Thursday, 2nd July, 2009


from ‘Lady Barbara; or, The Ghost’, Book XVI of Tales of the Hall.

‘But then in sleep those horrid forms arise,
That the soul sees,— and, we suppose, the eyes,—
And the soul hears,— the senses then thrown by,
She is herself the ear, herself the eye;
A mistress so will free her servile race
For their own tasks, and take herself the place:
In sleep what forms will ductile fancy take,
And what so common as to dream awake?
On others thus do ghostly guests intrude?
Or why am I by such advice pursued?
One out of millions who exist, and why
They know not – cannot know – and such am I;
And shall two beings of two worlds, to meet,
The laws of one, perhaps of both, defeat?
It cannot be.— But if some being lives
Who such kind warning to a favourite gives,
Let him these doubts from my dull spirit clear,
And once again, expected guest! appear.’


‘Yes, all are dreams; but some as we awake
Fly off at once, and no impression make;
Others are felt, and ere they quit the brain
Make such impression that they come again;
As half familiar thoughts, and half unknown,
And scarcely recollected as our own;
For half a day abide some vulgar dreams,
And give our grandams and our nurses themes;
Others, more strong, abiding figures draw
Upon the brain, and we assert “I saw;”
And then the fancy on the organs place
A powerful likeness of a form and face.

‘Yet more – in some strong passion’s troubled reign,
Or when the fever’d blood inflames the brain,
At once the outward and the inward eye
The real object and the fancied spy;
The eye is open, and the sense is true,
And therefore they the outward object view;
But while the real sense is fix’d on these,
The power within its own creation sees;
And these, when mingled in the mind, create
Those striking visions which our dreamers state;
For knowing that is true that met the sight,
They think the judgment of the fancy right.
Your frequent talk of dreams has made me turn
My mind on them, and these the facts I learn.
Or should you say, ’t is not in us to take
Heed in both ways, to sleep and be awake,
Perhaps the things by eye and mind survey’d
Are in their quick alternate efforts made;
For by this mixture of the truth, the dream
Will in the morning fresh and vivid seem.

‘Dreams are like portraits, and we find they please
Because they are confess’d resemblances;
But those strange night-mare visions we compare
To waxen figures – they too real are,
Too much a very truth, and are so just
To life and death, they pain us or disgust.’


George Crabbe, ‘Lady Barbara; or, The Ghost’, in The Complete Poetical Works, ed. by Norma Dalrymple-Champneys and Arthur Pollard, 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1988) II, pp.547-573.

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