The Consolation of Reason

AHA! I’ve got you in your sleep, at last! The blinking eyes are gazing upon the letters on the page. Reader, I am meeting you in your slumber, at last, yes, at last. All is good, I feared this encounter would never come. Forgive me! My manners…I am the Alchemist. Ahh yes, I see you staring at my robes, yes, they are like the night sky, but these are not stars, my dear reader, they are gems, crystals, and the elements I use for my potions and concoctions. Father Aristotle and Albertus Magnus would gleam with pride and be enchanted by the sight of them, just as you are now. Snap out of it, reader! I have marvels to show now, something wondrous this way comes! 

Who is this Alchemist? I ask myself. He claims I am dreaming, but how am I dreaming if I am reading the words on the page at this very moment? 

Reader! Look! Up! 

I look up, and the Alchemist directs my eyes to the heavens. But I am not looking at the heavens, I am looking at a motley sky. It is a pointy tent, with emerald and carmine color tiles. The fabric undulates ever so slightly, like the water from a pond when stroked by windy fingers.  

Enter Lady Officium. 

The Alchemist tells me to look up at Lady Officium, at how she has the easiest and most graceful profession in the universe. She is an acrobat, light on her feet and she walks the tightrope. She is slender, with porcelain legs and fine eyebrows made out of finer crystals yet. She pirouettes in the air, like jets of water, until she lands on pointe at the top of a caravan. The Caravan of Dreams is a three-wheeled octagonal vehicle with an octagonal roof and a gazebo on top. Blue jays scurry off into the skies; they are all imitation, and they fear exposure from the acrobat’s ensuing act. Having landed, the acrobat disappears into the caravan. The townspeople wait with painful curiosity. A platform springs out of the Caravan of Dreams. The acrobat, now wearing an emerald and carmine robe and a pointy celestial hat, spins in the air and mystifies her audience with her potions. The townspeople, all in gray robes holding rakes and shovels, marvel at her ideal profession. They covet her. It must be so sweet and easy to be an acrobat. I was about to ask Lady Officium myself if she had an elixir for me, a cure for my profession in my waking life, but then the townspeople began to disappear into the void of false hope, taking with them the caravan. 

Enter Amare. 

Look up! The Alchemist says. It’s Amare, the dove of love! I look up at the heavens and take in the dove, perched on a trapeze as it swings its feathers, which glisten in the warm light, tinting them the color of pomegranates. My eyes are hypnotized by the dove’s grace and ethereal beauty. Amare is enchanting, wooing my senses into the most ideal image of love and beauty. My heart races as I see the dove diving into the air, I touch her wing, hoping to be touched by the purest love and let it intervene in my life, but the bird crashes. I cry out as black ink begins to consume the wailing bird. From the mess of black feathers emerges a hissing green serpent. It lunges at me but the sound of lightning coming from a cracking whip that now wraps itself around the serpent stops it. 

Enter Ipse. 

Ipse! Announces the Alchemist in a frenzy. At last, you are here, our dreaming reader has corrupted the ideal dove!  

I am struck by Ipse, my twin image. Ipse is dressed in rich green robes. Ipse’s demeanor is dashing and bold, strangling the serpent and standing victorious over the vermin. Then I hear a sweet voice coming from the ground below. My neck hurts from looking up at the ideals but when I look down, it is Lady Reason who comforts me. She is moon-faced, and there is a set of scales embroidered on her cape. She says, “Dear child, do not be let astray by these performances, they are mere illusions of the truths within you. Your idealism will lock you into an eternal slumber… remember…that…always…” 

Lady Reason vanishes as quickly as she came. The Alchemist begins to wail in defeat. I now realize this is but a lethargic dream of my own idealism. O evil deceiver, you Alchemist, you fiend, who has shown me an idyllic Eden in the clouds. 

You have seen too much! My dream is falling apart. The Alchemist bellows.  

The motley heavens! They are crinkling apart into pieces; the fabric begins unveiling the false dream! It exposes me to the reality Lady Reason pointed me to. The Alchemist throws potions into the air, but chaos ensues: The townspeople from the Caravan of Dreams reappear, becoming a chorus of lament. Sirens sing of evil and trickery, their notes rising into the air like spectral tendrils of strife. Locusts spread all around and buzz into a whirlpool of villainy. The Alchemist, failing to find an elixir to mask his ideal illusions to me, vanishes into chaos.  

Margarita Buitrago is an undergraduate student studying English Literature and Philosophy with minors in Medieval Studies and History. This piece was inspired by the element of dream visions in allegorical works from Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Hellmer, Edmond. PA Digital.
Science History Institute Digital Collections.