A Dream Within a Dream

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For the vivid dream experience about awakening from sleep, see False awakening.

"A Dream Within a Dream" is a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1849. The poem is 24 lines, divided into two stanzas. The poem questions the way one can distinguish between reality and fantasy, asking, "Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?"


The poem dramatizes a confusion in watching the important things in life slip away.[1] Realizing he cannot hold on to even one grain of sand leads to his final question that all things are a dream.[2]

It is opined that the "golden sand" referenced in the 15th line signifies that which is to be found in an hourglass, consequently time itself.[3] Another interpretation holds that the expression evokes an image derived from the 1848 finding of gold in California,[1] though this is highly unlikely considering the presence of the four almost identical lines describing the sand in another poem, titled "To ——," and regarded as a blueprint to "A Dream Within a Dream," preceding its publication by two decades.[3]

Publication history[edit]

The poem was first published in the March 31, 1849 edition of a Boston-based periodical called Flag of Our Union.[2] 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.



  1. ^ a b Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 402 ISBN 0-06-092331-8
  2. ^ a b Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 73. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X
  3. ^ a b Poe, E. A. (1969). Poems Collected in 1829. In T. O. Mabbott (Ed.), Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume I: Poems (pp. 130). Massachusetts: Belknap Press.

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