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Dreamed 1670 or 1671 by Mrs. Cl., of S.
"Somnium ex Eubernea porta"

Mrs. Cl., of S., in the county of S., had a beloved daughter, who had been a long time ill, and received no benefit from her physicians. She dreamed that a friend of hers deceased, told her, that if she gave her daughter a drench of yew pounded, that she would recover; she gave her the drench, and it killed her. Whereupon she grew almost distracted [mad]: her chamber maid to complement her, and mitigate her grief, said surely that could not kill her, she would adventure to take the same herself; she did so, and died also.

This was about the year 1670, or 1671. I knew the family.

SOURCE: John Aubrey, Miscellanies upon Various Subjects, 1696


Just a little black humor for those readers who think (or think I think) all dream-advice is good advice. I don't. Yes, on average, dreams are more reliable than presidents or CIA reports, but that's a low standard. Use common sense, people!

My Latin is awful, but I think "Somnium ex Eubernea porta" would be "Dream taken from Ireland"; if true, the county and town are probably Sligo (which would please Yeats).

The tale's irony is even greater now. Yew leaves, bark (even the berries in excess) were well known to be poisonous, yet today yew extract has proved effective against some recalcitrant cancers--at the right dosage. This 17th-century dream prescribed a real cancer drug--but infusion from raw bark is unpredictable. Just bad luck it came out too strong.

But the maid's death wasn't bad luck. That was courage, love, faith in dreams... and recklessness. I nearly titled this Yew Fool.

--Chris Wayan

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