The Freud Museum


A longing to visit Rome

... it became apparent that, though the wish which instigated the dream was a present-day one, it had received a powerful reinforcement from memories that stretched far back into childhood.

For instance, I dreamt once that I was looking out of a railway-carriage window at the Tiber and the Ponte Sant' Angelo. The train began to move off, and it occurred to me that I had not so much as set foot in the city.

The view that I had seen in my dream was taken from a well-known engraving which I had caught sight of for a moment the day before in the sitting-room of one of my patients.

Another time someone led me to the top of a hill and showed me Rome half-shrouded in mist; it was so far away that I was surprised at my view of it being so clear.
... the theme of the 'the promised land seen from afar' was obvious...

The town which I saw in this way for the first time shrouded in mist, was - Lübeck, and the prototype of the hill was - Gleichenberg [in Styria].

In a third dream I had at last got to Rome, as the dream itself informed me; but I was disappointed to find that the scenery was far from being of an urban character.
There was a narrow stream of dark water; on one side of it were black cliffs and on the other meadows with big white flowers. I noticed a Herr Zucker (whom I knew slightly) and determined to ask him the way to the city.

I was clearly making a vain attempt to see in my dream a city which I had never seen in my waking life. Breaking the landscape into its elements, I found that the white flowers took me to Ravenna... In the marshes round Ravenna we found the loveliest water-lilies growing in black water. Because we had such difficulty in picking them out of the water, the dream made them grow in meadows like the narcissi at our own Aussee. The dark cliff, so close to the water, reminded me vividly of the valley of the Tepl near Karlsbad.

The material out of which the dream was woven included at this point two of those facetious Jewish anecdotes which contain so much profound and often bitter worldly wisdom... An impecunious Jew had stowed himself away without a ticket in the fast train to Karlsbad. He was caught, and each time tickets were inspected he was taken out of the train and treated more and more severely. At one of the stations ... he met an acquaintance, who asked him where he was travelling to. 'To Karlsbad,' was his reply, 'if my constitution can stand it.'

'Asking the way', moreover, was a direct allusion to Rome, since it is well known that all roads lead there. Again, the name Zucker [sugar] was once more an allusion to Karlsbad; for we are in the habit of prescribing treatment there for anyone suffering from the constitutional complain of diabetes. The instigation to this dream had been a proposal made by my friend in Berlin that we should meet in Prague at Easter. What we were going to discuss there would have included something with a further connection with 'sugar' and 'diabetes'.

A fourth dream, which occurred soon after the last one, took me to Rome once more. I saw a street-corner before me and was surprised to find so many posters in German stuck up there.

I had written to my friend with prophetic foresight the day before to say that I thought Prague might not be an agreeable place for a german to walk about in. Thus the dream expressed at the same time a wish to meet him in Rome instead of in a Bohemian town, and a desire, probably dating back to my student days, that the German language might be better tolerated in Prague.

Incidentally, I must have understood Czech in my earliest childhood, for I was born in a small town in Moravia which has a Slav population. A Czech nursery rhyme, which I heard in my seventeenth year, printed itself on my memory so easily that I can repeat it to this day, though I have no notion what it means. Thus there was no lack of connections with my early childhood in these dreams either.

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