Poem of the Week: 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?poe_round

 

Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Dream Within a Dream,” published in 1849, explores the difference between our perceptions of life and the effects of time. Within the poem, he illustrates a human life slipping away, trickling like “sand,” and implies that our existence is insubstantial, just an abstraction of the mind.

The poem focusses on the passing of time as perceived through reflection at or near the end of one’s life. In the fullness of time, the lives we live appear as dreams, fleeting and futile.
Edgar Allan Poe was a famous American poet, short story writer, journalist, and literary critic who lived from 1809-1849. He was born in Boston on January 19th, 1809 and was orphaned at an early age, after which he was sent to live with a foster family (The Allans) in Richmond. He was never officially adopted by the Allans and he was eventually disowned by the family.

Poe won a short story contest in 1833, and two years later became a literary critic for the magazine (The Southern Literary Messenger). Shortly after, he then married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia in 1836. He became nationally famous upon the publication of his poem The Raven in 1845. 

His life was marred by infrequent but intense drinking bouts which gave him a bad reputation. However, he continued to produce excellent short stories (Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Gold Bug) which brought him acclaim in America, England, and especially in France. Many of Poe’s stories take place in Paris. (The French poet Baudelaire translated many of Poe’s works) 

Unfortunately, after the death of Poe’s wife (1847), he fell apart and died two years later on October 7, 1849. Poe’s controversial life and reputation have earned him the following comments no less: 

With the aid of his psychological stories, critics have proclaimed him necrophilic, dipsomanic, paranoid, impotent, neurotic, oversexed, a habitual taker of drugs, until all that is left in the public eye is an unstable creature sitting gloomily in a dim room, the raven over the door, the bottle on the table, the opium in the pipe, scribbling mad verses.  (Bittner, William. Poe : A Biography. London : Elek Books, 1962.  page 9).

 

 

http://www.houseofusher.net/bio_poe.html

http://genius.com/Edgar-allan-poe-a-dream-within-a-dream-annotated

 

 

 

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