Beyond Sleepy Hollow


The road between dreams and reality is one that must be negotiated….

                                                                                                    Jack Zipes

He dreamt of her incessantly, a young woman

wandering through his garden. Her face cameo’d

on the cool, showered  dusk. A pallid impression

of something. Something like the  thistles and lilies

resigned  to bloom as stalks of  pain, of pathos


when  called  by time  or inclination. Was it hers or his

that willed them to flower near the gate? Reverie

is never clear They were simply there — nodding

( along with her) for him to enter and follow.


Always the same place. The house with its peaked roof

and open shutters. A candle burning inside. A jug

of water on the bureau, a bed  with just her shadow

flung  over the mattress, long and angular as the spires


he had seen in Spain. Maiden towers of the church

imprinting  canal or street with their dark outline, a sketch

of what they conveyed. The details absent but open

to whatever the wind  delivered. A litany of leaves,

petals, saint-lipped  whispers…


And in this dream,  she kept pleading to return– not rising

from the bones but through the breadth of his stories. His heart

had fallen in love with Europe; and he was about to romanticize its memory

while keeping  hers in a box  A small portrait with a lock of hair.


And each time the dream ended,

he awoke thirsty, the scent of candle smoke mingling

with a humid sun. His quill on the table. His head aching with rain.


Washington Irving  is obviously known for Rip Van Winkle and The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow but his talent and breadth of writing extends way beyond that.  He took a tour of Europe in his late twenties and fell in love with the landscape and the old architecture of castles and Churches. In particular, he loved the Moorish history and terrain of Northern Spain. He wrote short stories and essays about his travels. Before becoming quite a prolific writer and tourist, he fell in love with a young woman named Matilda Hoffman. She literally become the “love of his life” and they were engaged to be married. She tragically died at  17 of typhoid fever, maybe yellow, and he never got over her death. In a letter to a literary friend, he wrote that he never married or thought of marrying because he dreamed of her  incessantly. Upon returning from Europe, he did metaphorically say he had fallen in love with the continent as if it were a woman who had infatuated him,  perhaps that was a reference to his only love, Matilda.  Though there is no evidence that she influenced his literary work, her presence was always with him, locked away in his dreams and silent grief. At the end of his life, his inheritors found a beautiful box that contained her portrait, lock of hair and a small scrap of paper with her name written in his own handwriting.  I infer in this poem, taking artistic liberty, that she kept haunting him in this dream to be immorialized  ( somehow) in his writing

4 replies on “Beyond Sleepy Hollow”

Each time, he awoke thirsty, the scent of candle smoke mingling

with a humid sun.

The school of Gwen. Thanks.


Thanks so much Craig
For taking the time to read and comment. I deeply appreciate it!

My best,


You paint a haunting, haunted portrait over the place and the man. I especially like “saint-lipped whispers”. It was a tragic loss clearly never left him.


Hi Michael,

I am glad that impression of his haunting grief came across. From what I have read of his love for Matilda, he was so aggrieved, he could not speak her name in public or even hear. Only to close friends did he mention this heavy burden of sorrow he carried for years, almost a if he were possessed by it. Thanks so much for commenting. I really appreciate your thoughtful words and intake.

My best,


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