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Mythopoetics In Dreamwork


What Is A Sparrow To Borrow And To Marry, Anyway?

No doubt about it, the sparrow is a songbird.  The American Heritage Dictionary of Words on-line defines a songbird as songbird: A bird, especially one of the suborder Oscines of passerine birds, having a melodious song or call. The Latin word for sparrow is passer. The little brown sparrow belongs to the family Passeridae.

Of the many interesting facts about sparrows one in particular tells that the male of the sparrow specie —the poet-bird responsible for the love-song in song-pairs that (t)rr(i)ll a mimetic pattern of utterings   I use to lay the sparrow-poem, “Passer Noster” in the dream nest of a few nights ago and that leads me to further my exploration now of the same dream image: “What is the sparrow to borrow and to marry?” — this real, live sparrow-singer uses more learned components in its songs, while the adult bird through which sparrow learns such song, is called the song tutor.

I can imagine the dream is like this adult tutor and is tutoring me in the nature of my own artistic expression self-immersed in the dream. So, I’m learning on the job how to write an original poem by following the mythopoetic nature of the dream. My thesis is simple. There is a mythopoetic nature to dreams. Dreams dream.

I am stunned! Those sparrow belonging to the aviary of songbirds —and there are over 31 specie for the Song Sparrow, while these cover a continuous range from the Aleutians to the eastern United States—apparently go to bird school! The sparrow has a song, is a songbird and possesses a song-making potential.  This song-making potential that actualizes the trill experience of each individual sparrow’s song into ‘actuality’, the song-in-play we will hear, means the sparrow must first learn ‘how to’ and then use more and more of these learned components to draw forth out of itself the unique and just-right ‘trrill’ that will attract to it its mate.

In dream terms the sparrow-singer of the dream re minds what the dream wants; it wants reunion with its song-mate buried in the poetic ground of the dreamer. And though this awareness is a difficult ‘whereness’ to find in the dream, this is also something like what the poet in me wants. The poetic urge of mind toward imagining is so instinctual and deep, a poet’s sensitivity for it pushes the poet to try and express the deep and reclusive reflection within the frame of a poem.

So that now, it is as if, as song tutor, the dream has come at last: “What is the sparrow to borrow and to marry?” As such, it comes to teach by reflection and through the poetry of the dream about a poetic basis of the dream components in the make-up of the dream’s single poetic line.

That makes this sparrow song remarkable in a certain way, a way of mythopoieses. This way distinguishes its way from other differences of ways in similar kinds of singers in the dream aviary, not all of them birds. This sense for the otherness of our dreams and works of art lets us experience that we are others without ceasing to be what we actually are. Perhaps, as the dream senses, the sparrow must now “borrow” the clothing of this revelation if it is to marry into the dream more deeply.  Hopefully, this is something this essay will assist.

If dreams dream, what this dream now wants is to marry itself to its own dreaming nature in poetic mind. And, if that is so, dream singers of all varieties (like poets) must also find these poetic spaces of awareness in their own reveries if they are to shape that ‘whereness’  of the topos of the dream artfully. Joseph Campbell calls this topos the mythogenic zone of the work and says this zone, if located, will expose the psychic event it contains within the story it unfolds. The poetic movement in the poem, Passer Noster revers to show, like a tailor shaping a lapel, the inside lining of the dream’s one line is exteriorized through the lines in the poem; both inner and outer, the same.


Another kind of song bird is the skylark or simply ‘lark’. Larks are noted for their singing while in flight. Larks are also highly spirited and carefree adventures. Just now, this may be what this particular part of the essay may be like.

When exploring the others in the dream aviary under the world, James Hillman reminds in The Dream and The UnderWorld there are three habits of mind that keep us out of the undersides of the mundus imaginalis and keep us from contact with this celestial animal experience of so heavenly a song.  He calls these three habitual ways interfering with the quality of depth we are trying to experience in anything imaginal: materialism, Christianism and oppostionalism. (see ch4, p 68-90) This means, even though this essay is lark-like, the song tutor must not be like this. If the skylark school of song, an “up and out” movement in singing, were to assume tutelage, the softly feathered fartherings of the dream, its dream depth, will fade into the blue robes of social things belonging to the ‘my and mine’ of mind.

Hillman emphasizes something important. In depth perspectives, it is always a quality of depth we are trying to get to in dream explorations, not meaning. Dream images point to something. They do not represent. They point to something the imagery, itself, cannot represent. So they, in pointing this out to you, do not want you to take them as “it” in the dream. This means dream images are likenesses. They are pointing to something; they do not represent it. They are what the psyche of a dream “looks” like and with in dreaming through. 

My dream functions like a song tutor and the soul of my dream is like a sparrow that has a homework assignment. It’s going to go to song school because it has to build a nest for singing things. It’s going to set about searching for just-right substances to shape a just-right tenor of vehicle that becomes my poem and now, this essay. 

