my flesh, dissolved and bedded,

Through viewless valves embodied so –

Till daylight, the expulsion and awakening,

The riving and the driving forth,

Life with remorseless forceps beckoning –

Pangs and betrayal of harsh birth.

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 interpreted metaphorically as a return to the womb – a state of pre-conscious existence, safe from the harsh reality of consciousness and life.

Two voices are present in the poem – one voice is the personification of slumber, as mother and lover – the other voice is only heard briefly in the first stanza.

Here the webpage that the group used to prepare the presentation:

Here another webpage with more information and ideas to reflect on

TASK : Read and leave a comment in my blog

In Sleep, Slessor deals with two cycles, each consisting of four separate stages (4 stanzas). He moves through the stages of sleeping: Awake, Slumber, Sleep to REM Sleep (or Rapid Eye Movement, the deepest known form of sleep) and finally Wakefulness.

This cycle is compared to the four stages of birth and death through the mother talking to her child: Conception, Development, Birth and Death.

-Take a look at the poem and explain how these stages are depicted and related.

-Give your own idea on the poem

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