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ON DREAMS AND THEIR DISTINCTIONS.
When to soft sleep the members are resigned,
Feels Joy's quick impulse, its emotions strong,
THERE is perhaps no subject of equal interest which has been so little methodically treated as that of Dreams. In conversation they are frequently the theme of transient remark, and
vague discussion; but there are very few regular dissertations concerning them, though it might be supposed that what so much tends to illustrate the powers and faculties of the human mind, would have engaged attentive consideration.
The reason of this neglect indeed cannot easily be discovered: whether it be, that the wide range which the prospect opens seems to tempt rather desultory and discursive flight, than steady and systematic enquiry, or that the indistinct notions which are usually entertained in hasty speculation, appear to preclude the hope of clear and satisfactory decision, the projector of the present treatise attempts not to determine; but he is of opinion that much curious information may be collected on the subject, and that some important conclusions may be deduced from a general view of the considerations which are connected with it. In the Essay, which the author designs to compose, it will not be expected that he should embrace the whole scope of the argument; it will be
sufficient if he throw out some general principles, and confirm his remarks by a reference to some of those dreams, both ancient and modern, which have excited the chief attention.
In order to assist our examination of that variety of matter which will demand our notice, it may be useful to advert to the distinctions under which the different kinds of dreams have been characterized in general description by preceding writers.
The first distinction laid down by Macrobius, an ancient author, refers to what is properly called a dream *, which he regards as a figurative and mysterious representation that requires to be interpreted. An example of this is furnished by Dion Cassius †, who states that Nero dreamt that he saw the chair of Jove pass into the palace of Vespasian, which was considered as emblematical of the translation of the empire to Nero.
* "Overpos, somnium.
+ L. lxvi.
The second relates to what is termed vision*, which was understood to obtain, when any one saw that which afterwards came to pass in the same manner that it was foreseen. A friend, for instance, acting in the same circumstances, as in reality the next morning he may be found to do.
The third sort is what the ancients conceived to be oracular †, and what they described as taking place, when in sleep a parent or priest, or venerable person or deity, denounced what was or was not to happen, or what should be done or avoided; an instance of which is said to have occurred to Vespasian, who, when a private man in Achaia, dreamt that a person unknown assured him, that his prosperity should begin as soon as Nero should lose a tooth in completion of which he was shewn on the next day a tooth just drawn from the emperor; soon after which Nero's death took place, as likewise that of Galba, and discord
* "Ogama, visio.
* Χρηματισμός, oraculum.
broke out between Otho and Vitellius, which facilitated Vespasian's ascent to the throne *.
An impressive example is also furnished by Virgil, who represents the disfigured shade of Hector to have appeared to neas on the night on which the Grecians took possession of Troy, exhorting him to escape from the flames of the city already falling to destruction.
These were supposed to rise under the influence of inspiration: Cicero considers them as particularly suited to temples, and we are told, that the leaders of the Lacedemonians were accustomed to lie down in the temple of Pasithea, in expectation of such oracular suggestions, in which they trusted as infallibly true. They are here produced only by way of illustration.
* Sueton. Vespas. Dion. Cass. L. lxvi.