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No. 487. THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18.
Cum prostrata sopore
THOUGH there are many authors who have written on dreams, they have generally considered them only as revelations of what has already happened in distant parts of the world, or as presages of what is to happen in future periods of time.
I shall consider this subject in another light, as dreams may give us some idea of the great excellency of a human soul, and some intimations of its independency on matter.
In the first place, our dreams are great instances of that activity which is natural to the human soul, and which it is not in the power of sleep to deaden or abate. When the man appears tired and worn out with the labours of the day, this active part in his composition is still busied and unwearied. When the organs of sense want their due repose and necessary reparations, and the body is no longer able to keep pace with that spiri. tual substance to which it is united, the soul exerts herself in her several faculties, and continues in the action till her partner is again qualified to bear her company. In this case dreams look like the relaxations and amusements of the soul, when she is disencumbered of her machine, her sports and recreations, when she has laid her charge asleep.
In the second place, dreams are an instance of that agility and perfection which is natural to the faculties of the mind, when they are disengaged from the body. The soul is clogged and retarded in her operations, when she acts in conjunction with a companion that is so heavy and unwieldy in its motions. But in dreams it is wonderful to observe with what a sprightliness and alacrity she exerts herself. The slow of speech make unpremeditated harangues, or converse readily in languages that they are but little acquainted with. The grave abound in pleasantries, the dull in repartees and points of wit. There is not a more painful action of the mind, than invention; yet in dreams it works with that ease and activity, that we are not sensible when the faculty is employed. For instance, I believe every one, some time or other, dreams that he is reading pa-, pers, books, or letters; in which case the invention prompts so readily, that the mind is imposed upon, and mistakes its own suggestions for the compositions of another.
I shall, under this head, quote a passage out of the Religio Medici, in which the ingenious author gives an account of himself in his dreaming and his waking thoughts. We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps, and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking of the soul. It is the ligation of sense, but the liberty of reason; and our waking conceptions do not match the fancies of our sleeps. At my nativity my ascendant was the watery sign of Scorpius: I was born in the planetary hour of Saturn, and, I think, I have a piece of that leaden planet in me. I am no way facetious, nor disposed for the mirth and galliardize of company; yet in one dream I can compose a whole comedy, behold the action, comprehend the jests, and laugh myself awake at the conceits thereof. Were my memory as faithful as my reason is then fruitful, I would never study but in my dreams; and this time also would I chuse for my devotions : but our grosser memories have then so little hold of our abstracted understandings, that they forget the story, and can only