JAN A DREAMS.
This dream, like all my in tenser dreams, commenced with a noise
as of the beating of many wings, the rush of water, and the roaring of
The tumult lasted for a few seconds, dying into a dry rustling as of
leaves scattered along a road in Autumn, and, with the subsidence of the
uproar, I woke, as it were, into the bright consciousness of vision. I
saw a multitude of dry leaves whirling, in a high wind, along a great
white road, and, in a little while, I saw that I, too, was shrunken to a
dry writhelled leaf; and then the great wind caught me, and swept me
forward among the others, and I knew, as I was blown along, that all
these flying leaves were human souls being hurried to Judgment.
After a long, tempestuous passage, this rout of leaves was blown into
a vast space, in the midst of which a white fire burned, with a great smoke
circling about it. At times this fire quickened and burned high, and then
the leaves leaped and danced in merry eddies. At times it guttered low
and then the leaves lay and trembled much as they will on the roads in
Autumn when the wind is too light to scatter them.
The Green Sheaf
In the great smoke about the fire the seven planets circled and sang,
and I knew that each note, each word, each letter of their song was a
human soul, for, at times, a dead leaf would be plucked from amongst
us and disappear among the smoke, becoming some minute part of the
great music of created things. Then I knew that the making of the
perfect music was beginning, and that the perfect song of the sailors,
and of the sea-creatures, and of the sea-weeds, and of the sea-fowl, and
of the sea-winds, and of the sea itself was about to be shapen and to
become a part of the song of the singing planets. And I, having loved the
sea, lay in my pile of leaves trembling with hope that I might be deemed
worthy of some part in that harmony.
The song began at last in a solemn paean of thunderous and glorious
words, like the running of a bright surf upon a beach. Then it trembled
down into a quiet lyric, like the chattering of a brook over pebbles;
then surged out again in a mournful andante that was like dawn, like a
grey twilight upon mountains. Then I knew that the making of a
tremendous word was in hand. A word which should signify and qualify
the sea; a vast word, gentle, tremulous and solemn, and I was plucked
forward (with a catch of joy in my heart, for I thought I had been deemed
unworthy) to become one poor letter in the great word, one frail note
in the perfect song, and then, as the completed music thundered and
throbbed among the planets, I woke.
Masefield, John. “Jan a Dreams,” illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith. The Green Sheaf, No. 2, 1903, pp. 9-10. Green Sheaf Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Yellow Nineties 2.0, Toronto Metropolitan University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2022. https://1890s.ca/GSV2-masefield-jan/