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The Anatomy of Melancholy

Robert Burton
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MEMB. V.

Waking and terrible Dreams rectified.

As waking that hurts, by all means must be avoided, so sleep, which so much helps, by like ways, [3376]must be procured, by nature or art, inward or outward medicines, and be protracted longer than ordinary, if it may be, as being an especial help. It moistens and fattens the body, concocts, and helps digestion (as we see in dormice, and those Alpine mice that sleep all winter), which Gesner speaks of, when they are so found sleeping under the snow in the dead of winter, as fat as butter. It expels cares, pacifies the mind, refresheth the weary limbs after long work:

[3377]Somne quies rerum, placidissime somne deorum,

Pax animi, quem cura fugit, qui corpora duris

Fessa ministeriis mulces reparasque labori.

Sleep, rest of things, O pleasing deity,

Peace of the soul, which cares dost crucify,

Weary bodies refresh and mollify.

The chiefest thing in all physic, [3378]Paracelsus calls it, omnia arcana gemmarum superans et metallorum. The fittest time is [3379]two or three hours after supper, when as the meat is now settled at the bottom of the stomach, and 'tis good to lie on the right side first, because at that site the liver doth rest under the stomach, not molesting any way, but heating him as a fire doth a kettle, that is put to it. After the first sleep 'tis not amiss to lie on the left side, that the meat may the better descend; and sometimes again on the belly, but never on the back. Seven or eight hours is a competent time for a melancholy man to rest, as Crato thinks; but as some do, to lie in bed and not sleep, a day, or half a day together, to give assent to pleasing conceits and vain imaginations, is many ways pernicious. To procure this sweet moistening sleep, it's best to take away the occasions (if it be possible) that hinder it, and then to use such inward or outward remedies, which may cause it. Constat hodie (saith Boissardus in his tract de magia, cap. 4.) multos ita fascinari ut noctes integras exigant insomnes, summa, inquietudine animorum et corporum; many cannot sleep for witches and fascinations, which are too familiar in some places; they call it, dare alicui malam noctem. But the ordinary causes are heat and dryness, which must first be removed: [3380]a hot and dry brain never sleeps well: grief, fears, cares, expectations, anxieties, great businesses, [3381]In aurum utramque otiose ut dormias, and all violent perturbations of the mind, must in some sort be qualified, before we can hope for any good repose. He that sleeps in the daytime, or is in suspense, fear, any way troubled in mind, or goes to bed upon a full [3382]stomach, may never hope for quiet rest in the night; nec enim meritoria somnos admittunt, as the [3383]poet saith; inns and such like troublesome places are not for sleep; one calls ostler, another tapster, one cries and shouts, another sings, whoops, halloos,

[3384]———absentem cantat amicam,

Multa prolutus vappa nauta atque viator.

Who not accustomed to such noises can sleep amongst them? He that will intend to take his rest must go to bed animo securo, quieto et libero, with a [3385]secure and composed mind, in a quiet place: omnia noctes erunt placida composta quiete: and if that will not serve, or may not be obtained, to seek then such means as are requisite. To lie in clean linen and sweet; before he goes to bed, or in bed, to hear [3386]sweet music, which Ficinus commends, lib. 1. cap. 24, or as Jobertus, med. pract. lib. 3. cap. 10. [3387]to read some pleasant author till he be asleep, to have a basin of water still dropping by his bedside, or to lie near that pleasant murmur, lene sonantis aquae. Some floodgates, arches, falls of water, like London Bridge, or some continuate noise which may benumb the senses, lenis motus, silentium et tenebra, tum et ipsa voluntas somnos faciunt; as a gentle noise to some procures sleep, so, which Bernardinus Tilesius, lib. de somno, well observes, silence, in a dark room, and the will itself, is most available to others. Piso commends frications, Andrew Borde a good draught of strong drink before one goes to bed; I say, a nutmeg and ale, or a good draught of Muscadine, with a toast and nutmeg, or a posset of the same, which many use in a morning, but methinks, for such as have dry brains, are much more proper at night; some prescribe a [3388] sup of vinegar as they go to bed, a spoonful, saith Aetius Tetrabib. lib. 2. ser. 2. cap. 10. lib. 6. cap. 10. Aegineta, lib. 3. cap. 14. Piso, a little after meat, [3389]because it rarefies melancholy, and procures an appetite to sleep. Donat. ab Altomar. cap. 7. and Mercurialis approve of it, if the malady proceed from the [3390]spleen. Salust. Salvian. lib. 2. cap. 1. de remed. Hercules de Saxonia in Pan. Aelinus, Montaltus de morb. capitis, cap. 28. de Melan. are altogether against it. Lod. Mercatus, de inter. Morb. cau. lib. 1. cap. 17. in some cases doth allow it. [3391]Rhasis seems to deliberate of it, though Simeon commend it (in sauce peradventure) he makes a question of it: as for baths, fomentations, oils, potions, simples or compounds, inwardly taken to this purpose, [3392] I shall speak of them elsewhere. If, in the midst of the night, when they lie awake, which is usual to toss and tumble, and not sleep, [3393] Ranzovius would have them, if it be in warm weather, to rise and walk three or four turns (till they be cold) about the chamber, and then go to bed again.

Against fearful and troublesome dreams, Incubus and such inconveniences, wherewith melancholy men are molested, the best remedy is to eat a light supper, and of such meats as are easy of digestion, no hare, venison, beef, &c., not to lie on his back, not to meditate or think in the daytime of any terrible objects, or especially talk of them before he goes to bed. For, as he said in Lucian after such conference, Hecates somniare mihi videor, I can think of nothing but hobgoblins: and as Tully notes, [3394] for the most part our speeches in the daytime cause our fantasy to work upon the like in our sleep, which Ennius writes of Homer: Et canis in somnis leporis vestigia latrat: as a dog dreams of a hare, so do men on such subjects they thought on last.

[3395]Somnia quae mentes ludunt volitantibus umbris,

Nec delubra deum, nec ab aethere numina mittunt,

Sed sibi quisque facit, &c.

For that cause when Ptolemy, king of Egypt, had posed the seventy interpreters in order, and asked the nineteenth man what would make one sleep quietly in the night, he told him, [3396]the best way was to have divine and celestial meditations, and to use honest actions in the daytime. [3397]Lod. Vives wonders how schoolmen could sleep quietly, and were not terrified in the night, or walk in the dark, they had such monstrous questions, and thought of such terrible matters all day long. They had need, amongst the rest, to sacrifice to god Morpheus, whom [3398] Philostratus paints in a white and black coat, with a horn and ivory box full of dreams, of the same colours, to signify good and bad. If you will know how to interpret them, read Artemidorus, Sambucus and Cardan; but how to help them, [3399]I must refer you to a more convenient place.

 
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