When thinking about dreams, usually somewhere uplifting and happy comes to mind. Not some dark and lonely place with skies of fire and spine-chilling creatures everywhere. This vision can be seen more as a nightmare, if anything. For some reason, this particular author does not consider it as such a bad thing. In the poem ‘Dream-Land’ by Edgar Allan Poe, the author uses imagery, symbolism, figurative language, allusion, and mood to pull the readers into his thoughts and feelings, as if they were in his twisted dream.
What the readers see the most while reading this poem is the descriptive imagery the author uses. Within the first two lines of the poem, Poe describes who was at the place by saying “haunted by ill angels only” (Poe, 2). Typically, one does not associate angels with being ‘ill’, nor thinks that angels ‘haunt’ in general. Immediately the reader gets a creepy image of a half-ghost half angel. This also starts the poem off by giving the readers a dark feeling. The author goes on to say that there is “an Eidolon, named NIGHT, on a black throne reigns upright” (Poe, 3-4). At this point, the reader is most likely wondering what an Eidolon is. An Eidolon is another word for phantom or ghost, and it is the ruler of the place that the author has entered. This line gives an image of a throne with a horrifying ghost named ‘NIGHT’ as soon as the poem starts. The whole second stanza is filled with imagery describing where the author is currently at. This is not a place the reader wants to be, it sounds terrifying. Some of the most descriptive images come to mind when the author says “mountains toppling evermore into seas without a shore; seas that restlessly aspire, surging, unto skies of fire” (Poe, 13-16). This is ironic because in most dreams there are no skies on fire or crumbling mountains falling into a sea with no shore. That seems more like a vision that wakes one up in the middle of the night, rather than keeping them peacefully asleep. The author is taking the readers into his mind, where he seems awfully lost and broken for a dream to sound like this. Maybe, it is not meant to be a dream, but the inevitable nightmare of physical existence. He goes on to say that he sees “white-robed forms of friends long given” (Poe, 37), meaning loved ones that have passed away. The reader pictures angels, maybe, that are wearing white robes. Usually seeing dead people might freak someone out, but for Poe, it was more of a relief. In line 40, Poe tells the readers that seeing them is peaceful and soothing. This shows the reader that the author must have gone through so much, and is a lonely person to be comforted by ghosts. Most of Poe’s work has plenty of imagery in it, most of which is recognized as a defining element of the Gothic aesthetic.
Along with imagery, the author uses plenty of symbolism within his imagery to create meaning behind it. The first form of symbolism in this poem is the Eidolon. The poem begins and ends with the Eidolon reigning this foreign world that the author is at. Poe wanted the readers to understand that this mysterious creature is symbolizing a creepy ruler for the crazy place he is in. In fact, almost the whole stanza must be a form of symbolism. Poe repeats the first six lines of the poem at the end, but only changes “I have reached these lands but newly” to “I have wandered home but newly” (Poe, 5,55). This repetition symbolizes Poe finding the new land at the beginning and returning home with a new personality at the end. The author also uses symbolism when he says “for the tears that drip all over” (Poe, 12). As the reader already knows, the author must be going through it all. This line tells the reader that he must be substantially depressed to be seeing tears rushing down everything. The tears in this line symbolize the tears that the author has shed throughout his life. The lakes in this poem are a symbol of how lonely the reader is. The author describes them by saying “lakes that endlessly outspread, their lone waters—lone and dead” (Poe, 17-18). The author is using this image to show that there are lonely lakes all around him, and that is how his loneliness feels. Making it almost as if he is dead inside. Another example of symbolism in this poem is when the author sees “Sheeted Memories of the Past” (Poe, 34). Meaning the sheeted memories symbolize the people in his life that have died, who bring back special times spent in the past.
Poe also enjoyed adding figurative language to his poems, including ‘Dream-Land’. As the readers know, Poe is a dramatic writer. To keep this status, he adds a metaphor to the poem. This device is found in the line that contains “skies of fire” (Poe, 16), comparing a beautiful blue sky to burning red flames. Another use of figurative language in this poem is hyperbole. Poe describes the lakes in lines 14 and 17 as being “endlessly outspread” and the seas as not having a shore. He is exaggerating about the waters not ending nor having a shore for an intense effect.
Another familiar word in this author’s dictionary was allusion, which is found in ‘Dream-Land’ as well. Eldorado is known as a legendary treasure city, and Poe refers to an Eldorado traveling in this mysterious world of his. The poem seems to have a connection between the city of riches and the traveler in this peculiar place. This could mean that for him, this region is his own type of luxury land. This is in the fourth stanza where another allusion is found. Poe uses this phrase in the poem “Beholds it but through darkened glasses” (Poe, 50), which could be an allusion to the quote from the Bible “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” in 1 Corinthians 13:12. Both quotes are talking about seeing things in a blur, such as visions, dreams, or realities. For the author, maybe he felt more at home being in this obscure world.
Poe also had a way with words to set the mood in this poem clearly. Throughout the poem, there is diction that makes the mood dark, intense, lonely, or depressed. As Shmoop said, every line – make that every word – is designed to make you feel how depressed he is, to make you soak in his angst and his despair. The author uses words such as ‘lonely’ and ‘dead’, along with many more, to achieve the gloomy, intense, and insane attitude of the poem.
When Edgar Allan Poe wrote, he put every heart-wrenching emotion into words. This pain inflicted on him is something readers find interesting in reading today. Poe wrote in a way that almost made his readers feel the hurt, loss, and tragedy that he had been through. His work is mainly all the same: dark, emotional, and depressing. However, there is also a certain type of beauty behind it that make readers want more. Poe found a way to express himself when it felt like the world was against him. He had to have gone through so much to be this way, but sometimes the worst tragedies make the best poets.