Text: John Keats 
Language: English 
Ensemble: SSAATTBB, S solo 
Accompaniment: a cappella 
Genre: Secular 
Duration: 5.0 minutes 
Page Count: 9 
Catalog Number: NWC-184

Sample Score

Available from J. W. Pepper.


"To Sleep" by Nancy Wertsch is for a cappella mixed choir SATB (extensive divisi to 8 parts) and soprano soloist. The text by 18th century poet John Keats (1795-1821) is an ode to a personification of Sleep, with the peace of death as a metaphor for deep peaceful sleep. The choir provides a sustained and slow moving accompaniment to the soloist's floating melody with unsettled harmony, shifting chromatic lines, and portamento effects in search of rest which eases its way in as the piece settles into quiet slumber.

O soft embalmer of the still midnight, 
      Shutting, with careful fingers and benign, 
Our gloom-pleas'd eyes, embower'd from the light, 
     Enshaded in forgetfulness divine: 
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close 
     In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes, 
Or wait the "Amen," ere thy poppy throws 
     Around my bed its lulling charities. 
Then save me, or the passed day will shine 
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,— 
     Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords 
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole; 
     Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards, 
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul. 

John Keats (1795-1821)