It's not so much the agony over losing his wife... it's the agony of losing here again and again...
The meaning is best explained by Poe himself in his letter to George Eveleth in January 1848...
'Six years ago a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before, ruptured a blood vessel in singing. Her life was despaired of. I took leave of her forever and underwent all the agonies of her death. She recovered partially and I again hoped. At the end of a year the vessel broke again. I went through precisely the same scene....Then again-again-and even once again, at varying intervals. Each time I felt all the agonies of her death-and at each accession of her disorder I loved her more dearly and clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive-nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness, I drank-God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink, rather than the drink to the insanity.... It was the horrible never-ending oscillation between hope and despair, which I could _not_ longer have endured without total loss of reason. In the death of what was my life, then, I received a new, but-O God! -how melancholy an existence! '
Actually, she didn't 'burst a blood vessel' technically, she had TB. I should point out that she fought the disease for five years before she died. That's a long time for poor Poe to ride such an emotional rollercoaster!
'Like sands in the hourglass, so are the days of our lives! ' I just read this poem for the first time today, and I was completely awestruck by it. I wish I knew the history of this poem, but I suppose if we knew too much about Poe, we would not be so mesmerized with his literature. The mystery surrounding his life is what attracts many people to his writings, which are considerable. My interpretation of this poem is that it is personifying his wife, Virginia Clemm, her death, and his agony over losing her. He couldn't hang onto the sand in his hand or save her from the pitiless wave (her death to tuberculosis, which wasn't pretty!) , no matter how hard he tried. As far as a dream within a dream, for those of us who have gone through the loss of loved ones and the heart-wrenching grief that occurs, that is what it feels like. It can cause you to lose a grip on reality to a certain extent.
On another note, Edgar Allan Poe is regarded as the greatest writer of all time in France and Japan, yet here in his own country he is not as highly regarded. They even have a special affectionate name for him in Japan. Researching Poe's life is almost as fascinating as reading his works.
I came across this poem in the movie 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'by Peter Weir. The movie is very atmospheric and contemplative and has a wonderful musical score. The movie starts off by the 'dream within a dream line' voiced by a young woman in Victorian times in Australia.
The poem, for me, has spiritual undertones. It is a journey towards the realization of life being ephemeral and fleeting. But this angst should eventually lead the poet to the realization of something that changes not, in the midst of all these changes. And then he would realize that all that he sees and seems was but a dream.
Yeah, I love this poem. I actually wrote a song about / inspired by it, aptly titled 'dream within a dream.' If you're interested you can check it out on my myspace page: http: //www.myspace.com/birdlipsmusic
To clearly understand Poe, one must throw out the notion that erudite vernacular [as so many of our classic and modern day poets employ for the WOW, effect], is not a requirement in architecting a well crafted poem...Poe was a genius...certified...yet (i.m.o.) he rarely implemented this advantage, in his poems.He did dig deep into his vast library of grey matter in scribing his short stories of macabre & mystery...And his obsessive compulsion for bizzare scenario and underlying Reader teasers did at times create complexities for the Reader in following Poe's multi-avenue ventures.I write today compliments of Edgar Allan Poe's impact on me...
And i consider his work to be arguably the very best that Literary history has to offer us.
I have a tendancy to get something different from poems than most, so please forgive me if you dissagree, or if you don't like what I say. To me this poem is completely about the futility of all of our lifes actions. We place such importance on what we do and the events in our lives, when in reality they mean nothing. I see the message of this poem as very similar to Shakespere's 'life is but a walking shaddow' diatribe. 'You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream; ' his days refer to his life and lifes actions, they are a dream is like saying that they don't matter. Dreams are gone as soon as you wake up, and they slip away fast. He tries to hold the grains of sand in his fingers, but they keep slipping away. The futile effort to do something more substancial than a dream.
Thanks for listening, and please forgive any typos/missspellings :)
well well well i dont care what any1 says if u look hard anuf you can see the point of this poem it not all about death well kind of but not really no matter how tight you hold something it can always slip away.love.life.hope.even dreams and most other things i'm been readin poe form the time i was 10 and there is no greater THERE IS NO SECRET YOU'R LOOKIN TO DEEP
It's clear to me. As in so many other things, after 'The Secret' I see it everywhere, especially in the old great artists. The idea that all is a hologram has obviously been around for eons. It's the primary idea in the Bible in fact.
So about this poem in particular? He's grieving over his realisation that not even one grain of sand is real. Thinking of your favorite story, maybe it's Macbeth or thinking of your favorite song, they are non-existent. Pizza is non-existent. The Sierras are non-existent. The blue sky is an illusion. Is this something worth grieving over? I think yes, or at least it is in a mind not yet fully released from the illusion.
I'm not saying I buy The Secret. I'm saying Poe has or is contemplating buying into it and is grieving over the lose of the illusion.
The Secret is everywhere folks. It's in Shakepeare. It's in the movie A Space Odessey and The Tempest. It's Jesus primary idea. It's the Freemasons thing. It's everywhere. Read The Bible again, only this time with The Secret on your mind, you'll see I'm right and you'll be as shocked as I am.
I used to think Poe dwelled on some kind of morbid death fixation, but now I know it's The Secret ect.