A Dream Within a Dream

  • Take this kiss upon the brow!
  • And, in parting from you now,
  • Thus much let me avow —
  • You are not wrong, who deem
  • That my days have been a dream;
  • Yet if hope has flown away
  • In a night, or in a day,
  • In a vision, or in none,
  • Is it therefore the less gone?
  • All that we see or seem
  • Is but a dream within a dream.
  • I stand amid the roar
  • Of a surf-tormented shore,
  • And I hold within my hand
  • Grains of the golden sand —
  • How few! yet how they creep
  • Through my fingers to the deep,
  • While I weep — while I weep!
  • O God! can I not grasp
  • Them with a tighter clasp?
  • O God! can I not save
  • One from the pitiless wave?
  • Is all that we see or seem
  • But a dream within a dream?

The great American short-story writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. His father, an actor, abandoned the family a few years after Poe’s birth and his mother, also an actor, died a short time later when he was three. He was raised by John and Frances Allan, a successful tobacco merchant and his wife, in Richmond, Virginia.

Poe attended the University of Virginia in 1826 but did not graduate and then joined the Army at the age of 18 and served five years. After being discharged he entered West Point but was eventually court-martialed for gross negligence of duty and thrown out of the military academy. It is possible that he had gotten himself kicked out on purpose to be free of West Point.

After that, Poe devoted his life to writing. In 1839, the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in two volumes. He fell in love with and married his young cousin, Virginia, when she was only 13 or 14 years old and he was 26. Poe went to work for a magazine called the Southern Literary Messenger and published some of his own works there, including two parts of his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

In 1842 his young wife contracted tuberculosis and Poe, perhaps due to the stress, started drinking heavily. On January 29, 1845, his poem “The Raven” appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation. Two years later, Virginia died. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849.

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