On a Frightful Dream

    THIS morn ere yet had rung the matin peal,
       The cursed Merlin, with his potent spell,
       Aggrieved me sore, and from his wizard cell,
       (First fixing on mine eyes a magic seal)
    Millions of ghosts and shadowy shapes let steal;
       Who, swarming round my couch, with horrid yell,
       Chattered and mocked, as though from deepest Hell
       They had escaped. -- I oft, with fervent zeal,
    Essayed, and prayer, to mar the enchanter's power.
       In vain for thicker still the crew came on,
       And now had weighed me down, but that the day
    Appeared, and Phoebus, from his eastern tower,
       With new-tricked beam, like truth immortal, shone,
       And chased the visionary forms away.

    John Codrington Bampfylde

John Codrington Bampfylde (1754-1796)

John Codrington Bampfylde an English poet published On a Frightful Dream in Sixteen Sonnets in 1778. Robert Southey called them 'some of the most original in our language' and added two of poems of his own.

All of Bampfylde's works were dedicated to Miss Plamer (who later became Marchioness Thomond) the niece of Sir John Reynolds. Reynolds rejected Bampfylde's proposal of marriage and shut the door in his face. This enraged the young man to the point that he began breaking windows and was subsequently imprisoned at Newgate prison. He was taken into the care of a family friend but never really recovered from his disappointment and spending the majority of his last seven years in a madhouse. It appears that 'ghosts and shadowy shapes' may have been chasing him even earlier in his life as alluded to in his On a Frightful Dream.

Finally succumbing to consumption sometime in 1796, not far away in Francisco Goya painted The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on a closely related subject based on William Blake's world of dreams and visions he used to escape the rules of reason.


Paula R. Feldman and Daniel Robinson include several sonnets:

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.

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