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Henri Rousseau – Il Sogno

My dreams have always been enticingly rich and evocative. Often it’s as if I’m watching an elaborate film in gorgeous Technicolor, exquisitely choreographed. Sometimes I am a character in that film. But often I’m standing outside the action, waiting to see what happens.

When we were sailing my dreams were especially vivid. One morning I woke with a song playing in my mind that had been sung in my dream by the people of some ancient kingdom. It was almost as if they were chanting it, as if they were singing something that had been handed down to them over the ages, something to be sung on special occasions.

I had the feeling upon waking that something momentous was about to take place. A royal wedding? A coronation? A sacred initiation?

Upon waking I wrote down all that I remembered—which is quite unlike anything else I’ve written. But all these years later, I am still mesmerized by its beauty.

Truly, it is not mine, but something I overheard. It’s time I share it.

Song from A Dream

Five golden rings adorn her toes,
But the Queen’s sole lies naked.

Garlands of lilies lace buttocks to hips,
But between them her belly beckons.

Sashes of satin encircle her waist,
But her legs lie loose and languid.

Sapphires and rubies stream from her neck,
But her breasts are bare as mountains.

Bracelets of silver ring her wrists,
But her arms are free and fervent.

Rivers of ribbon flow through her hair
But her back is a gleaming dessert.

Ashes of coal shadow her lids,
But her eyes are two burning candles.

Juice from wild cherries stain her lips,
But her breath is the Khamsin blowing.

Mysteries and marvels flow from her mouth,
But my Queen’s soul lies naked.

I don’t know what the song means, if anything. It reminds me of a favorite nursery rhyme:

With rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes,
She shall make music wherever she goes.

This nursery rhyme has no meaning that I know. Nonetheless, its playful images are so enticing.

This dream fragment may be like that. But I sense there’s something deeper going on, which the play on the words sole and soul in the first and last lines calls to mind—a reminder perhaps that for all our attempts to adorn ourselves, our most pleasing and precious parts, our very essence, our souls, perhaps, are best seen naked.

What do you think? Is this a meaningless but pleasing rhyme? Or something deeper?

Your guess is as good as mine. I was only taking dictation.