A Dream Within a Dream Analysis

The poem “A Dream Within a Dream” was published back in 1849, written by one of the greatest American poets Edgar Allan Poe. In this poem the poet shows a rare contradiction between the two stanzas where his narratives change drastically in illustrating the inner and outer reality of the narrator’s mind.

A Dream Within A Dream


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?

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Analysis of Poe’s “A Dream Within a Dream”

The poem “A Dream Within a Dream” is structured in a picturesque manner in portraying two different scenes and connecting them into one knot. The first two stanzas portray how the narrator moves from a first-person point of view of parting from his lover, his moments of passion and anguish, sitting on a beach, in the midst of trying to grasp a handful of sand. The scenes contain a mixture of thoughtful reasoning, simultaneously screaming out the diversified emotions of the narrator, and desolated questions that even the narrator’s soul had no answers to.

The two stanzas are beautifully intertwined in such a way that it’s almost a pilgrimage of irony, a journey throughout the lover’s passage of time, which is portrayed by the grains of sand in his hand, that he holds on to in reminiscence of their love, which turns into a dream as the grains of sand slowly fade away from the lover’s hand. Poe uses the word “golden” to emphasize the significance of love and sand in the poem. The two connected expressions of passion, which, to him, will always be an illusion of attainment.

Like many of his other poems, Poe uses the sea as a symbol of death and decay.

He uses “surf-tormented shore” as a metaphor describing time, as the waters rush to the shores in a pitiless manner. The narrator associates himself with the water, portraying his agony. In this poem, Poe vividly describes the difference between dreams and reality. The sporadic lines “All that we see or seem/Is but a dream within a dream” chains the two stanzas into a combination of external and internal reality. By “a dream within a dream”, Poe describes that neither one is more real than a dream.

In this poem, Poe did a brilliant job in leaving out the whole poem to different interpretations, and change in his identities in the heart of the poem itself. Through every word he wrote, he portrayed the poem as the outermost dream while illustrating the narrator’s mind as the inner dream.

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