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DREAM OF THE WORLD’S END

    I have a way of giving myself long meaning dreams, by meditating
on a symbol when I go to sleep. Sometimes I use traditional symbols,
and sometimes I meditate upon some image which is only a symbol to
myself. A while ago I came to think of apple-blossom as an image of
the East and breaking day, and one night it brought me, not as I expected
a charming dream full of the mythology of sun-rise, but this grotesque
dream about the breaking of an eternal day.

    I was going through a great city, it had some likeness to Paris about
Auteuil. It was night, but I saw a wild windy light in the sky, and knew
that dawn was coming in the middle of the night, and that it was the Last
Day. People were passing in a hurry, and going away from the light.
I was in a brake with other people, and presently the horses ran away.
They ran towards the light. We passed a workman who was making a
wall in his best clothes, and I knew that he was doing this because he
thought the Judge would look at him with more favourable eyes if he
were found busy. Then we saw two or three workmen with white faces
watching the sky by their unfinished work. Everybody now was a
workman, for it seemed to be a workman’s quarter, and there were not
many people running past us. Then I saw young workmen eating their
breakfast at a long table in a yard. They were eating raw bacon. I
understood somehow that they had thought “we may as well eat our
breakfast even though this is the Last Day”; but, that when they began
to cook it, they had thought, “it is not worth while to trouble about
cooking it.” All they needed was food, that they might live through
the Last Day calmly.

6

                              The Green Sheaf

    After that, and now we seemed to have left the brake, though I did
not remember our leaving it, we came to a bridge over a wide river, and
the sky was very wild and bright, though I could not see any sun. All
in a moment I saw a number of parachutes descending, and a man in a
seedy black frock-coat came out of one of them, and began distributing
circulars. At the head of them was the name of a seller of patent
medicines, and we all understood the moment we saw the name, that
he was one of the most wicked of men, for he had put up great posters
that had spoiled many beautiful views. Each circular had printed upon it
a curse against this man, and a statement that a curse given at the end of
the world must of necessity weigh heavily with the Eternal Judge. These
curses called for the damnation of the patent medicine seller, and you were
asked to sign them at the bottom, undertaking at the same time to pay the
sum of one pound to the medicine seller if the end of the world had not
really come. I remember that the circular spoke of this “solemn
occasion,” but I do not recollect any other of the exact words. I awoke,
and was for some time in great terror, for it seemed to me that an
armed thief was hidden somewhere in the darkness of my room. Was
this some echo of what the Bible has said about “one who shall come as
a thief in the night?”

                                                                        W.B. Yeats.

MLA citation:

Yeats, W.B. “Dream of the World’s End,” The Green Sheaf vol. 2, 1903, pp. 6-7. Green Sheaf Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2021. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021. https://1890s.ca/GSV2-yeats-worlds-end/