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?
-- THE END --
for Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes. And Barbara with infinite love as I falter on the road to Ithaka
"A Dream Within a Dream" reflects Poe's feelings about his life at the time, dramatizing his confusion in watching the important things in his life slip away. Realizing he cannot hold onto even one grain of sand leads to his final question that all things are a dream.
The poem references "golden sand," an image derived from the 1848 discovery of gold in California.
Alternately, it may be interpreted that the "golden sand" is an allusion to the author's loved ones, and that each is inevitably swept away by death (the pitiless wave), no matter how tight a clasp the author tries to retain them with.
The poem was first published in the March 31, 1849 edition of a Boston-based periodical called Flag of Our Union. The same publication had only two weeks before first published Poe's short story "Hop-Frog." The next month, owner Frederick Gleason announced it could no longer pay for whatever articles and poems it published.
The Alan Parsons Project's album Tales of Mystery and Imagination opens with an instrumental homage to the poem. Its 1987 re-release included a narration by Orson Welles.
The Propaganda album A Secret Wish features the track "A dream within a dream"; the lyric of the song is this poem.
Biological Radio, the 1997 Dreadzone album, features the track "Dream Within A Dream" which quotes lines from the poem.
Britney Spears' 2001-2002 Dream Within a Dream Tour is heavily themed on the poem.
The Yardbirds' recorded a musical adaptation for their 2003 album Birdland.
The 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock (directed by Peter Weir) features the character Miranda reciting these lines, slightly inaccurate, from Poe's poem.
1.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 402 ISBN 0060923318
2.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 73. ISBN 081604161X
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