Изображения страниц

Blumenbach, the “deficiency of animal spirits” of Haller, the “ cerebral collapse” of Cullen, the “exhausted irritability" of Brown and Erasmus Darwin, the "accumulation of the sewage products of the body," the "excess of lactic acid ” of Preyer, “ brain-blood stasis," the “using up the potential energy of the nervous centers," and the latest speculation of Wundt, the "inhibition of the organ of apperception.” To expose the shortcomings of these theories would lead us too far afield. So no scientific solution can be given of the ground nature of sleep. Its phenomena can be studied intelligently and profitably, but the noumenon—the ding an sichsbuns us. The objective data can be interpreted, but the subjective processus is hidden.

On awaking we quickly know, as the rising senses light up consciousness, bow we have slept; whether we have had the somnus humanus—the “mortal good sleep,” restful and restoring, nature's soft nurse-or an unrefreshing night of slumbering agitation. “Nothing," says Hippocrates, “is so destructive of buman nature, or wastes the spirits, blood, and strength more than want of sleep.” Sleeplessness owns so many different causes that it is not surprising, when the right one is not sought for and found, and the rule-of-thumb treatment is followed, that it so often proves past cure. Mental and physical fatigue, “days with toil,” are supposed to give “nights of sleep;” but such is not always the case. An over-fagged brain or body is often a sure hinderance of sleep, and brings a night of "tumbling and tossing."

II. Dreaming may be defined a mind-drama, performed during sleep, in which the chief actor is Fancy, who plays many parts. Chaucer called dreams

“but interludes, which Fancy makes. When monarch Reason sleeps, this mimic wakes, Compounds a medley of disjointed things."

Milton says that when

“nature rests, and Reason
Retires into her private cell, ...
Oft in her absence mimic Fancy wakes
To imitate her, but misjoining shapes
Wild work produces."

"In waking life," wrote Aristotle, “ we all have a world in common, but in dreams each one has a world of his own." Sir Walter Scott styled dreams " the deceptions of imagination when reason drops the reins.” “I know,” says Oldbuck, "no difference between them and the hallucinations of madness; the unguided horses run away with the carriage in both cases, only in the one the coachman is drunk, in the other he slumbers."

In the dreaming state there is a suspension of will-control over the thought-current, which flows on in incoherent series ; there is a travesty of reason, and the incongruities of the dream tissue are not corrected by judgment. Attention and reflection are wanting. Dr. Johnson had a contest of wit in a dream. Said he:

“Now one may mark the effect of sleep in weakening reflection; for had not my judgment failed me I should have see a that the wit of this supposed antagonist, by whose apparent superiority I felt myself mortified, was as much fumished by me as that I had been uttering in my own character.”

From what sources is the dream-food supplied ? Commonly from two; namely, revived residua of concepts perceived during a recent waking state, and stored in the memories; and immediate sensory impressions transmitted by the end-organs. The frequency of the first—the survival of fresh events—has been remarked by Cicero and Lucretius:

“What fills men's minds they dream o'ernight ;
The lawyers plead, the warriors fight,

The sailors think of storms." Mercutio tells how lovers dream of love, courtiers of suits, lawyers of fees, parsons of another benefice, and soldiers of cutting foreign throats, of breaches and ambuscadoes. The dreams of animals would seem to be of the same order. Lucretius describes racers starting in their sleep, as if eager for the course; baying, panting hounds, with quivering limbs, pursuing, in the mind's eye, the stag; the house-dog, asleep on the hearth, growl. ing and barking at the supposed intrusion of the stranger. So Scott, in the “Lay of the Last Minstrel":

“ The stag-hounds, weary with the chase,

Lay stretched upon the rushy floor,
And urged, in dreams, the forest race."

Hounds in sleep, according to Chaucer, “will open for the prey,” and Dryden says:

“Little birds in sleep their songs repeat.” The contents of a dream, taking shape and tone from abiding experiences, are often an odd motley ; ill-matching thoughts, past or late, madly jostle one another, tumbling clubbed into the stream of fancy:

such stuff

dreams are made on." In the second series present sensory excitations furnish the suggesting material, which is usually absurdly transfigured. Here the sensations are not, as in the waking state, graduated to the stimulus, but often grotesquely heightened. These dreams are in terms of touch, hearing, smell, taste, and sight. The great area of the complex tactual sense gives it first place as a factor, from space capacity, to receive excitants. Any modification of the sensibility of the skin, or the accident of an unusua! stimulus, as the entanglement of the hands or toes in the bed. clothes, may provoke a dream-image, whimsical and" in dimension grossly clad,” but plainly suggested. Simon dreamed of a dice of huge bulk; waking, he found that he held part of the sheet twisted in such a way as to give the notion of a cubic body about the size of the dice pictured in his sleep. A friend dreamed that he was carrying a corpse in his teeth, carefully steering it through three rooms, shunning all obstacles, and feeling the clammy body hitting his naked skin. Depositing his horrible load he instantly waked, and discovered his open hand lying on the marble top of the night-table.

