This blog's poems are from my published poetry book Star Steeds and Other Dreams: The Collected Poems (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2009) and are © Dr Karl P.N. Shuker, 2009. Except for author-credited review purposes, it is strictly forbidden to reproduce any of these poems elsewhere, either in part or in entirety, by any means, without my written permission.

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Wednesday 15 February 2012


Much has been written about the scientific and philosophical associations between sleep and death, but the ancient Greeks encapsulated these links in a particularly telling, succinct manner via personification. For in classic Greek mythology, death is a god called Thanatos (not to be confused, though he often is, with Hades, god of the Underworld), and is the twin brother of Hypnos, god of sleep, with Morpheus, god of dreams, as the son of Hypnos. Moreover, the parents of Thanatos and Hypnos are none other than Nyx (Night) and Erebos (Darkness). In addition, one of the most famous death-related scenes in Greek mythology is the passage across the River Styx to the Underword of the boat steered by Charon the silent ferryman and filled with the souls of the dead. Consequently, to emphasise the ancient Greeks’ perceived kinship between death and sleep, I chose to adapt the latter boat scene, transforming it from one that features the dead to an equivalent featuring sleepers and sleep (though as a female rather than male personification), but acknowledging the link between sleep and death by way of the final verse.


Day sinks away through the oceans of Evening,
Rippling like stars sweeping outwards to die,
While from their vortex the moon rises softly,
Borne from its depths to the roof of the sky.

And ‘cross the waters a boat glides serenely,
Nod is its helmsman, and Sleep is its queen.
Gently it drifts o’er the waves deep in slumber,
Dappled in shadows of violet and green.

Grey are the sails, each dream-woven by Twilight,
Sewn from the cobwebs that Morning passed by;
Pale is its image ‘neath moonlit aurorae,
Fashioned from memories, murmurs, and sighs.

And from its silhouette Sleep whispers gently,
Calling to mortals who follow like shades –
Entering slowly her boat of enchantment,
Drawn through the evening to mystical glades

Deep in the depths of the hidden subconscious,
‘Neath the dark heavens of shimmering Night –
Silently watching her star-shadowed journey
Into the morning, ‘ere fading from sight.

Waves bear Sleep calmly through dream-clouded kingdoms,
Misty surroundings of lilac and grey,
Fragile illusions like butterfly wing beats,
Melting like ghosts ‘neath the lantern of Day.

And as the dawn blushes shyly through Heaven,
Far ‘cross the ocean is Sleep softly borne,
Each mortal soul drifting back to its dwelling,
Waking once more to the laughter of Morn.

Thus she continues – the wisest immortal –
Fair both in features and mind she’ll remain,
Leading our souls till the world calls no longer,
Then shall we never look homeward again.


  1. Dr. Karl "Sleep" is a masterpiece!!! It is such a beautiful work. I can't thank you enough for sharing it with me. I too am a poet and enjoy painting pictures, as you do, with rhythm and rhyme. I've read one piece and I am an instant fan of The Good Doctor. I needed a waking nudge...., it is ironic that "Sleep" woke me from my dream. Thank you again, I'll be back soon for more.


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