The Dream Zoo

Last night I dreamt I was Thomas Hardy’s darkling thrush. There I was, ‘frail, gaunt and small/In blast-beruffled plume,’ flinging my soul ‘against the gathering gloom.’ Was I bringing ‘blessed Hope’ into a world in which there is – according to the sort of poet who carelessly leans on coppice-gates – ‘so little cause for carolings’? To be honest, I can’t remember. I can be as atrabilious as any literary-minded gentleman, but I like to imagine that I do not reside in a state of permanent fervourlessness. Nor am I prone to death-laments – even when I am repeatedly called a tedious wimp (see here for a start)

It being a custom of our household for my wife and I to bore each other with our dreams over the breakfast table (and trust me when I say that hers are never short of soporific), I was for once interested to hear that she had undergone a similar experience. Where I was Hardy’s thrush, however, she was Goya’s dog.

If we were to treat these dream identifications as symbolic visions (a flight of fancy – and nothing else) the question is undoubtedly this – which of us should be feeling better? At least I have some words on which to hang my hat. Or is this a hindrance? She can go almost anywhere with her imagery. But can she go anywhere hopeful? Is there any ‘ecstatic sound’ trembling through her painting’s air, or is there nought but the tuneless whinnying of a misplaced mutt? Ah, but is that any worse than the over-optimistic chirpings of a seed-brained bird? If these two animals have never been compared in a classroom, every teacher in the country should have their limbs bitten off by a bug-eyed giant.

All of which reminds me that dreams in which I appear as fictional animals are not all that rare an occurence. Oft do I tread these strange, unsteady and sometimes furry boards. A month or so ago, I appeared as a crimson-throated toucan from a novel by Y Yippo. Before that I had a succession of nightmares in which I was Milne’s Piglet, being chased by Sancho Panza’s donkey. What is the meaning of this? It is, I suspect, that I read a lot of books with animals in them.

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