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Quotations about Dreams

Sub-Consciousness is a greater marvel in itself than any that it explains... Just consider the phenomena of dreams, what things we do, what sights we see. It is only the commonness of dreams that blinds us to the fact that they are more marvellous than ghost-stories. ~Israel Zangwill (1864–1926)

Dreams are the most curious asides and soliloquies of the soul. When a man recollects his dream, it is like meeting the ghost of himself. Dreams often surprise us into the strangest self-knowledge.... Dreaming is the truest confessional, and often the sharpest penance. ~Alexander Smith (1829–1867), "On Dreams and Dreaming"

Dreams are the bright creatures of poem and legend, who sport on earth in the night season, and melt away in the first beam of the sun, which lights grim care and stern reality on their daily pilgrimage through the world. ~Charles Dickens

Dreams are the hushing of the bodily senses, that the eyes of the Spirit may open. ~Harriet Beecher Stowe, Agnes of Sorrento, 1862

For it is in the arcana of dreams that existences merge and renew themselves, change and yet keep the same — like the soul of a musician in a fugue. And so memory swooned, again and again, in sleep. ~Bram Stoker, The Jewel of Seven Stars, 1903

The clown dreams as well as the poet; and the dreams of either are just a poetic at one time, and just as absurd at another. Dreaming is an act of pure imagination, attesting in all men a creative power which, if it were available in waking, would make every man a Dante or a Shakespeare. Our night-history is a series of poetic compositions, each one of which, however absurd as a whole, contains perhaps some one passage or trait which would make the fortune of a work of art. ~Frederic Henry Hedge, "Genius," 1868

As one who sees in dreams and wakes to find
the emotional impression of his vision
still powerful while its parts fade from his mind—
just such am I, having lost nearly all
the vision itself, while in my heart I feel
the sweetness of it yet distill and fall.
So, in the sun, the footprints fade from snow.
On the wild wind that bore the tumbling leaves
the Sybil's oracles were scattered so.
~Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), The Paradiso, translated by John Ciardi, 1961

A dream itself is but a shadow. ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet, c.1600  [II, 2, Hamlet]

Once or twice before I have had dreams so vivid and prosaic that I have had the utmost difficulty in distinguishing them from actual memories. Once or twice facts have thrown a somersault in my memory. ~H. G. Wells, Apropos of Dolores, 1938

All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams. ~Elias Canetti

The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind. ~Sigmund Freud, translated by James Strachey, et al.

Dreams are only thoughts you didn't have time to think about during the day. ~Author unknown

Last night—I cannot know which way it came
Or what star-way it went—
There was a little dream without a name
That left my soul content...
~Margaret Widdemer (1884–1978), "The Joyous Dream," The Factories, With Other Lyrics, 1915

I began to talk about dreaming as a kind of nighttime psychosis, saying at one point “Dreaming permits each of us to become quietly and safely insane every night of our lives,” which was really an elaboration of Freud's ideas about dreaming as a safety valve. ~William C. Dement, M.D.

They should invent some way to tape-record your dreams. I've written songs in my dreams that were Beatles songs. Then I'd wake up and they'd be gone. ~Alice Cooper, interview with Cal Fussman, 2008 August 2nd, for Esquire's January 2009 eighth annual Meaning of Life issue  [Ditto for poems! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

I am accustomed to sleep and in my dreams to imagine the same things that lunatics imagine when awake, or sometimes things which are even less plausible. ~René Descartes, 1641, translated by Laurence J. Lafleur, 1951

Dreams are excursions into the limbo of things — a semi-deliverance from the human prison. ~Henri Frédéric Amiel, journal, 1872, translated by Mary Augusta Arnold Ward

From the boundless reservoir of Sub-Consciousness, which holds our heredity and our experience, go forth the battalions of dreams — the infinitely possible permutations and combinations of its elements, wrought by it when the poor Consciousness cannot get sound asleep, but must watch perforce with half an eye the procession of thoughts and images over which it has lost control. For it is the duty of Consciousness to control the stream sent up by Sub-Consciousness. When it is awake but unable to do this, we have Insanity; when asleep, Dreams. ~Israel Zangwill (1864–1926)  [a little altered —tg]

Anyone can escape into sleep, we are all geniuses when we dream, the butcher the poet's equal there. ~E. M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist, 1956, translated from the French by Richard Howard, 1968

We rest — A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise — One wandering thought pollutes the day...
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Mutability"

