How is sleep presented in the poem "Sleep" by Kenneth Slessor?

Sleep is presented in the poem "Sleep" by Kenneth Slessor as both the sleep of the child inside its mother's womb and the sleep of death related to abortion. Through the latter reading, sleep involves a separation from the world.

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In his poem "Sleep," Kenneth Slessor deals with sleep on both a literal and a metaphorical level. On a literal level, sleep is illustrated by the unborn child sleeping inside its mother's womb, a "huge cave" that offers protection from a harsh, uncaring world. There, the unborn child shall "cling," "clamber," and slumber until it is finally ready to be born.

On a metaphorical level, one could say that the title of the poem refers to the sleep of death. The ending is somewhat ambiguous, but the "Pangs and betrayal of harsh birth," the very last line in the poem, could be said to refer to an abortion.

Once the "remorseless forceps" have done their grisly work, the passage from life to death is complete. The child is no longer protected by that "huge cave," that "dumb chamber" that provided a warm, comfortable haven from the outside world with all its dangers.

If indeed it is the case that the poem ends in an abortion, then we can say that the poem involves a passage from literal to metaphorical sleep, from the sleep of the unborn child inside its mother's womb, where it was safe and protected, to the sleep of death outside the womb once the fetus has been aborted.

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