"Here we are all by day; by night we are hurled
By dreams each one into a sev'rall world."
HERRICK.We know more about almost everything in the universe than we do about the nature of dreams. And yet the reverse of this ought certainly to be true. Experientia docet, says the old proverb; but dreams, which have been the common experience of all, ever since the race began its existence, are as incomprehensible today as though they were phenomena vouchsafed to man but once in a century.
I have always been very eager to know what was the first dream of man. But there is, certainly, no good reason for doubting that to Adam in his lonely bliss in the garden, there came his first sad experience of life, as he lay asleep under the trees on a moonlight night before the creation of Eve, and that as the rib was taken from his side he groaned heavily and dreamed that the pleurisy was tormenting him. I must believe that believe that this was the original of all dreams. Since that dream, indeed, millions of sons of Adam have dreamed fancies that would create scores of Arabian Nights; have been the heroes nightly of thrilling adventures, which. were they written out, would cover the earth with a carpet of crocus-colored literature; have invented in dreamland enough mechanical appliances to increase the poverty of civilized lands to an extraordinary degree: have delivered in sleep more eloquently persuasive harangues than Demosthenes or Cicero ever imagined possible; in short, have done in dreams everything that man has done or that man will do. And yet we are almost as ignorant as to why a dream is a dream as was Adam after his first strange nightmare. May we not say more ignorant, for Adam was not long troubled as to the interpretation of his dream? Did he not find at his side, when he awoke on the following morning, that bonniest flower that any morn had brought forth, sweet, blushing Eve? Our inquiry still is, "What is a dream?" And in the present state of our knowledge, we have to reply, "Why, a dream? Strange you should ask such a question! You have had dreams. A dream is,- why, is-as much as one should say, a dream."
There seems to be a peculiar connection between our dreams and our own past experiences. One can tell a great deal about the character of a person if he knows the nature of his dreams. Dreams seem in some way to be measures of men's mental capacities. They are the sincerest things about us. They reveal the idiosyncrasies of our natures, whether we like it or no. If we will not stop during our waking hours for a season of introspection and of self-interrogation, we nevertheless must submit to having all this done for us in our sleep. Yet, it must be confessed, dreams greatly magnify our good and bad qualities. For our visions are usually too wonderful, or too grand, or too horrible, or too noble, or too poetical, for us ever to think of conceiving anything like them when we are not asleep. Yet they are all made from material that we have previously accumulated. So that we may turly say, with pardonable inversion of a famous line,
"Dreams are such stuff as we are made of."
Think what would happen if we could fancy during our waking hours the visions that flit through our minds when asleep! Why, we should all be poets. Charles Lamb was mortified by the "poverty" of his dreams, and envied Coleridge, who at his will, could conjure up airy domes and pleasure houses for Kubla Khan and Abyssinian maids, to solace his night solitudes, while he, Lamb, could not muster a fiddle. And so he concludes that there was nothing inspired in his own poetry. I must confess to having felt the same mortification. There is my friend C., who has wonderful visions in his sleep; and when in a tone of conscious superiority, he tells me of them, I become so jealous as almost to grow to hate him. Why, a short time ago he dreamed of the end of the world; and the rocks were cleft, as he stood before the old University library at Cambridge. Suddenly the earth yawned, and there bustled out of the chasm, with a roar from a long silver trumpet, and the tintinnabulous sound of bells, the archangel, clad in white robes of dazzling brilliancy. From Thayer and Matthews and Hollis and Weld and Stoughton and Holworthy and Grays, rushed the frightened students. They stopped not to admire the classic features of the gleaming angel, but on they sped,
"thro' the jaws of death,"
"back from the mouth of Hell,"
to the hills. But C., ah C.! He heard the summons of the blast, and cooly sauntering into the library, took from the mathematical alcove an armful of books, and loaded down with treatises on calculus, determinants, quarternions, arbitrary functions and the theory of the potential, a very Archimedes, with formulas enough to reconstruct a universe,- stalked fearlessly in the wake of the white robed angel! He remembers no more; but this bare glimpse of the products of his busy brain will serve to show something of the possibilities that lurk within it. The very evening of the day on which this dream was told to me, I slept, and could conjure up no more stirring puppets with which to amuse myself, than two or three Quakers with their broad-brimmed hats, and not even one that wore a bonnet; and there I lay, while they thou'd and thee'd, until I was so tired of their chatter that I turned over and woke up.
We have hinted that dreams may be valuable to the literary guild. Some great Frenchman used to solve his mathematical problems in his sleep. Tartini wrote the Devil's Sonata in the presence of his majesty, who appeared before him, as he slept. This must have been very soon after that feast in the lower world, reported by Lamb, where
"to dancing they went,
To music that did produce a
Most dissonant sound, while a hellish glee
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