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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Arise for It Is Day

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Arise for It Is Day

From rinsing out one’s mouth to throwing open the windows to air out a stuffy bedchamber, rituals for waking were as common as rituals for going to sleep, and a new day was often welcomed with prayer. The renewal inherent in the daily cycle seemed an inspiration for many: the printer John Day took as his printer’s device a sunrise scene and the phrase “Arise for It Is Day” (punning off of his own name), while many authors celebrated the new day with carpe diem verses and morning songs, or aubades.

William Tyndale. Works. London, 1573 (Detail)

“Get up, get up for shame” begins Robert Herrick’s famous “carpe diem” (seize the day) poem, as the speaker tries to rouse his “sweet-Slug-a-bed.”  While Corinna stays in bed, youths rejoice in May Day revelry, exchanging flirtatious glances, playing kissing games, and rolling in the grass until plain gowns become green.


Thomas Tryon, who had prescriptions for how to sleep, also wrote on waking and health, and was particularly concerned with preventing the “generation of bugs”—a common household problem . Tryon advises that “there is nothing better…than every Morning when you rise to set open your Windows, and lay open your Bed-cloaths.” He believed this would release “the gross humid Steams” from the bed and would prevent fleas and other bugs from breeding.


John Evans, the compiler of a literary commonplace book, devotes a column to the topic “Awake,” “Awaked,” and “Awaking.” He provides quotations from eight different sources, including two Shakespeare plays (Henry IV, pt. 2 and Julius Caesar). Two extracts are from Francis Quarles’ Emblems and three extracts are from a song in Cosmo Manuche’s The Bastard , a play published in 1652.



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