In 1841, a few months before his death (in a pistol duel with a fellow officer at the foot of Mount Mashuk in the Caucasus), Mihail Lermontov (1814-41) composed a remarkably prophetic poem:
In noon’s heat, in a dale of Dagestan,
With lead inside my breast, stirless I lay;
The deep wound still smoked on; my blood
Kept trickling drop by drop away.
On the dale’s sand alone I lay. The cliffs
Crowded around in ledges steep,
And the sun scorched their tawny tops
And scorched me – but I slept death’s sleep.
And in a dream I saw an evening feast
That in my native land with bright lights shone;
Among young women crowned with flowers,
A merry talk concerning me went on.
But in the merry talk not joining,
One of them sat there lost in thought,
And in a melancholy dream
Her young soul was immersed – God knows by what.
And of a dale in Dagestan she dreamt;
In that dale lay the corpse of one she knew;
Within his breast a smoking wound showed black,
And blood ran in a stream that colder grew.
This composition (which in its original Russian is in iambic pentameter throughout, with alternate feminine and masculine rhymes) could just as well have been called “The Triple Dream.”
There is the initial dreamer (Lermontov, or more exactly, his poetical impersonator) who dreams that he lies dying in a valley of the Eastern Caucasus. This is Dream One dreamed by Dreamer One.
The fatally wounded man (Dreamer Two) dreams in his turn of a young woman sitting at a feast in St. Petersburg or perhaps Moscow. This is Dream Two within Dream One.
The young woman sitting at the feast sees in her mind Dreamer Two (who dies in the course of the poem) in the surroundings of remote Dagestan. This is Dream Three within Dream Two within Dream One – which describes a spiral by bringing us back to the first stanza.