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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
these rare entities pass one-sixth of their lives in a state of unconsciousness. Most men spend at the very least a third of their lives in this condition. And it is quite clear, from the experience of the dullest among us, that the brain works in sleep. There are people, it is said, who never dream. It is questionable. I have heard a story of Coleridge's meeting a man who professed himself an atheist, and saying, “Do you dream ?' The man said, “No,' and the poet was no longer surprised at his atheism. So far as I can judge from experience and evidence, the probability is that the spirit, the soul, the self, never sleeps. Why should it?
Why should it? Clogged by corporeity, it retires into its inmost asylum, and what we call dreams are the echoes of its movement there. There are times when the outwearied senses can take no cognisance of their master's actions : then we have sound sleep, devoid of dreams. Between that stage and wakefulness there are numberless gradations; there are visions that would madden Nebuchadnezzar and perplex Daniel ; there are dreams outdoing those of Ezekiel and De Quincey; but there are also grotesque and ridiculous and commonplace dreams. All these variations seem accountable on the hypothesis that the Spirit wakes always, but that its serfs, the Senses, often sleep. Those five slaves of the soul are, like all other servile creatures, untrustworthy. Berkeley believed them to be consistent liars. I do not: but I know well that all five may deceive the master of this mortal mansion if he does not look after them. In no case is the adage more perfectly verified that good masters make good servants. Sight may be keen: but what cognizance can he take of a lovely woman or a noble landscape without the educated guidance of Soul ? If Hearing hath no such guidance, he will take for truth the poet's irony