Love and Sleep

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Algernon Charles Swinburne

Algernon Charles Swinburne's "Love and Sleep" published by Poems and Ballads, First Series in 1866, depicts sexual desire for the opposite sex in an aggressive manner.  Swinburne's word choice and desire elicits an image of his lover's features as well as his anticipations.


Lying asleep between the strokes of night
  I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
  Pale as the duskiest lily’s leaf or head,
Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat to bite,
Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
  But too perfect-coloured without white or red.
  And her lips opened amorously, and said—
I wist not what, saving one word—Delight.
And all her face was honey to my mouth,
  And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
     The long lithe arms and hotter hands fire,
The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
  The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
     And glittering eyelids of my soul’s desire.

Title of volume of first printing
Poems and Ballads First Series
Poems and Ballads
Page numbers in original volume