…And So To Bed
In 1882, Sheik Abdul-Razzzak Mishari Al-Adwani of Kuwait (pictured above), ordered a silver-encrusted bed.
The design was sent to Christofle in Paris calling for a bed of “dark wood decorated with applied sterling with gilded parts, monograms and arms, ornamented with four life-size bronze figures (of naked females) painted in flesh colour with natural hair, movable eyes and arms, holding fans and horse tails”.
Some 290kg of silver was needed to decorate the bed. The four naked figures were European, representing women of France, Spain, Italy and Greece, each with a different skin-tone and hair colour. Through ingenious mechanics linked to the mattress, the Sheik was able to set the figures in motion so that they fanned him while winking at him, against a 30-minute cycle of music from Gounod’s Faust generated by a music box built into the bed.
–from A History Of The Trucial States by Col. H.R. Dickinson, Eyre & Spottiswood (1932)
The bed is still in my possession. In fact, I’m lying on it as I dictate this to my scribe, while the naked figurines fan me and wink and Gounod tinkles agreeably in the background. The bed is a trifle garish for modern tastes but I’m an old-fashioned sort of fellow and anyway, it affords my concubines hours of harmless amusement.
“You know those good-for-nothings that you’re always chatting to on this interweb thing (the work of Shaitan, God preserve us from it)? Well, why don’t you set them to write a sonnet about beds?” So spoke my number 2 concubine, Ayesha, as I puffed meditatively on my opium pipe and nibbled on crystallised fruit.
A splendid idea, I think (and for which Ayesha received a small purse of uncut emeralds). So this is your task, faithless ones. A Sonnet about beds or a specific bed…not about sleep, although sleep may enter into it, obviously… but primarily about beds themselves.
Here’s a Spencerian Sonnet (you can tell it’s poetry because I use the word ’tis)
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
–The Tempest 3.2.148-156
To Dream Again
I lay me down in my place of rest
The bed wherein I seek my slumber
There I wait for thoughts expressed
In dreams: no locks or chains encumber.
Night and night; nights without number
In cloudy flocks have passed the sheep
This bed of mine is no mere lumber
It is the very realm of sleep.
‘Tis Morpheus who drags me deep
In sea of dreams, where I must flounder
And if a chasm I must leap
Then after, I shall sleep the sounder.
For this is more than just a bed:
It is the place where dreams are bred.