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HOME AND SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY.
HEN we picture to ourselves a person lying in a state of profound sleep-the body slightly curved upon itself; the limbs relaxed; the head reclining upon its pillow; and eyelids closed; it is wonderful to think what strange and startling imagery may be passing through the brain of that apparently unconscious being. The events of his whole life may hurry past him in dim obscurity; he may be revisited by the dead; he may be transported into regions he never before beheld; and his ideas, visibly assuming phantasmal shapes, may hover round him like shadows reflected from another and more spiritual state of existence.
Let us draw the curtains gently aside, and study the physiognomy of sleep.
The countenance may, occasionally, be observed lighted up, as it were, from within by a passing dream-its expression is frequently one of peculiar mildness and benignity;
the breathing may be slow, but it is calm and uniform; the pulse not so rapid as in the waking state, but soft and regular; the composure of the whole body may continue trance-like and perfect. There is, indeed, no sign of innocence more touching than the smile of a sleeping infant. But, suddenly, this state of tranquillity may be disturbed ; the dreamer changes his position and becomes restless; he moans grievously-perhaps sobs-and tears may be observed glimmering underneath his eyelids; his whole body now seems to be shaken by some inward convulsion; but, presently, the strife abates; the storm-cloud gradually passes; he stretches his limbs, opens his eyes, and, as he awakes, daylight, in an instant, dispels the vision, perhaps leaving not behind the faintest trace or recollection of a single incident which occurred in this mysterious state.
But what are dreams? Whence come they? What do they portend? Not man only, but all animals, it is presumed, dream, more or less, when they are asleep. Horses neigh, and sometimes kick violently; cows, when suckling their young calves, often utter piteous lowings; dogs bark in suppressed tones, and, from the motions of their paws, appear to fancy themselves in the field of the chase; even frogs, particularly during summer, croak loudly and discordantly until midnight, and then retire, and become silent. Birds also dream; and will sometimes, when frightened, fall from their roosting perch, or flutter about their cage, in evident alarm. A bullfinch, says Bechstein, belonging to a lady, was subject to very frightful dreams, which made it drop off its perch; but no,sooner did it hear the voice of its affectionate mistress than it became immediately tranquil and reascended its perch to sleep again. It is pretty certain that parrots dream. It is, indeed, a curious circumstance that the best way of
teaching this bird to talk is to cover the cage over so as to darken it, and while he is going to sleep pronounce, audibly and slowly, the word he is to learn; if the winged pupil be a clever one, he will, upon the repetition of the lesson, in a morning or two, begin to repeat it.
Upon the same principle, school-boys commit their tasks to memory by reading them over the last thing before they go to bed. It is to be remembered that during sleep the mind may not be wholly under eclipse; for, although some of its faculties such as perception, comparison, judgment, and especially the will, may be suspended-others (for example, Memory and Imagination) are often more active than in the waking state. But some persons, it is said, never dream. We are assured by Locke that he knew a gentleman who had an excellent memory, yet could not recollect ever having dreamed until his twenty-sixth year. Dr. Reid, for many years before his death, had no recollection of having ever dreamed. Dr. Elliotson also relates, apparently upon good authority, the case of a man who never dreamed until after he had a fever, in his fortieth year, and we ourselves know several persons who are not conscious of ever dreaming. Nevertheless, many contend that in all such cases dreams really occur, but that they escape the recollection; for they contend that it is impossible that the mind can, being an independent principle, ever be in a state of absolute rest. This is arguing within a very narrow circle. We must not forget that the intimate alliance of the mind with the body, subjects it to its general laws; the "heat-oppressed brain" requires rest to renew its energies, and the mind, of which it is the organ, in the mean time, may, as in profound sleep, remain perfectly quiescent. The lids of the outward senses are closed; a veil is drawn over the immaterial principle of our nature;