O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet, c.1600  [II, 2, Hamlet]

...daylight strips us of the night's gifts. ~E. M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist, 1956, translated from the French by Richard Howard, 1968

Dreams are thoughts with the facts left out. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

Pay attention to your dreams — God's angels often speak directly to our hearts when we are asleep. ~Eileen Elias Freeman, The Angels' Little Instruction Book, 1994

Strange wares are handled on the wharves of sleep:
Shadows of shadows pass, and many a light
Flashes a signal fire across the night;
Barges depart whose voiceless steersmen keep
Their way without a star upon the deep;
And from lost ships, homing with ghostly crews,
Come cries of incommunicable news,
While cargoes pile the piers, a moon-white heap—
Budgets of dream-dust, merchandise of song,
Wreckage of hope and packs of ancient wrong,
Nepenthes gathered from a secret strand,
Fardels of heartache, burdens of old sins,
Luggage sent down from dim ancestral inns,
And bales of fantasy from No-Man's Land.
~Edwin Markham, "The Wharf of Dreams"

Calvin:  I wonder why we dream when we sleep...
Hobbes:  I think we dream so we don't have to be apart so long. If we're in each other's dreams, we can play together all night!
~Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes (comic strip), 1991

For what one has dwelt on by day, these things he sees in visions of the night. ~Menander (c.342–c.292 BCE), translated by Francis G. Allinson, 1921

And your dream, oh, my love, even if it be nothing more than a passing fancy of the mind, originally formed in the waking state, but intensified in sleep — when the soul, disencumbered of physical weight, is free to soar into the illimitable past or into the illimitable future... ~Charles Mackay, The Twin Soul, 1887

Dreams are foreign lands within the bounds of our own minds. ~Terri Guillemets

Dreams are illusions of the working mind, fettered, and debased as it is, by the organs through which it conveys its confined powers to the grosser matter, body, when sleeping, inactive, as in the shades of death... ~Samuel Richardson (1689–1761)

I experienced that wild trouble of the soul which one feels after a nightmare from which one has just awakened. ~Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893), "A Ghost," translated by Jonathan Sturges

Fantastic dreams amuse my brain,
And waft my spirit home again:
Though captive all day long, 'tis true,
At night I am as free as you...
~James Montgomery (1771–1854), "The Pleasures of Imprisonment: In Two Epistles to a Friend"

For a moment, Darlene wondered if she was still dreaming. The conversation had all the surreal hallmarks of a nightmare. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

...No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.
~William Wordsworth, The Prelude, 1799–1805

Are not the sane and the insane equal at night as the sane lie a dreaming? Are not all of us outside this hospital, who dream, more or less in the condition of those inside it, every night of our lives? Are we not nightly persuaded, as they daily are, that we associate preposterously with kings and queens, emperors and empresses, and notabilities of all sorts? Do we not nightly jumble events and personages and times and places, as these do daily?... Said an afflicted man to me, when I was last in a hospital like this, "Sir, I can frequently fly." I was half ashamed to reflect that so could I — by night. Said a woman to me on the same occasion, "Queen Victoria frequently comes to dine with me, and her Majesty and I dine off peaches and maccaroni in our night-gowns, and his Royal Highness the Prince Consort does us the honour to make a third on horseback in a Field-Marshal's uniform." Could I refrain from reddening with consciousness when I remembered the amazing royal parties I myself had given (at night), the unaccountable viands I had put on table, and my extraordinary manner of conducting myself on those distinguished occasions? I wonder that the great master who knew everything, when he called Sleep the death of each day's life, did not call Dreams the insanity of each day's sanity. ~Charles Dickens

Truth and dreams are twins. ~Austin O'Malley, Keystones of Thought, 1914

...all dreams are a piece of vivid painting to the mind's eye... ~C. C. Colton

And as I look, I fain would know
The paths whereon thy dream-steps go;
The spectral realms that thou canst see
With eyes veiled from the world and me.
For I have likewise gazed in sleep
On things my mem'ry scarce can keep...
~H. P. Lovecraft, "To a Dreamer," c.1920

I honor health as the first muse, and sleep as the condition of health. Sleep benefits mainly by the sound health it produces; incidentally also by dreams, into whose farrago a divine lesson is sometimes slipped. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'll take the dream I had last night
And put it in my freezer,
So someday long and far away
When I'm an old grey geezer,
I'll take it out and thaw it out,
This lovely dream I've frozen,
And boil it up and sit me down
And dip my old cold toes in.
~Shel Silverstein, "Frozen Dream," A Light in the Attic, 1981

