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Tawny Owl

Dreamed April 1948, by Nancy Price
Source: Acquainted with the Night by Nancy Price illustrated by Michael Rothenstein (1949): selections from an experimental dream journal she kept for one year.

I am tormented by my failure ever to capture the whole or the larger part of any dream, but one lovely night in April I know that I was in a swift car, swifter than anything in the way of transport I have ever experienced. My companions I recognised plainly as the poet, Lord Dunsany and the philosopher, C.E.M. Joad. Crosshatched ink sketch of an owl in a tree at night, by Michael Rothenstein, illustrating a dream by Nancy Price.

We were tearing along at a pace to arrive, where and what for has eluded me, but that which remains most clearly in my waking mind is a tawny owl who followed us untiringly. At last I saw him alight on a tree in blossom and I knew instinctively that he could no longer keep pace.

"Stop," I said. "Stop. That was your bird; he has faithfully kept with you, he has endured all you have endured. He has helped you with your work, do not desert him. We must go back. We must find him."

I remember arguing at great length and at last Dunsany decided to stop and get out.

"You will never find him," said Joad. "He will be dead even if you do, it is useless labour. I shall go on--none but a poet and a foolish woman would attempt the impossible."

I heard the car speed up again and joad was gone leaving Dunsany and myself in the road. We walked back on our tracks--mile after mile--but there was no sign of the owl.

"I should know that tree again anywhere, we must find it," I said.

Dunsany laughed. "Joad was right; if I were not a poet, I should not have been led into this foolish search but I do realise the importance of finding the bird."

"Exactly," I said, "he is necessary to you; without him your inspiration will cease."

Night was now falling, my feet were aching.

"Joad will have arrived by this time," said Dunsany.

"He may have arrived," I said, "but without the owl what will be the use?"

"That's true," said Dunsany. "Very true."

Through the night bright with stars, we still tramped. There was much blossom in the hedges, but never the tree that I remembered so well on which the owl had perched.

Morning was cold and raw, rain had fallen--the earth smelt sweet. Then suddenly I realised I had no longer my companion but alongside flying heavily from bush to bush even as I trudged on, I saw an owl, not the one I sought but another and the eyes which looked back into mine were the eyes of Dunsany.

LISTS AND LINKS: writers - animas, muses and guides - souls - birds - hawks and owls - transformations - more Nancy Price - a Dunsany tale inspires a dream: The Sole-Fisher of the 8th Node - a 2nd nocturnal dream-critter sketched by Michael Rothenstein: Fearful Insect

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