Poetry Seminar: “A Dream Within A Dream” Emulation and Response

Original Poem 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?



My emulation: 

Take my hand as we stand my love

On the brink of a surf-tormented shore

Take my hand and forget this place;

Be mine forevermore

Here, I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand

How few! Yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep


Little tears spring from my eyes

For it does not matter whether we live or die.


Wipe the tears from thy face

And find comfort in my sad embrace

Look up, and  let your tired eyes

meet with the clouds of the wretched sky,

for it does not matter whether we live or die

This moment is ours;

yours and mine.

Please, think not that all we’ve seen

Is a dream within a dream

Because, my love,

I shall not care

When our silenced hearts bestill the air


Look out towards the sea

Be not afraid of what is to be

Do not fear the setting sun

For the moon is near; what’s done is done

You are not wrong, who deem

That my days have been a dream:

Though with heavy heart I say

That the time is now

And today’s the day;

Take this kiss upon the brow

And, in parting from you now

I beg of you — accept your fears

Whisk them away like your gentle tears

For if there is one thing I have learned,

I say,

These dreams do not matter anyway.



After having the pleasure to study this poem in depth, I chose to take a creative approach and respond to this poem in the form of an emulation that in which the speaker chooses to view death through an alternate lens, where an acceptance is derived from the idea of never being able to differentiate between dreams and reality, rather than agonizing over the uncertainty that comes with such pursuits in their last moments of life. As an individual who has spent the semester studying the possibilities of shifts of perspective, I found that writing this piece several months ago was yet again another moment where I was able to see things in a different light, and furthermore, broaden my understanding – and to a further degree -my acceptance of such uncertainties as well.

The original poem speaks to the idea that differentiating between dreams and realities is an impossible task that consumes the lives of those who attempt to do so. Poe speaks of the devouring affects time has on an individuals perception of life as thus, their perspective towards their remaining time and the possibility to make the most out of their lives. By comparing life to “the grains of golden sand”, Poe alludes to the idea that human life is precious (as by the use of the colour golden – a shade that is representative of value), and yet, much like how sand trickles away in the palms of those who hold it, the value of human life becomes insubstantial when in comparison to time. He uses sand to represent human life, and the cracks between our fingers to represent the fleeting nature time. In comparison to the themes of dreams versus reality as well, one may argue that the attempts the speaker makes to hold the last grains of sand are their attempts of gaining a grasp on reality – yet the ability to do so always seems to evade them. The consistent rhyme scheme of Poe’s work also comments on the inevitability of running out time, and carries the reader on a journey where they almost witness the loss of time the speaker has in their last moments of life, based on the constant flow of the poem. The poem, in it’s entirety, is a final goodbye that the speaker gives to a presumed loved one, based on the intimate nature of  placing a “kiss upon the brow” of the individual he/she is parting from. Even so however, the speaker chooses to still agonize over the the question that has consumed their life: “Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream”, rather than enjoying their final moments for what they are. There is a tone of desperation that carries this piece up until the final lines, and is especially noticeable when the speaker changes from the statement “All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.” in the first stanza, to a question in the final line of the second stanza, thus suggesting the fact that speaker dies with desperation to know the answer, and is ultimately left with uncertainty.

In comparison to Poe’s original poem, where the lines suggest the pain the speaker feels towards never being able to “grasp them [the fleeting moments of life] with a tighter clasp”, the speaker in my emulation chooses not to stress over trying to gain control in his/her life any longer, “for it does not matter whether we live or die.” While still keeping consistent with the idea of parting with a loved one before death, the speaker in my emulation is an individual who is content with never being able to understand the differences that exist between dreams and reality, and chooses to spend their last moments enjoying them with their loved one. In this emulation, the speaker does not weep but rather, their loved one does over such uncertainties, and it is the speaker who tells them: “Please, think not that all we’ve seen/Is a dream within a dream/Because, my love, I shall not care/ When our silenced hearts bestill the air.” In short, the entire poem is a reflection that the speaker has on his/her life that has been wasted pondering such questions, and he/she reflects on the wasted the time wasted they have spent. As they too speak of the “grains of the golden sand”, the speaker admits that “little tears spring from my eyes/ for it does not matter whether we live or die.” This line demonstrates the acceptance that they have towards life and its workings, which is a stark contrast from the speaker in Poe’s poem who finds the need to question life, in order to find peace (which is ultimately unattainable in their case). The final lines of the emulation: “Take this kiss upon the brow/ And, in parting from you now/ I beg of you – accept your fears/ Whisk them away like your gentle tears/ For if there is one thing I have learned, I say/ These dreams do not matter anyway.” are the speakers final words, and their final thoughts of the concept of differentiating between dreams and reality, where they come to the final conclusion that the answers to such questions “do not matter any way.” 

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