Sleeping must be won without pride.

How to Sleep

Child in the womb,
Or saint on a tomb –
Which way shall I lie
To fall asleep?
The keen moon stares
From the back of the sky,
The clouds are all home
Like driven sheep.

Bright drops of time,
One and two chime,
I turn and lie straight
With folded hands;
Convent-child, Pope,
They chose this state,
And their minds are wiped calm
As sea-levelled sands.

So my thoughts are:
But sleep stays as far,
Till I crouch on one side
Like a foetus again –
For sleeping, like death,
Must be won without pride,
With a nod from nature,
With a lack of strain,
And a loss of stature.

-Philip Larkin







Painting by César Gemayel

10 thoughts on “Sleeping must be won without pride.

  1. Oh, thank you for this! With the erratic internal central heating comes a time of wholly unaccustomed sleep difficulty! I try both these poses nightly! I like the idea of losing our pride in sleep. Do we lose it in death? Maybe all of life is just learning to lose our pride. Certainly that was something that struck me when I had time off reflecting in September- how so very often I realise that my thinking is all about me.

    When I “met” you I had borrowed a weighty biographical tome about Kierkegaard with all good intentions of reading his own works once the context had been better understood. I never at all got to the end even of the biography. You choose a book now and we’ll read it together?


    1. Mags, Did you see that other poem I posted by Larkin? In it he writes, “we must lastly give up pride.”

      Ah, Kierkegaard. God bless you, you may be the friend in need who helps me to read him finally!! Recently, for a good reason, I know, after reading and reading about his books, I bought Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. Just now I see that my friend who recently encouraged me to read K. gave me that book! I also got Works of Love but it is longer, so I would lean toward Purity for that reason…. Then there is an anthology Provocations that looks good… Do you have any of these already?

      Yes, I will read Kierkegaard with you! ❤ ❤ ❤


  2. Sleep stays far far too often for me, my best sleep coming the night after very little sleep. It’s hard work sleeping now. What a lovely painting you chose for the poem!

    Liked by 1 person

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