It is not lost on me that the heart of a poet is like a songbird. And so, if a poet, like most other folk, should wish to build a really good nest for singing things, they shall set about, like most other folk, getting under the right theopoetic tutelage; for, to be schooled in the song proper, means getting under the wing of the right spiritual school.

I didn’t know it before this exploration but, apparently, there are all different kinds of songbird schools underneath the big top(ic) of the dream aviary. Not all of these schools for singers appear in ‘bird’ guise, either! The poet-singer, the sparrow-soul of my dream, has now to burrow to borrow. It is going to first borrow on the physical significance of a biblical verse and try to get underneath that. Borrowing by burrowing, it will move further down and farther in to the verse it hopes to re verse, a reversal it hopes reverses the dream lining of hopes belonging to a dream the dream wants to fulfill, no matter what the naturalisms and the personalisms the mind may fear.

What this is like is what it is to be up against another feathered bird-form, the tellus and terre of the archetypal ‘trrill’ Hillman says rules the dayworld perspectives. Such is barrier to having an imaginal experience of the psychic event of the dream as a psychic event. Hillman says materialisms begin with our own view of death, the underworld and dreams. (71) So, the first thing I don’t want to do is mistake the dream image for this ‘materialism’ it is pointing out to me. I want to avoid that view of the dream from the point of view of the archetypal mother who invites me to consider the dream like a
riddle returning me to my naturalistic perspective which is my habitual mode of thought favoring one thing over another in the reasons and ways of my consciousness about daily, ordered life. 

The dream dreams. It makes itself while immersed in the making nature of what dreams it. Its work imagines and these images work freely toward “a peculiar union of inner viewpoints.” (79) The deep subjectivity of the dream, what dreamt it, the reclusive mind, has flown. The dream I’m telling you is absent. My words are what give you its sense of presence.  However, these words do not picture the presence of the dream. They point to its absence.  The mythic image of the dream is not, even as it ‘appears.’

The riddle dream-image as representation and not pointing tool will pair the dream in the mythic image in the wrong way. Then, the story the sparrow sings will story from the wrong side, that is, it will take sides. The reunion of creative life with conscious life will reflect a demetrian interstice and the story interests will invoke Demeter’s Dream. This plays the song in the psychic realm to the tune and yoke of the natural mind in the name of cultural reason and season. The riddle-image becomes symbol, the symbol symbolic of Demeter’s order. Demeter’s realm is one that belongs to mater and to matter not to the deeper tones of the psychic event occurring in the psyche itself.  Hillman calls this kind of singing an opus contra maternam getting in the way of experiencing the opus contra naturnam. (74) It is a way of avoiding simultaneous perspectives of life teeming in depth’s darkening call. The song of the dream, the one the poem is singing about, “farthers” in a “farthing.”

Passer Noster®

To imagine is to participate in a play of images. In the dream the image plays itself. To reimagine the dream is to take the image at its word. What is “sparrow” to “borrow” and to “marry”?

For the dream, the sparrow/borrow/marry word complex is being, being in language. This being in language, of which the dream dreams, is what the dream wants. The form it takes, the trademark form of the image in language as a language which circles the image and opens it, this way of telling the story of what the dream dreams, is poetry.

What the dream dreams inscribes itself, which is not a myth but a mythic image. The mythic image is what is evoked by the poet to write the poem. This mythic image may be evoked again in the reader should he or she attend the poem reading with an ear toward glimpsing the evoked response within the frame of the inscription. Employing this glimpse into what the poem dreams the dream is dreaming, also contains the dream within the realm of language. Mythopoetic language draws mythopoetic pictures of reality. This reality we already know is not quite here and not quite now but lives beyond or within as if it were existent already in a continuum of its own. This kind of ‘whereness’ of the language yields an awareness that animates in reunion at the threshold interstice between creative reality and conscious life.

The tenor of the vehicle of the dream describes an inner inherence, a mythic image whose expression is the aesthetic sense sought after for encounter and ‘marriage.’ For the mythic sparrow is ‘our sparrow’. Our Sparrow® seeks more than a borrowed moment. It seeks its marriage within the soul of the dream’s dream.

Paul Kugler’s work reveals how phonetic associations, the sound in the phoneme that forms a grapheme or word, will impact meaning. For the relationships of sound, sense, and image in the unconscious see Ch. 1 of Kugler’s The Alchemy of Discourse: Image, Sound and Psyche, Daimon-Verlag, 2002

See Campbell, Joseph, Creative Mythology: Masks of God, Penguin, 1968, p11

See The En Kata Poetry Series, www.mythopoetry.com

See Hillman, James, Dream and the UnderWorld, Harper & Row, 1979, Ch 4, pp 68-90 

A special thank you to David L. Miller for pointing me in the direction of the different poetry schools of the early 1970’s and their various tutelary spirits arguing over how to sing the poetry that sings in all things

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