I dreamed a dream completely unexpected to me, because I had never seen anything like it. In Dresden there is a painting by Claude Lorrain in the gallery, “Acis and Galathea”, according to the catalogue; I have always called it “Golden Age”, I myself do not know why. I had seen it before, but now, three days ago, I noticed it again in passing.
This same painting also appeared to me in a dream, but not as a painting, rather as if it were really there. By the way, I don’t know what I was actually dreaming of: just as in the picture, a corner of the Greek archipelago, the tent was also set back, as it were, three thousand years; blue, cosy waves, islands and cliffs, a blooming shore, a charming panorama all around, the beckoning call of the sinking sun – not to be reproduced in words.
Here European mankind has preserved the memory of its cradle, and the thought of it, as it were, fills my soul with a love of home. Here was the earthly paradise of mankind: gods descended from the sky and conspired with men … Oh, glorious people lived here! They rose and awoke happy and innocent, meadows and groves were filled with their songs and joyful shouts; a great surplus of unused forces turned into love and simple joy.
The sun showered them with warmth and light, full of joy for their splendid children … Wonderful dream, sublime error of mankind! The Golden Tent Age – the most improbable of all dreams that ever existed, but for which people gave their lives and all their forces completely, for which prophets died and killed themselves, without which the peoples do not want to live and cannot even die! And all this sensation was alive, as it were, through that dream; rocks and sea, and the slanting rays of the setting sun – all this I still saw, as it were, when I awoke and opened my eyes, which were literally wet with tears. I remember that I was happy. The feeling of a happiness unknown to me pierced my heart even to the point of pain; that was a love encompassing all mankind.
Fyodor M. Dostoevsky
The Young Man, Petersburg 1875 after a translation by M. Gras-Racid, 1977