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.

Wednesday, 1st July, 2009


“In healthy sleep we often fly rather than walk, our dimensions are enlarged, our resolutions have more force, our actions are less confined. And though all this depends on the body, as the least circumstance respecting the soul must harmonize with it, as long as her powers are so intimately incorporated with its structure; yet the whole of the phenomena of sleep and dreaming, which are certainly singular, and would greatly astonish us, were we not accustomed to them, shows us, that every part of the body does not belong to us in the same manner; nay, that certain organs of our machine may be unstrung, and the superior power act more ideally, vividly, and freely, from mere reminiscence. Now since all the causes that induce sleep, and all its corporal symptoms, are, not metaphorically, but physiologically and actually analogous to those of death; why should not the spiritual symptoms of both be the same? Thus, then, when the sleep of death falls on us from weariness or disease, still the hope remains, that death, like sleep, only cools the fever of life, gently interrupts the too uniform and long-continued movement, heals many wounds incurable in this life, and prepares the soul for a pleasurable awakening, for the enjoyment of a new morning of youth. As in dreams my thoughts fly back to youth; as in them, being only half-fettered by a few organs, but more concentred in myself, I feel more free and active: so thou, revivifying dream of death, wilt smilingly bring back the youth of my life, the most pleasing and energetic moments of my existence, till I awake in its form—or rather in the more beautiful form of celestial juvenility.”

Johann Gottfried Herder, Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man, trans. by Thomas Churchill (London: J. Johnson, 1800), p.122.

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