Jonathan Swift, "On Dreams, An Imitation Of Petronius"

[ Source: Read Books Online Net- online; accessed 03.03.2011; see all available works of Swift at this website, infra. ]

Petronii Fragmenta, XXX.

THOSE dreams, that on the silent night intrude,
And with false flitting shades our minds delude
Jove never sends us downward from the skies;
Nor can they from infernal mansions rise;
But are all mere productions of the brain,
And fools consult interpreters in vain. [1]

For when in bed we rest our weary limbs,
The mind unburden’d sports in various whims;
The busy head with mimic art runs o’er
The scenes and actions of the day before. [2]

The drowsy tyrant, by his minions led,
To regal rage devotes some patriot’s head.
With equal terrors, not with equal guilt,
The murderer dreams of all the blood he spilt.

The soldier smiling hears the widow’s cries,
And stabs the son before the mother’s eyes.
With like remorse his brother of the trade,
The butcher, fells the lamb beneath his blade.

The statesman rakes the town to find a plot,
And dreams of forfeitures by treason got.
Nor less Tom-t--d-man, of true statesman mould,
Collects the city filth in search of gold.

Orphans around his bed the lawyer sees,
And takes the plaintiff’s and defendant’s fees.
His fellow pick-purse, watching for a job,
Fancies his fingers in the cully’s fob.

The kind physician grants the husband’s prayers,
Or gives relief to long-expecting heirs.
The sleeping hangman ties the fatal noose,
Nor unsuccessful waits for dead men’s shoes.

The grave divine, with knotty points perplext,
As if he were awake, nods o’er his text:
While the sly mountebank attends his trade,
Harangues the rabble, and is better paid.

The hireling senator of modern days
Bedaubs the guilty great with nauseous praise:
And Dick, the scavenger, with equal grace
Flirts from his cart the mud in Walpole’s face.


Somnia quae mentes ludunt volitantibus umbris,
Non delubra deum nec ab aethere numina mittunt,
Sed sibi quisque facit.
Nam cum prostrata sopore
Urguet membra quies et mens sine pondere ludit,
Quidquid luce fuit, tenebris agit.


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