Same dream

In Brief

Stephen has had a dream in the darkness preceding June 16. Like Bloom's dream on the same night, it was tinged with Middle Eastern exotic mystery and seemed to forecast some important change or discovery. At several points during the day, he works to remember the dream and realize its prophetic potential. In a wonderful evocation of the act of trying to recall a vivid dream, he thinks, "I am almosting it."

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In Proteus, Stephen thinks back on Haines' dream of the black panther that woke him up so violently, and remembers that he himself had a dream after he went back to sleep: "After he woke me up last night same dream or was it?" The dream, then, may have been one of those repeated dreams experienced on multiple nights, when the brain seems to insist on working through the same material until it is sufficiently processed. Stephen tries to remember the details: "Wait. Open hallway. Street of harlots. Remember. Haroun al Raschid. I am almosting it. That man led me, spoke. I was not afraid. The melon he had he held against my face. Smiled: creamfruit smell. That was the rule, said. In. Come. Red carpet spread. You will see who."

Harun al-Rashid (ca. 765-809) was the fifth Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate, which ruled territory from north Africa to the borders of India from its capital in Baghdad, a new metropolis established close to Persia to enable the triumphant Arabs to draw on Persian expertise in governing. His name means Harun the Just, or Harun the Rightly Guided, and his reign initiated what has come to be known as the Golden Age of Islam, when arts, sciences, and philosophy flourished. He was famed for maintaining a sumptuous court. Thornton notes that "He is known primarily through his role in several of the Arabian Nights tales. 'Sinbad the Sailor' is set during his caliphate." Gifford adds that "He is reputed to have disguised himself and wandered among his people to keep himself aware of their moods and concerns." Gifford argues for a Middle Eastern provenance of "the rule" as well: "Stephen's dream involves the Hebraic 'rule' that the firstfruits of the land were to be brought to the holy place of God's choice and there presented to the priests."

Later, at the end of Scylla and Charybdis, Stephen remembers something that happened before the encounter with the strange man: "Last night I flew. Easily flew. Men wondered. Street of harlots after. A creamfruit melon he held to me. In. You will see." Dreams of flying like Stephen's are a kind of lucid dreaming, in which the dreamer can control his movements through the air. They are typically exhilirating, accompanied by feelings of power and liberation.

The Haroun part of Stephen's dream is clearly precognitive, since on June 16 Leopold Bloom will befriend Stephen in the red-light district, take him home to 7 Eccles Street, make him cocoa, and offer to introduce him to his wife, whom he associates with melons and other fruit. The narrative acknowledges this phophetic quality by identifying Bloom with Haroun twice in Circe. As Bello is marting him to buyers in the sex trade and some foreigner bids "Hoondert punt sterlink," hushed voices say, "For the Caliph. Haroun Al Raschid." Later in the chapter, when Bloom tells Bella that he knows she has a son in Oxford, she says, "(Almost speechless.) Who are. Incog!" Not long after, incognito Bloom takes off into the street after Stephen: "Zoe and Kitty still point right. Bloom, parting them swiftly, draws his caliph's hood and poncho and hurries down the steps with sideways face. Incog Haroun al Raschid he flits behind the silent lechers and hastens on by the railings."

Stephen cannot hear the narrative identifying Bloom with the Caliph, but before he realizes that he has any particular connection with Bloom, he feels that the events of the dream are coming true: "It was here. Street of harlots. In Serpentine avenue Beelzebub showed me her, a fubsy widow. Where's the red carpet spread?" His talk sounds wild, and Bloom attempts to calm him down, but Stephen becomes even more excited: "No, I flew. My foes beneath me. And ever shall be. World without end. (He cries) Pater! Free!" Answering the call to a Dedalean father, Simon Dedalus appears as a flying companion: "He swoops uncertainly through the air, wheeling, uttering cries of heartening, on strong ponderous buzzard wings."

JH 2015
François Louis Schmied, plate depicting the Caliph Haroun Al-Raschid, in Histoire Charmante de l'Adolescente Sucre d'Amour (Paris, 1927), held in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Source: bsuva.org.
Still from Flying Man, a short film. Source: www.shortoftheweek.com.
Harun al-Rashid in disguise, spying out wrongdoing against one of his subjects, by an unknown artist. Source: baheyya.blogspot.com.