Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
By John Galt (17791839)
From The Omen
WHY are we so averse to confess to one another how much we in secret acknowledge to ourselves, that we believe the mind to be endowed with other faculties of perception than those of the corporeal senses? We deride with worldly laughter the fine enthusiasm of the conscious spirit that gives heed and credence to the metaphorical intimations of prophetic reverie, and we condemn as superstition, the faith which consults the omens and oracles of dreams; and yet, who is it that has not in the inscrutable abysses of his own bosom an awful worshipper, bowing the head and covering the countenance, as the dark harbingers of destiny, like the mute and slow precursors of the hearse, marshal the advent of a coming woe?
It may be that the soul never sleeps, and what we call dreams are but the endeavours which it makes, during the trance of the senses, to reason by the ideas of things associated with the forms and qualities of those whereof it then thinks. Are not indeed the visions of our impressive dreams often but the metaphors with which the eloquence of the poet would invest the cares and anxieties of our waking circumstances and rational fears? But still the spirit sometimes receives marvellous warnings; and have we not experienced an unaccountable persuasion, that something of good or of evil follows the visits of certain persons, who, when the thing comes to pass, are found to have had neither affinity with the circumstances, nor influence on the event? The hand of the horologe indexes the movements of the planetary universe; but where is the reciprocal enginery between them?
These reflections, into which I am perhaps too prone to fall, partake somewhat of distemperature and disease; but they are not therefore the less deserving of solemn consideration. The hectical flush, the palsied hand, and the frenzy of delirium, are as valid and efficacious in nature, to the fulfilment of providential intents, as the glow of health, the masculine arm, and the sober inductions of philosophy. Nor is it wise, in considering the state and frame of man, to overlook how much the universal element of disease affects the evolutions of fortune. Madness often babbles truths which make wisdom wonder.
I have fallen into these thoughts by the remembrance of the emotions with which I was affected during the journey with Mrs. Ormond. During that journey, I first experienced the foretaste of misfortune, and heard, as it were afar off, the groaning wheels of an unknown retribution coming heavily towards me.