World of Wordcraft

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?

There could be more room in this world for a bit of word/language love.

A good story that can persist through time must also employ the use of wordcraft. Poetry remains a medium where wordcraft is developed and flourishes to fruition. I have always loved language analysis and have been itching to exercise my skill for quite some time. But please do not use this as an academic interpretation of the language as I have not researched other explanations of Poe’s wordcraft or techniques. This is a relaxed delving into how Poe uses words to convey meaning. Or, meaning as it is for me personally. ‘A dream within a dream’ has personal significance for me at the moment as it interrogates notions of dream and reality states of mind.

Poe begins with a conversational tone that is ‘sure of oneself’. He can examine the idea with some clarity. The ‘surf’ , however, begins to ravage the shore and at his wits it seems. He loses clarity of his former vision and is clouded by indecision and starts to plead with himself or a higher power to answer his final pivotal question.
Poe’s use of definite language such as almost forcing the “kiss upon the brow”. He is not asking, the person with whom he is parting has no choice! Poe is sure of his mind and doesn’t doubt that his thoughts and actions are right. He is also quite sure that “All that we see or seem/Is but a dream within a dream” without question. Questioning what is a dream and what can be seen as reality inevitably would, I imagine, lead to imbalances of the self and mind. 
He then paints a picture of madness and doom slowly taking hold on the mind. The “surf-tormented shore” conjures agitation and restlessness. Poe describes a chaotic scene in which he feels his very sanity slipping away like the grains of sand. Imagery of sand is also associated to ideas of time. He grows desperate to hang onto the last grains. They “creep” through his hands which suggest resignation on his part. A sense of consciously letting go because all that can be done is to “weep”. Indecision and self doubt plague his mind as he pleads with a higher power to give him the strength to hold on.
This gives life and animation to ideas of what humans see and perceive. Clearly these are two very different ideas. But I digress. This is a poem where the use of language and wordcraft create the feeling of a descent into madness, hopelessness and despair in which the reader cannot simply observe, but immerse themselves in imagined Hell.

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2 comments

  1. Your opening line says it all: “There could be more room in this world for a bit of word/language love.” I’m going to stop and savor that for a minute, with love for words and language.

    Like

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