A Dream Within a Dream
"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. Realizing he cannot hold on to even one grain of sand leads to his final question that all things are a dream.
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. Another interpretation holds that the expression evokes an image derived from the 1848 finding of gold in California, 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.
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.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock, a story about a group of girls disappearing while on a field trip to a rock formation in the early 20th century, begins with a voice over that states "What we see and what we seem is but a dream. A dream within a dream". This line thereby becomes the mantra of the movie, and sticks with the viewer throughout
- The Alan Parsons Project's album Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Alan Parsons Project album) opens with an instrumental homage to the poem. Its 1987 re-release included a narration by Orson Welles
- The Propaganda album A Secret Wish, released in 1985, opens with the track "Dream Within A Dream". With a lush musical background, the poem is recited in spoken-word form by vocalist Susanne Freytag.
- Biological Radio, the 1997 Dreadzone album, features the track "Dream Within A Dream" which quotes lines from the poem.
- The Yardbirds' recorded a musical adaptation for their 2003 album Birdland.
- Elysian Fields recorded a musical adaptation of the song.
- Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows adapted the poem for their album Poetica - All Beauty Sleeps.
- Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 402 ISBN 0-06-092331-8
- Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 73. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X
- 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.