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Death is the ocean of immortal rest:
And what is sleep? A bath our angel brings
AMONG the exquisite necessities of existence, there is nothing to equal sleep. It is, as the
, verse above indicates, a foretaste of the infinite future. We want an oneirologist. There is nothing more wondrous in the ancient Hebrew idiosyncrasy than the capacity for interpretation of dreams. Always, among the descendants of Abraham, dreams were significant. Why should it not be thus ? Homer referred to immemorial legend when he wrote his immortal verse concerning the Gate of Ivory and the Gate of Horn. Happy
the man who receives his visions through the Gate of Ivory: false they may be now and then, but they are poetic, and poetry is the soul of life. Moreover, sleep and its results are a special study in connexion with the question I have on hand. If you sleep badly, dear reader, either your mind or your digestion is troubled. Now, as to trouble of mind advice is useless ; if you are in love, why, gather your rosebud as soon as possible; if you are in debt, fight your way through ; try to attain that enviable position, to be owner of a small country-house and a large balance at Coutts's. These annoyances conquered, you may sleep soundly and deliciously. There are two kinds of sleep. There is that of the man who has tired himself out, mentally or bodily, and who sleeps in Elysium.' There is that of the man who has not quite exhausted himself, and who drinks delicious draughts of imagination's wine in the magical realm of dreams.
Tell me a man's dreams, and I will tell
you what he is. The gates of the loveliest gardens in Dreamland have a private key, and can be unlocked only by the favoured few.
My happiest invasion of that divine region was after a severe illness. I had been attacked by rheumatic gout. Dear reader, I hope you are entirely ignorant of that intolerable malady. It is the Proteus and Procrustes of disease, and appears under many forms in divers parts of your corporeal entity. It stretches you on the rack if you are short, and shrivels your extremities if you are long. Well, I had a few weeks in bed with this vile bedfellow ; but I had a dear old friend as doctor, who knew every trick of my physical equipage, and a very loving and wise little wife, so I pulled through. Opium he tried . . . and it was necessary to assuage the intolerable pang. As an inevitable consequence, I dreamt. To me it does not now seem a dream. I went to Olympus. Hermes, messenger of the gods, came to fetch me. I can see the hill at this moment—a gradual green slope, not unlike this very Knowl Hill near which I write, but without earthly foundations, and held miraculously in mid-air above the central business of the world. Long valleys were there, and a sylvan scene, like my beloved Mount Edgecumbe, in Devonshire ; but Hermes led me straight to a grove of bay—laurus nobilis —through whose dark green leaves were visible not only marble statues calm in their beauty but also flying forms of boy and girl chosen by Apollo for mere loveliness. And he led me to Apollo's temple of Marpessian marble far within the grove: and in its inmost sanctuary we found the poet-god, indolent amazingly, reclined upon a green marble couch, and reading the last poem published by Marsyas. I must say that Leto's son, haughty as he was depicted in Homer and the Homeric Hymns, showed to
me in my dreams measureless courtesy; he offered me his own private nectar, with the remark that he had bitter ale close at hand, if I agreed with him in preferring it. That Apollo should drink bitter ale may seem strange : but dreams are dreams.
I dreamt this dream of Olympus, with many concomitants not mentionable here, for many nights in succession. I lived among those Greek gods, and was a kind of DisraeliIxion. I made several acquaintances, but found nothing so pleasant as the humorous homeliness of Hermes, and the half haughty but wholly generous courtesy of Apollo. Indeed, I saw few goddesses.
. They were away, perhaps, at a croquet picnic among the blameless Ethiopians.
It is quite impossible to establish a satisfactory theory of life without considering that large portion of life which is passed in sleep. There are people who maintain that four hours' sleep suffices them : but even