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Creating Wings

Dreamt 1805 by Robert Southey

Last night I had met a Mr. Trevilian, a Somersetshire man. I dreamt that I was visiting him in his own county, and this reminding me of Glastonbury, I thought that we went to see the ruins. But the ruins which I saw in my dream were far nobler than Glastonbury, or probably than any existing pile. I thought that, descending a long flight of steps... we entered a prodigious church, deserted and bearing marks of decay, though all its parts were still entire. I have the picture vividly before me, the arched windows, and meeting columns, the grass between the stones; the sound of my own footsteps is still fresh in my ears, and the feeling of delight and reverence which made me in the dream stand half-way down the steps and shed tears.

Presently I was led to a part of the building which was called the Beatorio; the most extraordinary place I ever fancied. It was so called as being the burial-place of the monks, who were all presumed to be in bliss, and the whole floor was covered with statues, admirably executed in a fine white stone, of these men rising from the dead all in different attitudes, each as large as life, and each made to the living likeness of the man whom it represented. One side of this place was open to the cloisters, so that all was seen in a strong light. The other walls were in like manner covered with figures issuing out.

I thought a sort of Auto of the Last Judgment was to be acted in the church. A number of the most ill-looking men had been got together to play the damned, and express as much damnation as possible in their looks and gestures when they were set aside after sentence.

The dream now began to confound things: these persons seemed to be really the damned; and I, who did not quite like such company, as they were becoming obstreperous, rose to make my escape. Some fellow half-damned, half-devil, was placed in the gateway to prevent me from going out; I forced my way by, and creating wings with the effort, fled away. A long flight brought me to the mountains, and I awoke, just at the fit time, when the whole dream was fairly brought to a conclusion.

--Robert Southey--

NOTES

In context of Southey's entire journal, this dream is a milestone. Southey often suffered from nightmares. But here at last he siezes the initiative: doubting he's among angels, he just grows his own wings!

This entry from Southey's journal is quoted in The Oxford Book of Dreams (ed. Stephen Brook, 1983)

--Chris Wayan--



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