A Dream within a Dream

A Dream within a Dream

 by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Summary of A Dream within a Dream

  • Popularity: This poem was written by Edgar Allan Poe and was first published in 1849 in a magazine, The Flag of Our Union. The poem is famous for the way it presents human’s predicament of transient life and dreams. The poem comprises the speaker’s profound feelings, anxious state of mind and existential crisis of life and dreams.
  • “A Dream within a Dream” Representation of Life: The poet states that his life is merely a dream within a dream. Although sad, he knows that nothing in life is tangible or permanent. Everything he possesses has to come to an end. It also means, like dreams, life goes on with lightning speed, and no one can grasp anything. In the first stanza, the poet presents love and deep feelings when parting from his potential lover. After bidding goodbye to his love, he thinks that their union is nothing but a dream. However, in the second stanza, the metaphor of sand highlights that there is no tight grip on reality and time. It just passes no matter if a person accepts the reality or not. The expression of sorrow runs throughout the poem. However, what enchants the reader is the universal appeal of the poem regarding dream and dream-like situations.
  • Major Themes in “A Dream within a Dream”: Frustration, the existence of life and sorrow over the transient life are some of the major themes in the poem. These themes are evident in both stanzas. The first stanza shows sadness because the speaker is bidding goodbye to his beloved. However, her departure makes him question his existence. Traumatized by this event, he mourns the temporary nature of life that has brought despair and sorrow. In the second stanza, he is still sad, holding grains of sand. No matter how hard he tries to hold, the sand grains slip away. Ironically, he compares human life to this falling of the grains of sand. He questions God to lead him to the reality of life, as for him, it is nothing but a dream within a dream.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “A Dream within a Dream”

literary devices are used to bring richness and clarity to the texts. The writers use them to make their texts appealing and meaningful. Edgar Allan Poe, too, has used literary devices to make his poem outstanding. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is given below.

  1. Metaphor: The whole poem is an extended metaphor as the speaker says that life is a dream. He explains how dream enters our mind using a metaphor in line sixteen where it is stated as, “yet, how they creep” comparing the sand to a creeping object.
  2. Symbols: A symbol is a mark, sign or idea that is used as a conventional representation of something. Poe has used symbols to make the meanings clear. For example, the fall of the grains of “sand” is a symbol of the passing time.
  3. Imagery: The use of imagery makes the reader to visualize the writer’s feelings and emotions. Poe has used images appealing to the sense of sight such as “kiss upon the brow”, “grains of golden sand” and “pitiless waves.” These images help the readers to feel the same pain felt by the poet.
  4. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sounds in the same lines of poetry such as the use of /d/ in “That my days have been a dream” and /g/ sound in “Grains of the golden sand ”.
  5. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds such as the sound of /d/ in “I hold within my hand” and /l/ sound in “While I weep – While I weep.”
  6. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of Vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ in “In a night, or in a day” and /o/ sound in “Of surf-tormented”.
  7. Personification: Personification is to attribute human characteristics to non-human things or objects. The poet has personified hope in the sixth line where he says, “hope has flown away.” Here he gives a human quality to hope and the ability to fly.

This literary analysis shows that with the help of the above devices, Poe has made his thematic strand of the transient life very clear to comprehend. Moreover, the effective use of these literary devices has given a chance to the readers to choose multiple interpretations of this simple text.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “A Dream within a Dream”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  • Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This poem consists of two stanzas with twelve lines in each stanza.
  • End Rhyme: End Rhyme is used to make a stanza melodious such as in the first, second and third line of the first stanza the rhyming words are “brow”, “now” and “avow.”
  • Repetition: There is the repetition of the verse, “But a dream within a dream.” Poe has enhanced the musical quality of his poem with the help of repetition.
  • Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. Similarly, the title of the poem, “A dream within a Dream” is repeated with the same words in first and second stanza respectively; it has become a refrain.

Quotes for Usage from “A Dream within a Dream”

  1. These lines can be quoted when discussing a personal experience or a temporary joy.

“And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand.”

  1. These lines can be used to highlight the importance of hope in one’s life and its effectiveness to keep up spirits during a crisis.

“Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none.”