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A Word Dream

Dreamed before 1936 by Maude Meagher

You ask me for a dream. Have I told you of a type I have very often that I call the word dream? In it words are the important thing rather than pictures. The pictures are called up by the words or vice versa. I dream the words as printed on a page before me, and create them as I read. The text is never anything that I can remember having read actually, though it is sometimes comments on a remembered scene. Sometimes when I wake I can only remember the look of the printed page I have dreamed I was reading; occasionally I manage to edge it into consciousness and remember it a short while.

Last week I wrote down the last few paragraphs of one of these word dreams. Here it is, if it interests you, as I untangled it just now from the scrawl written in the dark on a bit of paper I groped for beside the bed. Needless to say, I haven't changed it by a word, but send it as I copied it, so to speak, from the fast vanishing slip of dream paper on which it was printed. The dream picture on which the words commented was a full august moon, risen just above a high black mountain. This, by the way, is a remembered scene: I have watched it often in Capri resting on the mountain-top just so.

The moon balanced round and red on the top of the hill... See, it is a tennis ball and if you had a silver racquet, strung with hairs from the tail of Pegasus, you could play volley ball with a young angel. No, it is God's golf ball, for golf, I think, is a celestial game. Who but God has so good a right to the language of the links... it is, I think better, the Great Roc's egg. She has scratched it out of her nest in pecking about for the Gold of Ophir on which she feeds... No, it is the Rosa Mundi, and a flirtatious houri has just dropped it over the gate of Paradise... it is the apple that Paris threw. If you watch you will see Atalanta come running around the edge of that black promontory... It is a copper gong, and if I were fleet-footed I should be already at the top of that black hill and I should reach out my clenched hand and strike it twice-"CRANG! CRANG!" and the giants under the earth would hear it and wake, opening their yellow eyes on the dark, and go to sleep again and smile, the crocodiles would open their long snouts and bellow, and the angels, tripping along celestial streets, would hear it and start and run to the gate and say to St. Peter, "Did you hear that sound? What was it?"

And the saint would nod indifferently and say, "Only a poor fool banging on the moon. Go back and sing your psalms again." And I would strike it again, "CRANG! CRANG!" and then trip over my own feet and go tumbling down the side of the hill and lie at the bottom with the moon sailing above me and pretend to my unbelieving self that it was I who made those dark dents on its surface, though I know very well who made them. It was Pluto, who forged the moon of copper, smooth and shadowless. Then he limped off to call his wife Venus to see, but found her sleeping in the arms of Ares. So Vulcan limped back again to his bright disk and struck it as though by accident so they would wake at the noise and separate and he pretend he did not know. And when he saw the sooty mark of his hand on it, anger at that and other things made him throw the tarnished disk out through the mouth of hell where it skipped a few times on the surface of the ether like a flat pebble, then turned sideways and slid round the curve of the sky which then, as now, was made of ice as smooth as glass wherein millions of gold fishes are frozen.

A full moon rises over a silhouetted peak; gold, black and midnight blue.
That is the most complete word dream I have ever copied out. There's nothing very remarkable about them, though, they are the natural result of days spent chiefly in reading and writing. People whose material contacts are more varied would naturally be more prone to visual dreams, and as for talking-word dreams, everybody has the esprit d'escalier kind, both waking and sleeping.

One interesting thing about it is that the moon picture called up by, or calling up, the first sentence (together with, possibly, preceding sentences that were lost) remained static as the words formed themselves on the paper, and at the same time, there were all the successive lesser images more vaguely seen--as one may see a ghost and also the wall behind it. And finally, almost at the end, an annoying sense of myself in my bed, about to break in on the dream and destroy it. As a matter of fact, the words were continuing, and something about the gold fishes was just forming itself into words when I stopped it.

Forgive this long dissertation. I've got rather interested up here [Scottish Western Highlands] in watching the process--the different degrees of sleep and the different intensities of dream so far as I can remember them. I sleep long and lightly up here, some ten hours a night, and often wake between dreams to amuse myself thinking back over them.

--Maude Meagher

LISTS AND LINKS: writing in dreams - language - nocturnes - the moon - poems - play - gods and goddesses - Maude Meagher's childhood nightmare: Stalagmite Valley - Nancy Price has a similarly wild dream in the Lake District: Trout Beck

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