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  • 1903
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lurked in the dark earth, was latent in the tiny seed we planted? Beautiful flower, you have taught me to see a little way into the hidden heart of things. Now I understand that the darkness everywhere may hold possibilities better even than my hopes.

A FREE TRANSLATION FROM HORACE
BOOK II-18.

I am not one of those on whom fortune deigns to smile. My house is not resplendent with ivory and gold; nor is it adorned with marble arches, resting on graceful columns brought from the quarries of distant Africa. For me no thrifty spinners weave purple garments. I have not unexpectedly fallen heir to princely estates, titles or power; but I have something more to be desired than all the world’s treasures–the love of my friends, and honorable fame, won by my own industry and talents. Despite my poverty, it is my privilege to be the companion of the rich and mighty. I am too grateful for all these blessings to wish for more from princes, or from the gods. My little Sabine farm is dear to me; for here I spend my happiest days, far from the noise and strife of the world.

O, ye who live in the midst of luxury, who seek beautiful marbles for new villas, that shall surpass the old in splendor, you never dream that the shadow of death is hanging over your halls. Forgetful of the tomb, you lay the foundation of your palaces. In your mad pursuit of pleasure you rob the sea of its beach and desecrate hallowed ground. More even than this, in your wickedness you destroy the peaceful homes of your clients! Without a touch of remorse you drive the father from his land, clasping to his bosom his household gods and his half-naked children.

You forget that death comes to the rich and the poor alike, and comes once for all; but remember, Acheron could not be bribed by gold to ferry the crafty Prometheus back to the sunlit world. Tantalus, too, great as he was above all mortals, went down to the kingdom of the dead, never to return. Remember, too, that, although death is inexorable, yet he is just; for he brings retribution to the rich for their wickedness, and gives the poor eternal rest from their toil and sorrow.

Ah, the pranks that the nixies of Dreamland play on us while we sleep! Methinks “they are jesters at the Court of Heaven.” They frequently take the shape of daily themes to mock me; they strut about on the stage of Sleep like foolish virgins, only they carry well-trimmed note-books in their hands instead of empty lamps. At other times they examine and cross-examine me in all the studies I have ever had, and invariably ask me questions as easy to answer as this: “What was the name of the first mouse that worried Hippopotamus, satrap of Cambridge under Astyagas, grandfather of Cyrus the Great?” I wake terror-stricken with the words ringing in my ears, “An answer or your life!”

Such are the distorted fancies that flit through the mind of one who is at college and lives as I do in an atmosphere of ideas, conceptions and half-thoughts, half-feelings which tumble and jostle each other until one is almost crazy. I rarely have dreams that are not in keeping with what I really think and feel, but one night my very nature seemed to change, and I stood in the eye of the world a mighty man and a terrible. Naturally I love peace and hate war and all that pertains to war; I see nothing admirable in the ruthless career of Napoleon, save its finish. Nevertheless, in that dream the spirit of that pitiless slayer of men entered me! I shall never forget how the fury of battle throbbed in my veins–it seemed as if the tumultuous beating of my heart would stop my breath. I rode a fiery hunter–I can feel the impatient toss of his head now and the quiver that ran through him at the first roar of the cannon.

From the top of the hill where I stood I saw my army surging over a sunlit plain like angry breakers, and as they moved, I saw the green of fields, like the cool hollows between billows. Trumpet answered trumpet above the steady beat of drums and the rhythm of marching feet. I spurred my panting steed and waving my sword on high and shouting, “I come! Behold me, warriors–Europe!” I plunged into the oncoming billows, as a strong swimmer dives into breakers, and struck, alas, ’tis true, the bedpost!

Now I rarely sleep without dreaming; but before Miss Sullivan came to me, my dreams were few and far between, devoid of thought or coherency, except those of a purely physical nature. In my dreams something was always falling suddenly and heavily, and at times my nurse seemed to punish me for my unkind treatment of her in the daytime and return at an usurer’s rate of interest my kickings and pinchings. I would wake with a start or struggle frantically to escape from my tormentor. I was very fond of bananas, and one night I dreamed that I found a long string of them in the dining-room, near the cupboard, all peeled and deliciously ripe, and all I had to do was to stand under the string and eat as long as I could eat.

After Miss Sullivan came to me, the more I learned, the oftener I dreamed; but with the waking of my mind there came many dreary fancies and vague terrors which troubled my sleep for a long time. I dreaded the darkness and loved the woodfire. Its warm touch seemed so like a human caress, I really thought it was a sentient being, capable of loving and protecting me. One cold winter night I was alone in my room. Miss Sullivan had put out the light and gone away, thinking I was sound asleep. Suddenly I felt my bed shake, and a wolf seemed to spring on me and snarl in my face. It was only a dream, but I thought it real, and my heart sank within me. I dared not scream, and I dared not stay in bed. Perhaps this was a confused recollection of the story I had heard not long before about Red Riding Hood. At all events, I slipped down from the bed and nestled close to the fire which had not flickered out. The instant I felt its warmth I was reassured, and I sat a long time watching it climb higher and higher in shining waves. At last sleep surprised me, and when Miss Sullivan returned she found me wrapped in a blanket by the hearth.

Often when I dream, thoughts pass through my mind like cowled shadows, silent and remote, and disappear. Perhaps they are the ghosts of thoughts that once inhabited the mind of an ancestor. At other times the things I have learned and the things I have been taught, drop away, as the lizard sheds its skin, and I see my soul as God sees it. There are also rare and beautiful moments when I see and hear in Dreamland. What if in my waking hours a sound should ring through the silent halls of hearing? What if a ray of light should flash through the darkened chambers of my soul? What would happen, I ask many and many a time. Would the bow-and-string tension of life snap? Would the heart, overweighted with sudden joy, stop beating for very excess of happiness?

THE END