Some colors exist in dreams that are not present in the waking spectrum. ~Terri Guillemets

[B]y far the larger number of the dreams... occurred towards dawn; sometimes even, after sunrise, during a "second sleep." A condition of fasting, united, possibly, with some subtle magnetic or other atmospheric state, seems therefore to be that most open to impressions of the kind. ~Dr. Anna Bonus Kingsford, 1886, preface to Dreams and Dream-Stories, 1888

I often think that poets never have sung
Beauty but with a dull and stammering tongue:
That only in dim wonderlands of sleep
To which the key is lost, in drowsing deep,
Is art transformed from out a broken cry
To an immortal, effortless ecstasy.
~John Gould Fletcher, "Dream-Poetry"

Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius Tyaneus represents the latter as informing King Phraotes that "the Oneiropolists, or Interpreters of Visions, are wont never to interpret any vision till they have first enquired the time at which it befell; for, if it were early, and of the morning sleep, they then thought that they might make a good interpretation thereof... in that the soul was then fitted for divination, and disincumbered. But if in the first sleep, or near midnight, while the soul was as yet clouded and drowned in libations, they, being wise, refused to give any interpretation. ~Dr. Anna Bonus Kingsford, 1886, preface to Dreams and Dream-Stories, 1888

A nightmare is only a dream that hits turbulence. ~Terri Guillemets

What a delightful sensation is that of flying, in dreams! Have you never found yourself trying at midnight the most daring experiment of Dædalus — climbing to some hill-top as a starting point, venturing a leap from the bedroom window sill, or even feeling so lightsome as to soar aloft from the level road? As long as you have faith, you sail along superbly through ether, scarcely deigning to look at the few surprised mortals who are on terra firma below you; but no sooner do you begin to wonder whether you won't fall than your waxen wings melt, and down you come toppling into the Icarian Sea. ~Thomas Clark Henley, A Handful of Paper Shavings, 1861

I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams. It is because man, when he ceases to sleep, is above all the plaything of his memory.... the dream finds itself reduced to a mere parenthesis, as is the night. ~André Breton, "Manifesto of Surrealism," 1924, translated by Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane

And you know one can dream so much better in a room where there are pretty things. ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, 1908

My dreams leap —
dancers of the night,
reaching heights
unknown to the day.
~Terri Guillemets

What a singular moment is the first one, when you have hardly begun to recollect yourself, after starting from midnight slumber! By unclosing your eyes so suddenly, you seem to have surprised the personages of your dream in full convocation round your bed, and catch one broad glance at them before they can flit into obscurity. Or, to vary the metaphor, you find yourself, for a single instant, wide awake in that realm of illusions, whither sleep has been the passport, and behold its ghostly inhabitants and wondrous scenery, with a perception of their strangeness, such as you never attain while the dream is undisturbed. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Haunted Mind," 1835

...we are not only less reasonable and less decent in our dreams but... we are also more intelligent, wiser, and capable of better judgment when we are asleep than when we are awake. ~Erich Fromm, The Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales and Myths, 1951

A little poison now and then — maketh pleasant dreams. ~Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Thus Spake Zarathustra, translated by M.A. Mügge, 1908

...God's my life, stolen
hence, and left me asleep! I have had a most rare
vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go
about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there
is no man can tell what. Methought I was,—and
methought I had,—but man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom's Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play...
~William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, c.1595  [IV, 1, Bottom]

Dreams digest the meals that are our days. ~Terri Guillemets

They who have compared our Lives to a Dream, were, perhaps, more in the right than they were aware of; when we dream, the Soul lives, works and exercises all its Faculties, neither more nor less than when awake... We wake sleeping, and sleep waking. I do not see so clearly in my sleep; but as to my being awake, I never found it clear enough, and free from Clouds. Moreover, Sleep, when it is profound, sometimes rocks even Dreams themselves asleep, but our waking is never so sprightly, that it does rightly and as it should, purge and dissipate those Ravings and Whimsies, which are waking Dreams, and worse than Dreams. Our Reason and Soul receiving those Fancies and Opinions that come in we not doubt, whether our Thought and Action is another sort of Dreaming, and our Waking a certain kind of Sleep? ~Michel de Montaigne, translated by Charles Cotton

Dreams are free therapy. Consult your inner Freud. ~Terri Guillemets

Dreams are free therapy, but you can only get appointments at night. ~Terri Guillemets

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