A Sleep of Prisoners – Christopher Fry

A Sleep of Prisoners

Christopher Fry

A Sleep of Prisoners is a poem by Christopher Fry

A Sleep of Prisoners - Christopher Fry image

The human heart can go the lengths of God…
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake…
But will you wake, for pity’s sake?


I find the last line of Fry’s poem hits the mark. We really do need to wake up and remember where we are. Too few of us are exploring the spiritual nature of our existence, or spending enough time considering our mother-ship, the Earth. We get to be too busy and distracted inside of the material bubble we have created for ourselves.

A Sleep of Prisoners - image Christopher Fry
Christopher Fry

Christopher Fry (1907 – 2005) was an English playwright (visit Wikipedia to find out more), and further described in his obituary (in The Guardian), appropriately as a Christian humanist playright – which this poem testifies to.

The portrait of Christopher Fry is by the artist June Mendoza. You’ll find her portraits (prints) on Amazon and elsewhere.

Associated links:

A Simple prayer
Twelve inspirational life books you should read during your lifetime
How do you find your Self?

10 thoughts on “A Sleep of Prisoners – Christopher Fry”

  1. Hello,

    I’m just completing a book called The Wisdom Way of Teaching that summarizes my 30-year journey with respect to teaching wisdom from a progressive Christian point of view at an international school in Hong Kong…and I wanted to use Fry’s gorgeous poem in my last chapter, but I have the same question of permission. Any new insights on this since your last post 4 years ago? It would be a shame to have to take it out – works just perfectly. Thanks, Marty

    1. Hello Marty
      Thanks for your comments. I’m sorry I’m unable to help you with this matter. No new insights unfortunately. If it helps, no one has contacted me over the time regarding my using the poem on this website.

      1. Is it a poem? Standing by itself it can be, but it was part of a whole play. As far as I am aware it was not written as a stand alone poem. Someone says it in the plat. I am sure people are allowed to quote small portions from larger works.

    2. Sir George Trevelyan included this poem in his Magic Casement slim volume and it is available for free usage. So by crediting not only Sir George but also Fry’s poem from there you’ll be fine. I myself am a published author, so this workaround works for me!!

  2. Sleep of Prisoners – I love this poem by Christopher Fry – the timing is immaculate – he died the year my mother did – and what legacies are left behind. This should be compulsory reading in schools and being discussed everywhere around the world in these ‘infectious ‘ corrupt times. I hope that everyone who stumbles upon this will share it with as many others as they can. Thankyou.

  3. Dürten Lau

    I would love to share ‘The Sleep Of Prisoners’ in our community magazine. Can you tell me who to ask for permission?
    Thank you

    1. Hello Dürten
      Precisely – who do you ask!?
      It is a while since I put up this post. We were beset with the same problem. I decided to go ahead and post it anyhow as it helped to spread the word and as my partner (Annie Locke) knew Christopher Fry. We did get permission from June Mendoza to use a photo of her gorgeous painting. Best I can offer.

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