Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

June 1819
I have had occasion to remark, at various periods of my life, that the deaths of
those whom we love, and indeed the contemplation of death generally, is
(caeteris paribus) more affecting in summer than in any other season of the year.
And the reasons are these three, I think: first, that the visible heavens in summer
appear far higher, more distant, and (if such a solecism may be excused) more
infinite; the clouds, by which chiefly the eye expounds the distance of the blue
pavilion stretched over our heads, are in summer more voluminous, massed and
accumulated in far grander and more towering piles. Secondly, the light and the
appearances of the declining and the setting sun are much more fitted to be
types and characters of the Infinite. And thirdly (which is the main reason), the
exuberant and riotous prodigality of life naturally forces the mind more powerfully
upon the antagonist thought of death, and the wintry sterility of the grave. For it
may be observed generally, that wherever two thoughts stand related to each
other by a law of antagonism, and exist, as it were, by mutual repulsion, they are
apt to suggest each other. On these accounts it is that I find it impossible to
banish the thought of death when I am walking alone in the endless days of
summer; and any particular death, if not more affecting, at least haunts my mind
more obstinately and besiegingly in that season. Perhaps this cause, and a slight
incident which I omit, might have been the immediate occasions of the following
dream, to which, however, a predisposition must always have existed in my
mind; but having been once roused it never left me, and split into a thousand
fantastic varieties, which often suddenly reunited, and composed again the
original dream.
I thought that it was a Sunday morning in May, that it was Easter Sunday, and as
yet very early in the morning. I was standing, as it seemed to me, at the door of
my own cottage. Right before me lay the very scene which could really be
commanded from that situation, but exalted, as was usual, and solemnised by
the power of dreams. There were the same mountains, and the same lovely
valley at their feet; but the mountains were raised to more than Alpine height, and
there was interspace far larger between them of meadows and forest lawns; the
hedges were rich with white roses; and no living creature was to be seen,
excepting that in the green churchyard there were cattle tranquilly reposing upon
the verdant graves, and particularly round about the grave of a child whom I had
tenderly loved, just as I had really beheld them, a little before sunrise in the same
summer, when that child died. I gazed upon the well-known scene, and I said
aloud (as I thought) to myself, "It yet wants much of sunrise, and it is Easter
Sunday; and that is the day on which they celebrate the first fruits of resurrection.
I will walk abroad; old griefs shall be forgotten to-day; for the air is cool and still,
and the hills are high and stretch away to heaven; and the forest glades are as
quiet as the churchyard, and with the dew I can wash the fever from my
forehead, and then I shall be unhappy no longer." And I turned as if to open my
garden gate, and immediately I saw upon the left a scene far different, but which