Insomniac Hallucinatory Speculation
A paper on a poem by John Keats that discuss psychological theories on dream interpretation and meanings.
Insomniac Hallucinatory Speculation
Once upon a time, there lived a man in Denmark quite divine. After his father slain, his mother he did chide. But an invisible culprit was not less to the eye, and so revenge and melancholy filled his life, until woe is all and he did die. Now on his gravestone rest these words wanting of wisdom in suicide.
Sonnet to Sleep
O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting with careful fingers and benign
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes,
Or wait the Amen ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me or passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes:
Save me from curious conscience, that still hoards
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like the mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed casket of my soul.
John Keats Apr. 1819
This poem by John Keats expresses the tranquility of sleep, which anyone who has experienced insomnia begins to understand over the restless hours of fast shuttering eyes. Sleep is the gateway to the unconscious mind, which many philosophers believe to be the portal to understanding God. Accordingly, that would make sleep the time to talk with God, whereas death (being the ultimate sleep) would be our completion and, therefore, transcendence into God’s graces. So by translating the poems understanding of sleep as to that of comfort, one could almost be as bold as to say that death is peace. With that understanding a whole new twist is brought upon the poem.
Turns out that this is in fact the epitaph upon Hamlet’s gravestone, according to the many special agents I, as a work of God, have been allowed to guide through this enigma called life. But why? Well it is quite simple actually. I have forgotten myself and become one with God. Oh, I am ever so dearly sorry, the question was not directed at my objectable stand point but as to why that is the poem upon his gravestone, my apologies once more. Coincidentally, the answer to that is quite simple as well..
When it all comes down to it, Hamlet was indefinitely a deep philosophizer and wanted nothing more then to ponder the questions of the universe and discover himself and the answers that would saturate him to complacency. When his studies were so rudely interrupted by his wicked uncle he was forced to react accordingly, while struggling with his cogitations abroad and in actuality instead of figurative theory. Caught in his perplexities of existence while trying to be sinister, sly, and yet righteous to the others aside his murderous desire, he appears mad, fore the complexities of the philosophical mind turning is not understood by the common man. A good example is that in the belief of Spirituality; many have different relatives to it: Chi, Spiritual Connectedness, Chakra, etc., however different their actualities are, the idea they represent is the same, but I digress. It is said that one who seeks one of these Enlightened states must first find a spiritual guide and patience. Often times when one “activates their chakra” without a spiritual guide they return to their mortal body socially insane, more specifically classified as schizophrenic. This idea is intense, yet rare. However, take into consideration the subjective view of madness by society upon those seeking this wisdom, could they not appear insane already because of their detachedness from society in pursuit of greater things? If society is so descending to those of a greater ideal, then would not their compensation for society’s regression by means of drug usage be at least understandable?
The line “Or wait the Amen ere thy poppy throws” suggests the usage of opium based drugs to ease the body into a state of sleep. This is more than expected by one philosophizing insomniac to see from another. When putting the brain to rest is difficult, drugs have always been there to subdue. [No wonder the government endorses and experiments with drugs for the purpose of mind control.] However, there is also the underlying connotation derived from this interpretation, and that cycles back to the aforementioned; death as sleep. If one were to overdose on these drugs, one would be put to an ultimate sleep eventually and end all conscious thought. Furthermore locking the soul away forever, in that religiously the idea of suicide is a sin; making the “seal [of] the hushed casket of my soul” close forever, as only a skilled, or “deft”, locksmith could.
Diametrically, these last lines are where discrepancy lies; the poet chooses to use “conscience” as opposed to “conscious”. Perhaps this is because the restless sleep is from that of wrong doing. Once again making this a great epitaph for Hamlet’s gravestone. Fore not only did he suffer in philosophy from his conscious mind as we all do, but when his pondering needed to be put to rest in order to avenge his father, his conscience awoke. This is clearly evident when Hamlet goes to kill Claudius in the church, but hesitates in fear that he would be the only one left having committed a crime if having murdered Claudius while he prays. In this case his soul would be eternally sealed. But, Hamlet being an existentialist, knows better than this and wishes not to negatively remunerate for his father’s un-bowdlerized soul. Instead he wishes to purge the kingdom of this wrong and get back to his studies.
As the play progresses so does the ever apparent madness of Hamlet. And yet again the poet makes reference to this, if you will, by suggesting the immanence of thought even through and into sleep. Dream analyzation has been a deep work of psychology ever since Freud pioneered the importance of it into mainstream culture. Now-a-days, some psychologists believe that dreams are just random neuron’s firing in the brain as we recuperate and since our body has us paralyzed for our own protection, most of these spontaneous neurotransmitters are interpreted in our minds as the picture sequences we call dreams. Unfortunately, this is just plain ignorance of what is right there in front of us. Coming up in a close second we have the belief that dreams are just an abstract collection and release of various activities and thoughts that occurred during the day. Regardless, if this were to be true how come we occasionally have dreams that will us to recollect information from years past. We wake up after having a dream that involved an old elementary school friend, of whom which we have not maintained contact with or even thought of for years. What sort of explanation do these second place psychological theorists have for it now?
If Freud was the Father of psychology and developed most dream analysis, then it would only make sense that one of his apprentices took research into this and pushed it a little further. Carl Jung, at this point in time, appears to have the most developed philosophy and interpretation for the importance of dreams. In his book “Man and His Symbols” he discusses such things on a grandeur level. This is not to say that Jung must be absolutely correct, he just comes off as having the most developed of philosophies and understandings. It would appear as if the unconscious folds of our mind maintain these archetypes remnants that hold onto some sort of secret of life we cannot grasp. This would give good explanation as to why someone can have a vivid dream of events yet to happen. Unfortunately, the mind is a complex thing and dreams seem to be shrouded in a puzzling code making their meaning often unclear to use until after the foreseen circumstance arrives or has already come to pass. Jung accounts for this in that our unconscious still maintains idea’s in their true form, that is to say abstract symbols that later when we are conscious can only try to interpret without actually knowing. Language and our conscious thought rely on our ability to transform that of an abstract idea into characterized meaning in concretion via personal understanding and language itself. If we can not adequately describe what we are feeling we are left in a state of feeling insufficient and helpless. Most times humans try to over complicate matters and will do so in the interpretation of their dreams. A man riding a horse with a bunch of other men as he leads them over a gulch and they fall in, does not necessarily mean that he will lead his friends astray. It could perhaps mean that he has been taking initiative in his job and he needs to take a break or he will lose his personal friends from working too much. So with the ability of our conscious minded problems to invade our thoughts in our sleep, its almost as if we bury ourselves in our sleep to escape, and yet these problems “burrow like…[a]…mole” their way into our dreams that is supposed to be an escape. From these all our woes rest on our pillow as we struggle to keep our precious sleep.
And in the end he did rest, and the grave situation took upon itself meaning. The people awoke the next morning to understand these lines and live eternally grateful for the sacrifices made for them and not of them. Upon the headstone read words so simple, yet so perspicacious, that understanding invaded our soul, and all was well in the land of Denmark once more.
Booth, Alison, Hunter, J. Paul, Mays, Kelly J.. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, London. 2005. Pgs. 1095, 1743-1836.
Comer, Ronald J.. Abnormal Psychology. Worth Publishers. New York: Princeton University. 2003. Pgs. 298-303, 317, 376
Jung, Carl G.. Man and His Symbols. Dell Publishing. 1964. Pgs. 5-20.