I've had trouble sleeping for the past year or three. I can count on one finger the number of nights I've slept 8 hours straight. And I used to never, ever have trouble sleeping. I slept like a baby my entire life until I had that freaking back surgery that destroyed my life as I knew it. I pick that Tarot card above often in my daily readings. My cards know me too well.
The two pieces excerpted below, I read this week. Only those who cannot sleep will fully appreciate the prose of these dark, Victorian gentlemen.
From: “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde (On Insomnia. . .)
“There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn, either after one of those dreamless nights that make us almost enamored of death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen joy, when through the chamber of the brain sweep phantoms more terrible than reality itself, and instinct with that vivid life that lurks in all grotesques, and that lends to Gothic art its enduring vitality, this art being, one might fancy, especially the art of those whose minds have been troubled with the malady of reverie.
Gradually white fingers creep through the curtains, and they appear to tremble. In black fantastic shapes, dumb shadows crawl into the corners of the room and crouch there. Outside, there is the stirring of birds among the leaves, or the sound of men going forth to their work, or the sigh and sob of the wind coming down from the hills and wandering round the silent house, as though it feared to wake the sleepers and yet must needs call forth sleep from her purple cave. Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colors of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern. The wan mirrors get back their mimic life. The flameless tapers stand where we had left them, and beside them lies the half-cut book that we had been studying, or the wired flower that we had worn at the ball, or the letter that we had been afraid to read, or that we had read too often.
Nothing seems to us changed. Out of the unreal shadows of the night comes back the real life that we had known. We have to resume it where we left off, and there steals over us a terrible sense of the necessity for the continuance of energy in the same wearisome round of stereotyped habits, or a wild longing, it may be, that our eyelids might open some morning upon a world that has been refashioned anew in the darkness for our pleasure, a world in which things would have fresh shapes and colors, and be changed, or have other secrets, a world in which the past would have little or no place, or survive, at any rate, in no conscious form of obligation or regret, the remembrance of even joy having its bitterness and the memories of pleasure their pain.”
From: “The City of Dreadful Night” by James Thomson, written between 1870 - 1873. It's a very long poem and I excerpt a few of my favorite verses here:
“The city is of Night; perchance of Death
But certainly of Night; for never there
Can come the lucid morning’s fragrant breath
After the dewy dawnings’s cold grey air:
The moon and stars may shine with scorn or pity
The sun has never visited that city,
For it dissolveth in the daylight fair.
Dissolveth like a dream of night away;
Though present in distempered gloom of thought
And deadly weariness of heart all day.
But when a dream comes night after night is brought
Throughout a week, and such weeks few or many
Recur each year for several years, can any
Discern that dream from real life is aught?
For life is but a dream whose shapes return
Some frequently, some seldom, some by night
And some by day, some night and day: we learn,
The while all change and many vanish quite,
In the recurrence with recurrent changes
A certain seeming order’ where this ranges
We count things real; such is memory’s might.
The City is of Night, but not of Sleep;
There sweet sleep is not for the weary brain;
The pitiless hours like years and ages creep,
A night seems termless hell. This dreadful strain
Of thought and consciousness which never ceases
Or which some moments’ stupor but increases,
This, worse than woe, makes wretches there insane. . .