Dream within a dream. Interpretation.

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I need some help on the intrepretation of a dream within a dream. What did he mean when he said that the grains of golden sand were creeping through his fingers? Did he mean time and he wanted to save what time he had left and not let them sink down into the depths of the ocean. What symbolism does he have in this poem? What does the ocean represent? Please help me.

-- Anonymous, November 15, 2002


It seems to me that Poe views the ocean in its natural terms first, a a chaotic medium on which to journey. "To Helen" is a youthful poem where the seas are a journey back home to a lady of memory and further to the golden age of Greece and Rome, his inspiration on a difficult path. "Annabel Lee" is the final picture of the poet no loinger roaming but joined(though separated by death)to his bride by the shore. This poem is more the latter, where the poet'sjourneys are all memories and his fixed at the boundaries of earth sea and sky(heaven), i.e. the shore. It is upon this shore that he makes his poetic stand.

The ocean stands perhaps for death and loss, dissolution and barrier to the heaven and hope beyond. More than just memories, Poe rages or cries for his lost happiness that relentless time has stripped him of. Most Romantic poets at this point(Elizabeth Barrett Browning "De Profundis")move on to faith and consolation. They are gone as surely as adream and no longer anymore real than a dream. Even more deeply it seems that the word "all" is a despairing mortality and a deception that cannot be held onto. There are two moments in the poem. The parting with a kiss upon the brow(Annie, alive or dead?)leaving behind life with a question to answer at life's ultimate shore. The first stanza is a comment upon that person's comment, an argument that ends with his declaring that all is a dream within a dream because it vanishes just as must without a trace.

The second moment(second stanza) is standing on the surf-tormented shore and a Job-like question thrown to God. The parallelism in the secoind verse:six lines of falling sand, the central extra line of mourning, and three strong questions, two about his inability to save a single moment("Ligeia" about man's weak will alone keeps him mortal)and if every single mortal moment of life and everything in existence is no more than a passing dream in the end). These challenges to God are made at the crux of Poe's earthly existence, very similar in unwavering dissatisfaction to the steadfast questioning of Job.

-- Anonymous, November 18, 2002

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