Understanding of "a dream within a dream"??

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I have taken an interest in poetry but i am finding it hard to interpret, one i took an interest in was Poe's "a dream within a dream" but i dont understand the meaning behind it, i would be extreamly greatfull if someone could explain. I have read other enteries on this site but i still cannot grasp what is meant by his words.

-- Anonymous, June 22, 2003


Perhaps seeing the progression from 1827 to 1849 might help. "Should my Early Life seem"(1829) - "Imitation"(1827). These can be read at www.eapoe.org. Each revision is thorough. The last is a poem of Poe's last year refelcting a more complex and mature thought. originally from poetry by Byron. The attitude is the same. heroic non-acceptance of the transitory. Nor endurance, no comfort but rebellious challenge. Then the address to a lady friend. See also Poe's Marginalia, number 230. He was intrigued by the more complex idea of a dream within a dream, a double deception such as when we think we are waking only to be moving about inside a "waking" dream where we think we ARE awake. Confusing? But Poe dismisses the mystery in that ALL dreams pass. That quality they share whether vision or reality. So in that sense of unstoppable passing, the futility of will grasping at the sands of time on the shore between life and death, past and future, evokes the emotion of the poem, the questioning cry.

It is something like saying "Is that all there is?" but it is the passing of happiness and even hopes so that all visioning and living is no more substantial in the end than a common dream. In the past he was hopeful and thought reality something. Now gone, it is revealed as the illusory waking dream, the illusion of lasting reality simply come to its end.

The symbolism of the shore, the sands(ending time, the spatial boundaries) have caught him angrily crying out at the lesson. "oh God" prayer twice is a complaint of despair and refusal to be comforted or to value a past more than a vision.

To simplify further just listen to the emotion. He is parting from some lady. The feeling this evokes he tries to communicate to her, then turns to nature and then to God. Not a happy camper. It's gone. All will be gone, poetic visions, real life, the lady, just as the dream illusion or its more illusory double dream vanish.

The poem itself is very well structured and ingenious, but I won't get into that though that too explains the complexity and depth of the idea. When a deeply passionate intelligent man writes a "simple" poem about a single idea or feeling its form alone can still be daunting. Still it is simple. You can guess at the references to his most immediate sorrow, the death of his wife, perhaps the one sand he could not grasp. At least the emotion from that bitter loss rings through this and other late poems.

-- Anonymous, June 24, 2003

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