The sense of hearing has the next place in begetting dream freaks from physical factors. The writer recently dreamed of a thunder-storm; no lightning was seen, but peal after peal heard, the last awaking him, when he found a garbage cart going by in the street, with its rattling, pounding noise. Music played near the sleeper has suggested a dream of a concert of seraphs. The interesting experiments of Prévost. D'Hervey, and Maury show the influence of irritants coming through the inlets of the senses of smell and taste in causing dream-forms. The odor of Cologne water carried M. Maury to the shop of Farina, at Cairo.

Burning a match under his nostrils sent him to sea in a vessel whose powder-room blew up.

Bodily ailments and noxious humors that infest the blood give rise to and shape dreams, the perverted sensations being seized upon by bazy consciousness and read awry. An eminent writer relates that when young he was fond of books of travel. One night, after reading, he dreamed he was aboard a vessel anchored off a foreign coast. After a quarrel with his captain they both went ashore to settle the matter. Thrice the captain's ball struck him at the same spot in the forehead, yet he did not fall. After the third fire he awoke, and found that he was suffering from a severe neuralgia at the point his antagonist's ball had entered. Chaucer declares that dreams

" Are from repletion and complexion bred.

From rising fumes of indigested food.”
So Monkbarns accounts for the professor's disturbed sleep:

“Considering that the Illustrissimus ate a pound and a half of collops, smoked six pipes, drank ale and brandy in proportion, I am not surprised at his having a fit of the nightmare." A supper of Welsh rare-bit, or some like indigestible food, followed by incubus, with an elephant or an ancestor doing a wardance on the stomach, or a struggling with a giant on your back, is probably within the experience of many readers.

Some dreams hardly belong to either of these series, and seem the spontaneous minting of fancy. But these, too, probably own a physical basis, the impressions having, at some time or other, stolen unawares into the brain and been stored in the memories. and suddenly popped out in sleep in some mad attire. Lovel's dream in “The Antiquary” is of this sort. He tells Oldbuck that in the night's dream he had been shown words that he did not remember ever having seen. The laird replies that he had read the very words aloud during the evening, adding, “Your mind was bent elsewhere, but your ear mechanically received and maintained the sounds, and your busy fancy, stirred by Grizel's legend, introduced this scrap into your dream." Sometimes there is a projection backward, and

"Forgotten things, long cast behind. Rush forward in the brain and come to mind."

Common sense and memory are mistrusted when we see and talk with those we know have been long dead, and they with us:

“Strange dream that gives a dead man leave to think and speak.”

The influence of brain poisons, such as alcohol, opium, hashish, ether, nitrous-oxide gas, chloroform, chloral, cocoaine, and so on, in the genesis and coloring of dreams, should not be overlooked. Coleridge and De Quincey were great dreamers, and both were opium-eaters.

Dreaming has a wide realm of tears, tortures, and the touch of joy. There are, according to Ben Jonson,

“ Dreams that have honey, and dreams that have stings.” Some dreams "lift us above ourselves with cheerful thoughts," whilst others "abuse the curtained sleep," and leave a weight upon our waking thoughts.

The moral faculty is sometimes dulled or absent in a dream, when we do without scruple, and even with pleasure, what we should look upon with horror in the waking state. Mr. Richard Napier, a man of tender heart, dreamed that he ran his best friend through the body, and felt great pleasure on seeing the point of his sword come out between the shoulders.

Poets have sung the patient midnight sleep, which is said to be little liable to be abused by dreams wicked or charitable. Dreams that scent the morning air are reckoned as the ones most steeped in favor. That they might enjoy their morning dreams undisturbed the Sybarites killed their matin heralds, the cocks. Dreams decline in frequency and vividness from childhood to old age; and women dream oftener and more fancifully than men, owing to their larger emotional life.

The question whether any state of sleep is innocent of dreaming is hard to answer, as the fact is one of observation and memory, and so many dreams come like shadows, so depart," leaving no trace, as circlets made by the stone thrown into the pond. Aristotle, Descartes, Sir Henry Holland, and others, following traditional metaphysics, hold that percipience never fails, and that dreaming is always going on during sleep. Lord Brougham argues that we dream only in the transit of sleep to waking, or the contrary, or when sleep is loosened, or, in dream-terms,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »