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Modern Interpretations Sleeping Beauty

Full-Text Fiction

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie (1837-1919)

The Story of the Duchess of Cicogne and of Monsieur de Boulingrin (who slept for a hundred years in company with the Sleeping Beauty)
by Anatole France

Full-Text Poems

Sleeping Beauty
by George Augustus Baker (b. 1849)

The Sleeping Beauty
by Mathilde Blind (1841-1896)

by Henry Howard Brownell (1820–72)

How a Beauty was Waked and Her Suitor was Suited
by Guy Wetmore Carryl (1873–1904)

Rue Des Vents: 4 [Sleeping Beauty]
by Arthur Davison Ficke

The Sleeping Beauty
by Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

The Sleeping Beauty
by Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–38)

The Sleeping Beauty
by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

A Sleeping Beauty by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)

The Sleeping Beauty
by John Banister Tabb (1845–1909)

The Day-Dream
by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

The Sleeping Beauty
by Sarah Helen Whitman (1803–78)



Sleeping Beauty Poetry

The Sleeping Beauty
by Sarah Helen Whitman


Where a lone castle by the sea
Upreared its dark and moldering pile,
Far seen, with all its frowning towers,
For many and many a weary mile;

The wild waves beat the castle walls
And bathed the rock with ceaseless showers,
The winds roared hoarsely round the pile,
And moaned along its moldering towers.

Within those wide and echoing halls,
To guard her from a fatal spell,
A maid, of noble lineage born,
Was doomed in solitude to dwell.

With portents dark and omens dire,
The orphan’s natal day began,
As warring destinies conspire
Her charmèd life to bless or ban.

Four Fairies graced the infant’s birth
With fame and beauty, wealth and power;
A fifth, by one fell stroke, reversed
The magic splendors of her dower:

If e’er a spindle’s shining steel
Should pierce the maiden’s lily hand,
A solemn trance her eyes should seal
In sleep’s forlorn, enchanted land:

A hundred years her soul should stray
In far-off shadow-lands of dream,
Till, warm beneath love’s kindling ray,
It opened to the morning’s beam.

In olden times the tale had birth,
By wandering minstrels told of yore,
Whose names have perished from the earth,—
Whose legends live in fairy lore.

The wild waves beat the castle wall,
And bathed the rock with ceaseless showers;
Dark, heaving billows plunge and fall
In whitening foam beneath the towers.

There, rocked by winds and lulled by waves,
In youthful grace the maiden grew,
And from her solitary dreams
A sweet and pensive pleasure drew.

Yet often, from her lattice high,
She gazed athwart the gathering night
To mark the sea-gulls wheeling by,
And longed to follow in their flight.

One winter night, beside the hearth
She sat and watched the smoldering fire,
While now the tempest seemed to lull,
And now the winds rose high and higher,

Strange sounds are heard along the wall,
Dim faces glimmer through the gloom,
And still mysterious voices call,
And shadows flit from room to room:

Till, bending o’er the dying brands,
She chanced a sudden gleam to see;
She turned the sparkling embers o’er,
And lo! she finds a golden key!

Lured on, as by an unseen hand,
She roamed the castle o’er and o’er,—
Through many a darkling chamber sped,
And many a dusky corridor:

And still, through unknown, winding ways
She wandered on for many an hour,
For gallery still to gallery leads,
And tower succeeds to tower.

Oft, wearied with the steep ascent,
She lingered on her lonely way,
And paused beside the pictured walls,
Their countless wonders to survey.

At length, upon a narrow stair
That wound within a turret high,
She saw a little low-browed door,
And turned, her golden key to try;

Slowly, beneath her trembling hand,
The bolts recede, and, backward flung,
With harsh recoil and sullen clang,
The door upon its hinges swung.

There, in a little moonlit room,
She sees a weird and withered crone,
Who sat and spun amid the gloom,
And turned her wheel with drowsy drone.

With mute amaze and wondering awe,
A passing moment stood the maid,
Then, entering at the narrow door,
More near the mystic task surveyed.

She saw her twine the flaxen fleece,
She saw her draw the flaxen thread,
She viewed the spindle’s shining point,
And, pleased, the novel task surveyed.

A sudden longing seized her breast
To twine the fleece,—to turn the wheel:
She stretched her lily hand, and pierced
Her finger with the shining steel!

Slowly her heavy eyelids close,
She feels a drowsy torpor creep
From limb to limb, till every sense
Is locked in an enchanted sleep.

A dreamless slumber, deep as night,
In deathly trance her senses locked.
At once, through all its massive vaults
And gloomy towers, the castle rocked.

The beldame roused her from her lair,
And raised on high a mournful wail,—
A shrilly scream that seemed to float
A requiem on the dying gale.

“A hundred years shall pass,” she said,
“Ere those blue eyes behold the morn,—
Ere these deserted halls and towers
Shall echo to a bugle-horn;

“A hundred Norland winters pass,
While drenching rains and drifting snows
Shall beat against the castle walls,
Nor wake thee from thy long repose.

“A hundred times the golden grain
Shall wave beneath the harvest moon,
Twelve hundred moons shall wax and wane
Ere yet thine eyes behold the sun!”

