Brian's Blog

…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World

The Symbols of Dreams, Poems, and Art


“The Banquet of the Gods” Hendrik Van Balen.

When I remember my dreams I don’t just recall what happened in them; I study their meanings. At times I have written my dreams down to help recall what it was I dreamed about and to actively study what things meant, and I now have a couple of notebooks full. Right now that seems unnecessary because I seem to interpret the dreams as I recall them –  a dream about a banquet isn’t simply that, it’s what the banquet represents, for example.

The same can be true for poetry. Poets can consciously use particular things/words in their work that they know carry a deeper meaning, or they might not consciously do this but the reader can/might read more into why they used a particular word – I remember learning about this in English Literature lessons at high school, but I didn’t really grasp it. “What does Wordsworth mean when he says he wanders lowly as a cloud?” my teacher would ask us. I figured he was either trying to be cleaver or illusive or there just wasn’t any other meaning there and to search for such things was a pointless exercise.

In some ways, to deny a hidden meaning in anything someone might say or write is to deny the existence of the subconscious.

The decision to write this article now was because I have just read the following poem and a few lines struck a chord with me (I’ve highlighted them):

The Light of Other Days
by Tom Moore (1779–1852)

OFT in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me :
The smiles, the tears,
Of boyhood’s years,
The words of love then spoken ;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimmed and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken !
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

When I remember all
The friends, so linked together
I’ve seen around me fall
Like leaves in wintry weather,
    I feel like one
    Who treads alone
  Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed !
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me.
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

I’ve had numerous dreams of ‘banquet halls’ but I’ve generally described them as buffets – a banquet sounds too lavish for me and I’m far more comfortable with a quieter affair. At these buffets are often many tables with piles of food for the taking, and sometimes I would go round and heap my plate with as much as possible, occasionally spilling some. Then I would find a seat and find myself sitting down among people I went to school with, typically. It took me a while to decide what all this meant – I could search the internet for “dream meaning food” but the explanations didn’t fit, the search terms weren’t quite right or “food” being too broad a term. The interpretation I have mostly settled on is that these scenes are about enjoying the fruits of life in the company of others, or rather, they tell me it’s alright to do so, because it seems these dreams occur at times when I’m perhaps being too hard on myself in one way or another. For this reason I attached this same interpretation to the lines in Moore’s poem, although sadly his banquet hall is a lonely one… but he has fond memories of when this wasn’t the case.

“To feast in a dream can be a symbol of indulging, or enjoying, of giving into sensuous pleasures.” – The Dream Well

The painting “The Banquet of the Gods” by Hendrik Van Balen (1574 or 1575) at the top of this article is like an image from a dream – again too lavish compared to anything I would dream about, but I see a resemblance.


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