ove, loss, time, humanity, existence, dream, poe, poetry, romantic, melancholic

A Dream Within A Dream

Born in 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, poet, and literary critic known for his romantic and melancholic prose. Being the first well-known American author to earn a living off his works alone, he would eventually pave the way for a literary tone and style that inspired decades of science fiction and detective stories to follow.

In his 1849 poem A Dream within a Dream, Poe struggles with the transient nature of existence, time, and the helplessness of the human condition which inevitably leads to pain and loss.

Alluding to the loss of his lover in the first verse, Poe wrestles with the feeling that he has been betrayed by time, which slips away inexorably. He ponders the possibility that all he has experienced, joy and despair included, has only been a dream. Yet, towards the closing of the poem, he seems to present the possibility that even this fact could not ease the burden of some of our greatest sorrows as humans.

“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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Feature Image: Aron Visuals, On Unsplash, Creative Commons