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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Down to Sleep

On December 13, 1873 the following poem appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Down to Sleep

November woods are bare and still;

November days are clear and bright;

Each noon burns up the morning's chill;

The morning's snow is gone by night;

Each day my steps grow slow, grow light,

As through the woods I reverent creep,

Watching all things lie 'down to sleep.”

I never knew before what beds,

Fragrant to smell, and soft to touch,

The forest sifts and shapes and spreads;

I never knew before how much

Of human sound there is in such

Low tones as through the forest sweep

When all wild things lie “down to sleep.”

Each day I find new coverlids

Tucked in, and more sweet eyes shut tight;

Sometimes the view less mother bids

Her ferns kneel down, full in my sight;

I hear their chorus of “good night;”

And half I smile, and half I weep

Listening while they lie “down to sleep.”

November woods are bare and still;

November days are bright and good;

Life's moon burns up Life's morning chill;

Life's night rest feet which long have stood

Some warm soft bed, in field or wood,

The mother will not fail to keep,

Where we can lay us “down to sleep.”


This poem later appeared in the book “Poems by Helen Jackson” Little Brown and Co 1906.

In the Ruth Odell bibliography section of the biography she indicates the above poem was in the manuscripts but had not been published in a newspaper or magazine. This error in information possibly was due to the fact that a majority of Helen's works were published in the New York Independent, Scribners and other East Coast publications. I find it interesting that it appeared in the Colorado Springs paper approximately six weeks after her arrival in that city.

As you read you can hear the author's voice and her feelings about having come to this town at the advice of her doctors. Her health had taken a turn for the worst in 1873 and she could not seem to shake the persistent sore throat and cough. In her essay about her arrival here, you can read how she had not liked the area, that it was not sunny, dry and warm as she had been lead to believe. Of course if you back the dates up you realize she arrived near the end of October or beginning of November.

As I read, I hear the love of nature and the peace it brought to her. In some ways it feels like Helen herself is preparing to “lie down to sleep.” Fortunately Helen began to recover her health while residing here. In many ways her move to Colorado Springs was another turning point in her eventful life. There had been many changes prior to the move and there were still a number left. This poem, however, seems to beautifully tell the state of Helen's mind at the latter part of 1873.

Copyright 2010 by Doris A McCraw

10:56 pm est

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Doris McCraw

Doris McCraw
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