The Dream

The Dream

By John Donne

Dear love, for nothing less than thee
Would I have broke this happy dream;
It was a theme
For reason, much too strong for fantasy,
Therefore thou wak’d’st me wisely; yet
My dream thou brok’st not, but continued’st it.
Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice
To make dreams truths, and fables histories;
Enter these arms, for since thou thought’st it best,
Not to dream all my dream, let’s act the rest.

As lightning, or a taper’s light,
Thine eyes, and not thy noise wak’d me;
Yet I thought thee
(For thou lovest truth) an angel, at first sight;
But when I saw thou sawest my heart,
And knew’st my thoughts, beyond an angel’s art,
When thou knew’st what I dreamt, when thou knew’st when
Excess of joy would wake me, and cam’st then,
I must confess, it could not choose but be
Profane, to think thee any thing but thee.

Coming and staying show’d thee, thee,
But rising makes me doubt, that now
Thou art not thou.
That love is weak where fear’s as strong as he;
‘Tis not all spirit, pure and brave,
If mixture it of fear, shame, honour have;
Perchance as torches, which must ready be,
Men light and put out, so thou deal’st with me;
Thou cam’st to kindle, goest to come; then I
Will dream that hope again, but else would die.

Summary of The Dream

  • Popularity of “The Dream”: Written by the famous English poet and cleric John Donne, “The Dream” is a poem that was first published in 1633, after Donne’s death. The poem has since gained popularity for its intricate use of metaphysical conceits and its exploration of themes such as love, death, and spirituality. Despite being written over four centuries ago, “The Dream” continues to be studied and appreciated for its complex language and unique approach to poetry. The popularity of the poem lies in the resolution of this complexity.
  • “The Dream” As a Representative of Love: It is a love poem that explores the idea of the dream state as a means of escaping reality and the power of true love to transcend that escape. The speaker describes how his dream was so perfect and happy that he did not want to wake up from it, but his beloved woke him up anyway. However, the dream continued even after he was awake because the thoughts of his beloved were enough to make the dream come true. The poem also touches on the fear and doubt that come with love and how it could be difficult to trust that the person we love is truly who they appear to be. Ultimately, the poem suggests that true love overcomes these doubts and fears and that the dream state serves as a metaphor for the transcendent power of love.
  • Major Themes in “The Dream”: The poem “The Dream” by John Donne touches upon several major themes such as the nature of reality, the transformative power of love, the passage of time, and the relationship between the speaker and his lover. Donne uses intricate metaphors and vivid imagery to explore these themes. The dream-like setting of the poem creates ambiguity and uncertainty, highlighting the subjectivity of reality. The speaker’s encounter with his beloved in the dream serves as a metaphor for their transformative relationship, which shapes and changes the dream landscape. The passing of time is represented through the imagery of the river, symbolizing the fleeting nature of happiness. The transformative power of love is expressed through the way the presence of the lover changes the dream world. Putting it concisely, the complex interplay of these themes creates a thought-provoking and beautiful poem.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in The Dream

John Donne used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem. Some of the major literary devices are analyzed below.

  1. Allusion: It is a reference to a well-known person, place, event, or work of literature. For example, “For nothing less than thee” (line 1) refers to the beloved and suggests the idea of how important the person is to the speaker.
  2. Apostrophe: A figure of speech in which the speaker addresses an absent or imaginary person or entity. The entire poem is an apostrophe to the beloved, as the speaker addresses her with “Dear love” (line 1).
  3. Assonance: It is the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words. For example, “it could not choose but be” (line 19) uses assonance with the /o/ sound, creating a sense of musicality and emphasis.
  4. Hyperbole: It is an exaggerated statement used to emphasize a point or create a particular effect. “Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice / To make dreams truths, and fables histories” (lines 7-8) is a hyperbole that emphasizes the beloved’s truthfulness and the speaker’s devotion.
  5. Irony: It is a contrast between what is expected and what actually happens. The poem shows it in lines “Thou wak’d’st me wisely; yet my dream thou brok’st not, but continued’st it” (lines 5-6). The irony in this line is that the speaker is initially grateful to the person who woke him up from his dream, but then realizes that the dream is still continuing even though he is awake, which is not what he wanted.
  6. Metaphor: It is a comparison between two, unlike things without using “like” or “as.” “That love is weak where fear’s as strong as he” (line 24) compares love and fear, creating a metaphor.
  7. Personification: It gives human characteristics to non-human entities. For example, “Perchance as torches, which must ready be” (line 27) personifies the beloved’s actions.
  8. Simile: It is a comparison between two unlike things using “like” or “as.” “As lightning, or a taper’s light, / Thine eyes, and not thy noise wak’d me” (lines 11-12) uses a simile to compare the brightness of the beloved’s eyes to lightning or the light of a candle.
  9. Symbolism: It is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities. The dream itself can be seen as a symbol for the speaker’s subconscious desires and feelings towards the beloved, while the act of waking up from the dream represents a shift to a more conscious and rational state.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in The Dream

Although poetic devices are part of literary devices, some are different in nature. The analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem is as follows.

  1. Diction: It is the choice and use of words and phrases in writing or speech. John Donne uses elevated and elaborate diction in this poem. His careful word choice creates a vivid and imaginative dream world.
  2. End Rhyme: A rhyme occurring at the end of lines of poetry. The poem uses end rhyme, where the last words in each line rhyme with each other such as dream/theme and best/rest.
  3. Meter: It is a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry. “The Dream” by John Donne does not strictly adhere to a specific meter. However, the poem contains a regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, which creates a rhythmic flow.
  4. Rhyme Scheme: It is a pattern of rhymes at the end of each line in a poem. “The Dream” by John Donne follows an ABBACCDDEE rhyme scheme in each stanza.
  5. Stanza: The poem consists of three stanzas, with each having ten lines.
  6. Tone: It is the attitude or feeling conveyed by a writer or speaker towards a subject or audience. The tone of “The Dream” by John Donne is romantic, passionate, and dreamy. However, there is also a hint of skepticism and doubt in his tone as he questions whether his dream is real or not.

Quotes to be Used

This quote is appropriate to express the power and influence that someone has over another. It could be used in a speech or in writing to convey the idea that the mere thought of someone can make dreams come true and turn fables into reality.

Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice
to make dreams truths, and fables histories.