Saturday, April 23, 2011

Parallel - Sleep as Food-Nourishment


"Sleep,  that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hur minds, great Nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast;"
  Macbeth 2.2.37-40

Bacon: "The story goes that Epimenides slept many years in a cave without needing food; for in sleep the spirits are less predatory...As exercise demands more nourishment, so likewise sleep to a certain extent supplies it".
   History of Life and Death

"Sleep doth nourish much".
  Natural History

"Sleep nourisheth or at least preserveth bodies a long time without other nourishment".
  Natural History

Comment: Shake-Speare's "Chief nourisher in life's feast" is metaphorical - it is not dealing only with physical nourishment. The Arden editor notes on the line: "This may also have been suggested by an alternative meaning of ravell'd. Ravel, or ravelled, bread was whole meal bread and could be regarded as 'chief nourisher'". But it is less far-fetched to suppose it to have been suggested by Bacon's view of sleep (of which the editor makes no mention), especially as Bacon's dicta use the word "nourish".

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