Sunday, October 26, 2014

Analysis of "A Dream Within a Dream" by Edgar Allen Poe

Poem Found Here: "A Dream Within a Dream" by Edgar Allan Poe



A rhyming tercet followed by rhyming couplets -- the poem feels connected at first then goes off, trying to keep things together style wise.  Content wise, the poem seems so sure of itself and then the last half of the poem is full of rhetorical questions.

How is the poem so sure of itself in the beginning?  Look at how it starts with a verb and exclamation, "Take this kiss upon the brow! / And, in parting from you now, / Thus much let me avow:"  Look at how the actions are precise and direct from the speaker to the subject.  There's conviction in these lines which decay as the confession continues, "You are not wrong who deem / That my days have been a dream;"  note the semi-colon here which ties in the acknowledgement of the dream with:

     yet if hope has flown away
     In a night, or in a day,
     In a vision, or in none,
     Is it therefore less gone?

The confession of something as a dream is tied into this rhetorical question where the speaker can explain the actions of the dream as something tangible, something flown away any time or if seen or not, it's still gone.  "All that we see or seem / Is but a dream within a dream."  The admission of going and going gone.

"I stand amid the roar / Of a surf-tormented shore," so if we are stuck in the dream, then the metaphors, images, ideas relate to the self...perhaps.  Dreams seem so personal of a concept, I'm trying to figure out how a metaphor would work in a dream, especially since the speaker is discussing this as a confession in first person.  In any case, in this "surf-tormented shore," the speaker continues, "And I hold with my hand / Grains of the golden sand --"  it's the adjectives here that change the context of the poem:

     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?

If you can't tell, I quoted five lines here.  Why?  Here' the continuity of the speaker falling further and lamenting the single bright spot that is tangible for him (gold sand) continues to fall through like his sanity trying to grasp things together.

     O God! can I not save
     One from the pitiless wave?
     Is all that we see or seem
      But a dream within a dream?

Note how the rhetorical questions continue and how focused the speaker is on saving the "one" which seems to be the core of the loss of sanity.  However, the tie in is that the speaker himself sees himself in a dream within a dream (yes, the repetition) or perhaps wants to.  Even within the speaker's dream, there's not much to look forward to.

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