The poet (Edgar Allen Poe) is describing the situation of bidding farewell to his love. It seems that his love is going away from him and he does not want her to go away. The entire poem and his set of feelings are described in two different but related stanzas.
In the first stanza, the lover is bidding the final farewell to his love by the sweet gesture of a final kiss and parts from her. It seems that the decision to end the relationship and to part away was taken by his lover, who did it very confidently and bluntly.
The poet is deeply sad but still, takes the blame on him by saying that it is not your fault and he may be day dreaming about the love which he, now feels was never his. He now feels that somehow the love has flown away. He feels that this end of the relationship had happened all of a sudden, like over night or just within a day. He does not even remember when and how it really happened. He could not even visualize when and how his love went away from him.
Now when his love has gone away from him, he feels as if it was a dream. Not just a dream but a dream within a dream. This means that he was daydreaming and now this dream of day dreaming has also been broken.
Edgar Allan Poe
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Now in the second stanza, the poet is standing at the shore of the sea with sand grains in his hands. He wants to hold this sand. This sand symbolizes time. Just like he wanted to hold the time when his love was with him, he wants to hold it, but it is not really possible. Time does not stop for anyone and nothing is permanent. Just like he cannot stop the sand from falling from his hands, he could not stop the love of her life.
The poet very beautifully highlights the nature of the sand to be like his love. Both the sand and love is golden, which symbolizes the essence of beauty. He is, moreover, scared of the big wave which is washing away the falling sand. He uses the metaphor pitiless for this wave since it is taking away from him, something which is very much dear to him. The poet is weeping in tandem as every grain of the lovely sand, which he wants to hold so dearly, is flowing away and getting washed by the water of the beach.
He regrets this passage of time, and understands that nothing is permanent. With the passage of time, things change and so are relationships. No matter how dearly you want to hold back the love of your life, still it is not in your hands. You cannot stop them from going away from you. It is just the dream which you saw to live with them is left with you, which gives pain in your heart now. All what happened with him has become a dream, and he seems that all what had happened that is the golden time of his love when they were together and now the end of that golden time with the parting of his love, all has come like a dream.
In “A Dream Within a Dream” Edgar Poe uses different methods and themes to create a message of the poem. Poe depicts deep personal feelings through the themes of life, love, a dream and desperation. All the themes are hidden and expressed though symbols and metaphors. The theme of a dream has a double meaning. On the one hand, the theme of a “dream” helps Poe to recreate his past and symbolizes realization of his fantasies. A dream symbolizes something which a person cannot possess, for this reason it becomes so desirable and attractive. Poe uses the theme of a dream to depict his past which has also gone: “That my days have been a dream”.
It is possible to predict that the pains of the hero (Poe) are those of the people who feel lack of warmth and cordiality in their lives. In this poem, Poe depicts most of all the intense sadness which forms the black shadow. Lightness and brightness is there, a sensation of inexhaustible skill, nature endlessly repeating herself: “O God! can I not save, One from the pitiless wave?”. A person addresses God only when he is in trouble or is not able to find the way out. It is evident that people around the hero do not pay much attention to him. He is crying out to God for help.
On the other hand, a “dream” is nothing more than our life. Poe compels the readers to think about the meaning of their life: “Is all that we see or seem, But a dream within a dream?”. In this poem Poe depicts the truth of life trying to find the essence of our existence: the truth of the limits of intellect, the truth of death’s necessary presence if the imagination is going to be fully birthed: “You are not wrong, who deem”.
“Grains of the golden send” symbolize days of our life “How few! yet how they creep Through my fingers to the deep. The “ golden sand” serves as a symbol that represents dilemma and the knowledge retrieval, the desire to find old truth, and the symbol of maternity. Poe underlines the idea that people do not pay much attention to their life spending precious time. But one day, they look back weeping because they “cannot grasp them with a tighter clasp”. The hero is one of many, and he needs to find his own way.
The hero of the poem tries to cover up the pain in his life. Pain is huge, but has nothing to do with melancholy, nostalgia or any other affliction or disease of the soul, being an emotion more heavenly than earthly. The hero loved and has been loved: “parting from you now, Thus much let me avow”. For the hero love means unachievable dream: “In a vision, or in none, Is it therefore the less gone”. In this sense, he is a victim because he needs to escape from realities of life which he cannot change. The hero suffers internally with a show of strength to the world and the effects that this has upon him. The very act of outward strength and happiness is in reality an appeal for help from the world. His hope has “gone away” and he does not know the way out.
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