A Quote to Begin the Week
What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed? And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven and plucked a strange and beautiful flower? And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?
Attributed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge
This is widely quoted, and is one of my favorite quotations. Unfortunately, it seems to be a paraphrase of the original, which derives from Coleridge’s unpublished notebooks. Wikiquotes gives it thus:
If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke — Aye, what then?
This Coleridge-dedicated website give the quote with slightly different punctuation and wording, as well as 18th Century spelling:
If a man could pass thro’ Paradise in a Dream, & have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his Soul had really been there, & found that flower in his hand when he awoke—Aye? and what then?
According to the same website, the quote has an antecedent from Geist by German Romantic writer Jean Paul, which it translates thus:
Oh, if a mortal man were to wander in a dream through Elysium, if vast unfamiliar flowers were to close above him; if one of the blessed were to offer him one of these flowers, saying: “Let this remind you when you awake that you have not been dreaming”—how he would yearn for that Elysian land, whenever he looked at the flower.
Until just now, I was actually unaware of Paul. In any case, I like Coleridge’s version better. Alas, I like the “wrong” version best of all! I’m too much of a pedant not to want the actual, correct version; but as often happens, the original gets “improved” over time. Oh, well–the concept is fascinating, and the “wrong” version of Coleridge’s quote still moves me.
I’d add that Coleridge is the only Romantic poet I consistently like. Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan are favorites of mine. I realize that he didn’t fulfill his potential because of his later drug addiction; and the tendency has been to view the younger Romantics (Shelley, Byron, et. al.) more favorably; but I have a soft spot for Samuel. Except for “Ozymandias” by Shelley, and a few things by Byron, I never much cared for the younger Romantics, anyway.
Anyway, may this week be a good one, and may we visit Paradise in our dreams!