A Dream Within a Dream

Edger Allen Poe

Katie Franklin

1st Period



The literally meaning of A Dream Within a Dream by Edger Allen Poe is easily understood but the underlying message is more enigmatic. The first stanza talks about kissing goodbye or saying goodbye to someone. Then in that same stanza, the narrator expresses his concerns about his ability to differentiate between actuality and fantasy. He expresses this by saying "All that we see or seem". That quote shows that he is beginning to doubt the credibility of his surroundings. In the second stanza the narrator expresses his desperation and confusion on why he cannot differentiate between these two realities. He expresses this by repeating this mantra, "O God! Can I not grasp/O God! Can I not save". This quote shows that the narrator is distraught because he can't seem to hold on to what is real. The narrator is petrified of the though that his realty is actually the fabrication.
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Dream Within a Dream

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?


A Dream Within a Dream by Edger Allen Poe tells a story about a man that is losing his grip on reality. He beings to question everything he has ever thought to be true, even the woman that he loves. He is very fearful that this reality that he is experiencing is actually fictional because he has everything he has ever wanted in his version of reality. Therefore finding out that he has been living a lie would be unimaginable horrid. As soon as this facade that surrounds the narrator begins to fade he becomes more and more frantic. It is evident that his emotions increase in intensity towards the end of the poem because he beings to call out for help. He calls out for help even though he now knows that he is completely alone. The Mood in this poem begins with sorrow and ends with utter desperation. The sorrow is evident because he narrator is saying goodbye to the woman that he is infatuated with, in the first stanza. The desperation begins to occur when the narrator realizes that his reality might be only in his head. The Narrator shows such raw emotions of fear and anguish that it is logical to assume that this narrator is speaking truthfully. He is speaking to himself and that is evident because he is questioning himself and his ability is differentiate between reality and delusion.


The title A Dream Within A Dream is a perfect complement for this poem because they both contain the same message that is, it is unknown if you are living in a fantasy or reality. The enjambments located inside the lines of this poem are used for dramatic effect as well as it allows Poe to control the speed at which the poem is going to be read. An example is when Poe writes, "While I weep- while I weep!" This is an accurate depiction of an enjambment because it makes the reader pause while reading which allow for fact that the narrator is weeping to sink in. The pause gives a deeper meaning to the line. As the movement in A Dream Within a Dream develops the emotional intensty increases. This emotional increase is easily understood because of then multiple enjambments located in the second stanza. A Dream Within a Dream form is free association. Free association is evident because it is easy it follow Poe's train of thought, and the motions of him being in despair. The form of this poem is very free flowing and is only tied down with couplets. Poe wrote in this free flowing manor because he wanted to give the reader the ability explore the meaning of the words. It really opened up this poem into numerous interpretations.


The diction in A Dream WIthin a Dream is very informal which allows the reader to relate to the message inside the poem. It also helps with the comprehensibility within the poem and that means that it is easier to understand. A Dream Within a Dream contains a biblical allusion. Poe alludes to the bible in the second stanza when he says, "O God! Can I not grasp/O God! Can I not save". This allusion is beneficial to the poem because it shows that the narrator has reached the point that he is so terrified, he calls out to his faith in god to save him from the oblivion of reality. The ocean is an important symbol in this poem. It symbolizes the reality that is tearing away at his dream. The narrator describes the ocean as pitiless and roaring. The ocean is what ultimately breaks his facade.

Musical Devices

This poem shows the internal conflicts of Poe and really gives the readers a look inside of Edger Allen Poe's mind as Poe looks there as well. The rhyme scheme of A Dream Within a Dream by Edger Allen Poe is AAABBCCDDBB EEFFGGGHHIIJJBB. This poem consists of two stanzas with couplets at the end of each one. Also there is an Iambic Trimeter within each line of the poem. The only difference between regular Iambic Pentameter and Iambic Trimeter is that Iambic Trimeter has 3 sets of unstressed and stressed syllables. Personification is discernible when Poe says, "hope has flown away". When he says this it personifies hope and makes it seem like hope can actually fly like a bird.

Works Cited

"Google Images." Google Images. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <http://images.google.com/>.

Rooney, Kathleen. "A Dream Within a Dream." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/237388>.