She ceased; but still the mystic rhyme
The long-resounding aisles prolong,
And all the castle’s echoes chime
In answering cadence to her song.

She bore the maiden to her bower,
An ancient chamber, wide and low,
Where golden sconces from the wall
A faint and trembling lustre throw;

A silent chamber, far apart,
Where strange and antique arras hung,
That waved along the moldering walls,
And in the gusty night-wind swung.

She laid her on her ivory bed,
And gently smoothed each snowy limb,
Then drew the curtain’s dusky fold
To make the entering daylight dim.


And all around, on every side,
Throughout the castle’s precincts wide,
In every bower and hall,
All slept: the warder in the court,
The figures on the arras wrought,
The steed within his stall.

No more the watch-dog bayed the moon,
The owlet ceased her boding tune,
The raven on his tower,
All, hushed in slumber still and deep,
Enthralled in an enchanted sleep,
Await the appointed hour.

A pathless forest, wild and wide,
Engirt the castle’s inland side,
And stretched for many a mile;
So thick the deep, impervious screen,
Its topmost towers were dimly seen
Above the moldering pile.

So high the ancient cedars sprung,
So far aloft their branches flung,
So close the covert grew,
No foot its silence could invade,
No eye could pierce its depths of shade,
Or see the welkin through.

Yet oft, as from some distant mound,
The traveler cast his eyes around
O’er wold and woodland gray,
He saw, as by the glimmering light
Of moonbeams, on a misty night,
A castle far away.

All desolate and drear it stood
Within the wild and tangled wood,
’Mid gloomy foss and fell;
And oft the maiden’s form did seem
To mingle with a champion’s dream,
As Gothic legends tell.

Long ere the hundred years had passed,
Brave knights, with vigil and with fast,
Essayed to break the thrall;
Till, in the old romantic time
Of minstrel and Provençal rhyme,
And Amadis de Gaul,

A paladin from holy land,
With helm and hauberk, spear and brand,
And high, untarnished crest,
By visions of enchantment led,
Hath vowed the magic maze to tread,
And break her charmèd rest.

As in the Valley of St. John,
The bold de Vaux defied alone
The mighty elfin powers,
And sought to gain the enchanted mound,
And break the spell that darkly bound
Its battlements and towers,—

So, like that knight of Triermain,
He came through Saracenic Spain
O’er deserts waste and wide;
No dangers daunt, no toils can tire;
With throbbing heart and soul on fire
He seeks his sleeping bride.

He gains the old, enchanted wood,
Where never mortal footsteps trod,
He pierced its tangled gloom;
A chillness loads the lurid air,
Where baleful swamp-fires gleam and glare
His pathway to illume.

Well might the warrior’s courage fail,
Well might his lofty spirit quail,
On that enchanted ground;
No open foeman meets him there,
But, borne upon the murky air,
Strange horror broods around!

At every turn his footsteps sank
’Mid tangled boughs and mosses dank,
For long and weary hours,—
Till issuing from the dangerous wood,
The castle full before him stood,
With all its flanking towers!

The moon a paly lustre sheds;
Resolved, the grass-grown court he treads;
The gloomy portal gained,
He crossed the threshold’s magic bound,
He paced the hall, where all around
A deathly silence reigned.

No fears his venturous course could stay,—
Darkling he groped his dreary way,—
Up the wide staircase sprang:
It echoed to his mailèd heel;
With clang of arms and clash of steel
The silent chambers rang.

He sees a glimmering taper gleam
Far off, with faint and trembling beam,
Athwart the midnight gloom:
Then first his soul confessed a fear,
As with slow footsteps drawing near,
He gained the lighted room.

And now the waning moon was low,
The perfumed tapers faintly glow,
And, by their dying gleam,
He raised the curtain’s dusky fold,
And lo! his charmèd eyes behold
The lady of his dream!

As violets peep from wintry snows,
Slowly her heavy lids unclose,
And gently heaves her breast;
But all unconscious was her gaze,
Her eye with listless languor strays
From brand to plumy crest:

A rising blush begins to dawn
Like that which steals at early morn
Across the eastern sky;
And slowly, as the morning broke,
The maiden from her trance awoke
Beneath his ardent eye!

As the first kindling sunbeams threw
Their level light athwart the dew,
And tipped the hills with flame,
The silent forest-boughs were stirred
With music, as from bee and bird
A mingling murmur came.

From out its depths of tangled gloom
There came a breath of dewy bloom.
And, from the valleys dim,
A cloud of fragrant incense stole,
As if each violet breathed its soul
Into that floral hymn.

Loud neighed the steed within his stall,
The cock crowed on the castle wall,
The warder wound his horn;
The linnet sang in leafy bower,
The swallows, twittering from the tower,
Salute the rosy morn.

But fresher than the rosy morn,
And blither than the bugle-horn,
The maiden’s heart doth prove,
Who, as her beaming eyes awake,
Beholds a double morning break,—
The dawn of light and love!

from Poems by Sarah Helen Whitman (1879).


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©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
Page created 1/1999; Last updated 6/26/07