Fall from a Star
Dreamed 1920, by Edwin Muir
Source: The Story and the Fable by Edwin Muir (1940)
Muir grew up on the island of Wyre in the remote, timeless Orkney Islands off Scotland
but was orphaned as a teen and struggled to survive in Glasgow; most of his siblings died.
I dreamed, in this semi-awake state, that I was in a small circular room hung with red velvet, with a cushioned seat running round the walls. The smallness of the room, and the red hangings and furniture, for everything was red, oppressed me dreadfully; but what troubled me most was that I was quite alone and at a great height. How I had been lured there I did not know, but cunning and treachery of some strange kind had been involved in it.
Suddenly I realized I was in a star, millions of miles from ever one I knew, and that the circular room was really the inside of the star. Its smallness, and particularly the oppressive softness and elegance of its furnishings, the cushioned softness of a padded cell, filled me with such fear and forsakenness that I could hardly breathe. But worst of all was the dreadful sensation of height. I searched the walls, and at last saw, as if it were my salvation, a small window. I went over to the window and opened it, then climbed on to the sill and looked down. Far below I could see a little bank of cloud touched by a faint radiance, and I knew that on the other side of it was the earth.
An overpowering longing to be down there came over me. I lifted my hands over my head and dived. I remember nothing after this until I cut through the cloud and caught sight of the earth still so far beneath me that I could see all one side of it. I saw that it was a great grey ball completely covered with ice.
I was quite near it before I realized that I should be broken to pieces by my fall, and at that my soul shot out of my body and hung on the air a little above the ground, watching my body hurtling down. I saw it striking the ice and lying outspread and shattered: I looked at it objectively, with a touch of pity, but with no fear.
After a while a black, smooth-skinned animal somewhat like a walrus, but much bigger, came out of a hole in the ice, went over to my body, and sniffed it. The great beast looked sad and kindly, but after sniffing my body ate it up in a businesslike way and went back into the hole again.
I waited still, hanging on the air, for I knew that something else would happen.
And after a while I saw myself coming out of the hole, reborn, with a sun-coloured serpent wrapped round my breast, its head resting on my shoulder. As I walked on new grass sprang under my feet and on either side of me.
I realize that this dream... would have to be put down to naive spiritual vanity if it was really invented by me and did not 'come' to me, as I felt at the time it did, and as I feel still: it was not 'I' who dreamt it, but something else which the psychologists call the racial unconscious, and for which there are other names.
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