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Featured Poem: A Dream by Edgar Allan Poe

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 13th September 2010

It is safe to say that I am a dreamer. It’s one of my favourite activities. But I seem to do it better in the full light of day than when I lay my head upon the pillow at night. I can have some fairly nonsensical night-time adventures, but they always seem to lie on the outskirts of whimsy; I’ve certainly never been able to recall flying, journeying to fabulous fabricated lands or fighting off any mystical creatures. In fact, the things my mind produces while I’m apparently unaware seem to be an only slightly more jumbled version of reality. It’s quite disappointing really. I doubt even devouring vast quantities of cheese before bedtime could induce anything that interesting whilst asleep (although I’ve never been sure whether that’s just a myth created by cheese-makers to appeal to daring dream chasers such as myself...)

Where I really excel is in daydreaming. Ever since I can remember I’ve been found with my head in the clouds, away with the fairies...whatever other phrase you wish to use to describe it. I’ve been doing it for so long that I’ve got it down to a fine art. I’m not sure whether my natural disposition towards daydreaming stimulated my love for literature or whether being transported to various imaginary worlds via reading was responsible for my frequent forays into reverie; I suspect that it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. What I do believe is that any writer or poet worth their salt must possess a great capacity to daydream (and I’m not trying to insinuate anything with regards to my own ramblings...); logic and reality mustn’t be undermined in the process, but they only take you so far until creativity inevitably takes over and works its magic. For all those who dismiss daydreams as a waste of time, merely wishful thinking; remove the daydreams of writers and readers alike and things would be quite dull indeed. I think Edgar Allan Poe puts the case for daydreaming particularly well: “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” So daydreamers, take heart!

Poe himself was quite the dreamer, if we can draw conclusions from his array of work; Dreamland, Dreams, A Dream Within A Dream to name the pieces that reference dreaming directly. We can find in Poe’s poems evidence of a fantastically creative mind filled with extraordinary visions and places of imagination but we are also able to trace significant solemnity; at times an almost desperate sense to cling to a disappearing dream to avoid being stranded in what can seem and feel like a reality devoid of hope. A Dream is a good example of this, as it is not free from troubles. The repetition of dreams, existing both in ‘the dark night’ and ‘in Truth’s day-star’, makes us wonder: what visions and ‘dreams’ can truly be distinguished from reality?

A Dream

In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed-
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.

Ah! what is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?

That holy dream- that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam
A lonely spirit guiding.

What though that light, thro' storm and night,
So trembled from afar-
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth's day-star?

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

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