to sleep, perchance

To dream.

The subtle lure of silent realms that pull us, breathless, to places we will not remember.  We who write of other worlds walk them, unremembered, unmoving in our beds.

The mind, restless animal, will find the spirit paths our practical natures refuse.  Unfettered of the crying words that protest, it was only a dream, the body slumbers and the mind wanders free.  The worlds unfold before our wonder, whether dismal bleakness of better forgotten college follies, or fantasies of heroism, romance, death.  In sleep, we hope breath more deeply than we do awake unless,

we’re singing.

At Fruit of His Lips this week, mcduffee wrote (in part):

About the dirty compromise,

experience teaches we cannot cause sleep by an act of our naked will,

but stubborn still, our lunar will refuses to admit Another brings us sleep.

We embrace the corporate lie we pretend to despise,

dipping into our polluted stream of living speech,

riparians all from it all must drink,

we conspire together in saying, we simply “fall” asleep.

And who am .~?

hints of faint warning through the dreams we spawn.

A drunken sinner simultaneously justified,

a co-conspirator, who tells you, dear reader,

“.~ couldn’t fall asleep last night because of heartburn.”

.~’m just another who takes his turn,

ignoring the angels, refusing to learn,

dismissing G[-]d’s disposing before new dawn

fringes of His instruction and

hints of faint warning through the dreams we spawn.

The Romantics strove to remember their dreams, seeing them as potential revelations of truth, of wonder.  So Coleridge famously wrote ‘Khubla Khan’ when he awoke from an opiate stupor.  The words end where memory of his vision died away.

Less famously, but perhaps more importantly, writers of fantasy who sought to invoke other worlds appealed to the world of dreams.  Lewis Carroll mused whether Alice or the Red King dreamed the adventures through the Looking Glass, and whether his own ‘golden afternoons’ were just as passing.  Who would vanish when one awoke?  What, if anything, would remain?

He wondered aloud, ‘Life–what is it but a dream?’

That haunted me a child, and in some ways haunts me still.  Despite my buttressed assurances of REM cycles, and Vitamin B6 and B12, of heartburn and tension–it haunts me.  We dream, we wonder, we dismiss the bizarre happenings as ‘only dreams’.

The ‘dirty compromise’ of ‘corporate lies’, perhaps?  We wish to dismiss our absurd dreams, while pretending our life is not absurd?  Chesterton reminded readers that most informative dreams are tainted with the bizarre.  Edward Lear reminded readers that so is everything else.

Curdie dreamed, as he lay wounded, of the gracious queen that healed his wounds.  Then he leaped from his bed to fight the goblins that surged in the cellars.  But found that he had dreamed his rising, not his healing.

Frodo dreamed, to see Gandalf pacing on the top of a high tower, the moonlight in his hair.

‘Who am ~.?’  We turn in frightened ignorance from whatever we don’t understand.  Photogen fled from the night, and Smeagol shook his fist in hatred at the sun.

‘We embrace the corporate lie we pretend to despise, | dipping into our polluted stream of living speech,’ and conjure realism to defend us from ourselves.  From words that might be sent to lead us on devious ways to G-d.

We forget, we ponder, we write.  Following the dizzying footprints of Romantics, poets, dreamers, who’ve wandered this way before:

That is the way to fair elfland
Where you and I this night maun gae.

The writer of fantasy recreates wonder, restoring in some way to a weeping word, the laughter, the terror, the delight, of a child waking to the morning and remembering her dreams.  The story, that Lucy read, that kept her heart as a dream would keep it–a story she could never quite remember, but became for her the meaning of wonder.

‘Our life,’ said Novalis, ‘is no dream, but it will and perhaps should become one.’


6 thoughts on “to sleep, perchance

  1. Hi Mr. Pond – I love that you point out the beautiful, natural rhythm of our breathing when we sleep and should do when we sing. This post got me thinking of the poets who have used dreams as part of our healing process. The work that came immediately to mind is the Dichterliebe by Robert Schumann – using the truly beautiful poems by Heinrich Heine. You most probably know this cycle already – but just in case: It is a song cycle of 16 songs that outline the birth, life and death of a Poet’s relationship with a woman. After the breakup between the two – the poet starts to dream of the lover. I was once told that once you start to dream of someone you broke up with, that you’ll soon be over it. This part of the cycle that I’m linking you to is that part. It’s filled with confusion, sadness, and finally resignation. Thank you so much for posting this beautiful poem along with your thoughts. I would never have found it on my own. And thank you for allowing me to comment on it.

    PS Sometimes I can force myself to dream of something that I want to do – but can’t in reality. Not often though. My brother the engineer solves engineering problems in his dreams. He’s an efficient dreamer. My mother’s dreams are filled with old world meanings and omens that were interpreted by her own mother who was from Poland. I always dream with a soundtrack. I wake up with the music still ringing in my ears.

  2. Ooh ooh pick me– how about “L’heure Exquise” by Reynaldo Hahn? Possibly the most perfect song I’ve heard (at least, that wasn’t by Hugo Wolf or Vaughan Williams). Reportedly the poet was moved to tears on hearing the setting.

    (The text: )

    Oddly I hardly at all have a soundtrack in my dreams, which is strange since I have music playing in my head literally every moment I’m awake. Whenever I do dream of music I’ll almost certainly have forgotten it by the time I wake up– very frustrating for a composer. On the two or three occasions I’ve remembered it well enough to scribble down, however, it turned out to be complete schlock once I looked at it with waking eyes. Make of it what you will.

  3. Welcome, Joivre. I’ll wait to reply more fully after I’ve had time to savour the link you gave more fully. But just wanted to say thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Joivre–wow. Schumann, as usual, defines ‘magical’. It’s going to take many more listenings to appreciate that fully! But I found myself deeply moved by his expression of dreaming and sorrow, and how dreams can perhaps bring reconciliation of grief.

    In re efficient dreams, I’ve heard that the Periodic Table was discovered in a dream–by a scientist who looked like he taught at Hogwarts, no less.

    So you had a Polish grandmother, too? I never met mine, sadly. What sort of dream interpretations did yours have? I tend to suspect that, for all his good intentions, our grandmothers often knew much more about dreams than Freud.

    Eric — I don’t know what’s more remarkable: that you don’t dream music, or have music in your head all the rest of the time. The link you sent was pretty remarkable, though.

  5. Eric – that’s so prescient that you mention the Hahn! I was just playing through that the other day. It is perhaps one of most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Isn’t it amazing how short in length a masterpiece can be? Der Tod und das Maedchen by Schubert is just two pages long. Of course we all love our lumbering Operas – but Lieder and Chanson cut to quick and the satisfaction is immediate.

    Mr. Pond – I remember my Babcia telling me that a snake in your dreams was a good omen! Can you believe that? I would think the opposite.

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