Слике страница
PDF
ePub

is remembrance : if it be sought after by the mind, and with pain and endeavour found, and brought again in view, it is recollection : if it be held there long under consideration, it is contemplation; when ideas float in our mind without any reflexion or regard of the understanding, it is that which the French call réverie ;* our language has scarce a name for it. When the ideas that offer themselves (for as I have observed in another place, while we are awake, there will always be a train of ideas succeeding one another in our minds) are taken notice of, and, as it were, registered in the memory, it is attention ; when the mind, with great earnestness, and of choice, fixes its view on any idea, considers it on all sides, and will not be called off by the ordinary solicitations of other ideas, it is what

* There is a phenomenon in the mind, which, though it happen to us while we are perfectly awake, yet approaches the nearest to sleep of any I know. It is called the Reverie, or, as some term it, the brown study, a sort of middle state between waking and sleeping ; in which, though our eyes are open, our senses seem to be entirely shut up, and we are quite insensible of every thing about us, yet we are all the while engaged in a musing indolence of thought, or a supine and lolling kind of roving from one fairy scene to another, without any self-command; from which, if any noise or accident rouse us, we wake as from a real dream, and are often as much at a loss to tell how our thoughts were employed, as if we had waked from the soundest sleep. This is frequently called dreaming, sometimes absence, a thing often observed in lovers and people of a melancholy or indeed speculative turn.- Fordyce's Dialogues concerning education, vol. II. p. 255.

we call intention or study. Sleep without dreaming is rest from all these : and dreaming itself, is the having of ideas (while the outward senses are stopped, so that they receive not outward objects with their usual quickness) in the mind, not suggested by any external objects, or known occasion, nor under any choice or conduct of the understanding at all, and whether that which we call ecstasy, be not dreaming with the eyes open, I leave to be examined.”

Dr. Beattie, in his Dissertations moral and criti. cal,” has an ingenious essay on this subject, in which he attempts to ascertain, not so much the efficient as the final causes of the phenomenon, and to obviate those superstitions in regard to it, which have sometimes troubled weak minds. He labours, with great earnestness, to shew, that dreams may be of use in the way of physical admonition: that persons,

who attend to them with this view, may make important discoveries with regard to their health ; that they may be serviceable as the means of moral improvement; that, by attending to them, we may discern our pre. dominant passions, and receive. good hints for the regulation of them ; that they may have been intended by Providence to serve as an amusement to the mental powers; and that dreaming is not universal, because, probably, all constitutions do not require such intellectual amusement. In observations of this kind, we may discover the ingenuity of fancy and the sagacity of conjecture. We may find amusement in the arguments, but we look in vain for satisfaction. Nature, certainly, does nothing in vain, yet we are far from thinking, that man is able, in

[ocr errors]

every case, to discover her intentions. Final causes, perhaps, ought never to be the subject of human speculation, but when they are plain and obvious. To substitute vain conjectures, instead of the designs of Providence, on subjects where those designs are beyond our reach, serves only to furnish matter for the cavils of the sceptical, and the sneers of the licentious.

Among the many striking phenomena in our dreams, it may be observed, that, while they last, the memory seems to lie wholly torpid, and the understanding to be employed only about such objects as are then presented, without comparing the present with the past. When we sleep, we often converse with a friend who is either absent or dead, without remembering that the grave or the ocean is between us. We float, like a feather, upon the wind; find ourselves this moment in England, and the next in India, without reflecting that the laws of nature are suspended, or inquiring how the scene could have been so suddenly shifted before us. We are familiar with prodigies; we accommodate ourselves to every event, however romantic; and we not only reason, but act upon principles, which are in the highest degree absurd and extravagant. Our dreams, moreover, are so far from being the effect of a voluntary effort, that we neither know of what we shall dream, or whether we shall dream at all.

But sleep is not the only time in which strange and unconnected objects involve our ideas in confusion. Besides the réveries of the day, already spoken of, we have, in a moral view, our waking-dreams, which

for we

are not less chimerical, and impossible to be realized, than the imaginations of the night.

Night visions may befriend-
Our waking dreams are fatal. How I dreamt
Of things impossible (could sleep do more?)
Of joys perpetual in perpetual change!
Of stable pleasures on the tossing wave!
Eternal sunshine in the storms of life!
How richly were my noon-tide trances hung,
With gorgeous tapestries of pictur'd joys !
Till at deaths' toll,
Starting I woke, and found myself undone.

Many of the fabulous stories of ghosts or apparitions have originated unquestionably in dreams. There are times of slumber when we are sensible of being asleep. “ When the thoughts are much troubled,” says Hobbes, “ and when a person sleeps without the circumstance of going to bed, or pulling off his clothes, as when he nods in his chair, it is very difficult to distinguish a dream from a reality. On the contrary, he that composes himself to sleep, in case of any uncouth or absurd fancy, easily suspects it to have been a dream."* On this principle, Hobbes has ingeniously accounted for the spectre which is said to have appeared to Brutus; and the well-known story told by Clarendon, of the apparition of the duke of Buckingham's father, will admit of a similar solution. There was no man at that time in the kingdom so much the topic of conversation as the duke ; and, from the corruptness of his character, he was very likely to fall a sacrifice to the corruptness of the times. Sir George Villiers is said to have appeared to the man at midnight—there is therefore the greatest probability that the man was asleep; and the dream affrighting him, made a strong impression, and was likely to be repeated.

* Leviathan, part. 1. c. l.

**

History furnishes us with numerous instances of a forecast having been communicated through the medium of dreams, some of which are so extraordinary as almost to shake our belief that the hand of Provi. dence is not sometimes evident through their instrumentality. Cicero, in his first book on Divination, tells us, that Heraclides, a clever man, and who had been a disciple of Plato, writes that the mother of Phalaris saw in a dream the statues of the gods which she had consecrated in the house of her son ; and among other things, it appeared to her, that from a cup which Mercury held in his hand, he had spilled some blood from it, and that the blood had scarcely touched the ground, than rising up in large bubbles it filled the whole house. This dream of the mother was afterwards but too truly verified in the cruelty of the bon. Cyrus dreamt that seeing the sun at his feet, he made three different unsuccessful attempts to lay his hand upon it, at each of which it evaded him. The Persian Magi who interpreted this dream told him that these three attempts to seize the sun signified that he would reign thirty years. This prediction was verified : he died at the age of seventy, having begun to reign when he was forty years old.

“ There is doubtless,” says Cicero, something even among barbarians which marks that they possess

« ПретходнаНастави »