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Analysis of ‘The Dream’ by John Donne

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The Dream

John Donne is famous for love poems as much as his metaphysical poems. It is said that he had loved many women and finally married Anne More from whom he had 12 children. So for a person who had always been in love, love poems might have come naturally to him. His love poems do not talk about sweetness of love but talks about the physical act that sometimes accompanies love. All his love poems have a personal touch to it. Donne lived between 1572 and 1631 and in that span he wrote numerous poems which were published after his death. Despite his good education he lived a major part of his life in poverty, constantly helped by his friends. After the death of his wife Anne he got a job with the Church of England and from then his financial situation improved. The Dream is one of his popular lovepoems with touches of metaphysical content and has brought in critical applaud.

The speaker or the poet was deep in a dream when he was woken up by his lady love. He states that he is happy his dream was broken by her because he was dreaming about her and now that ‘fantasy’ could be made into a reality, now that she was there. So it was a wise thing that she broke his dream. His lady love was so pure and true that mere thoughts of her were enough to make dreams true and ‘fables histories’. He invites her to embrace him and continue where she left off in his dream.

Donne now compares her to light as in lighting and as in candle light. He says that it was her eyes that woke him up and not the noise of her arrival. There was so much of brightness that he thought that she was an angel at first. Soon he corrects this and says she is not an angel but beyond that. Maybe he was calling her a goddess as she read his thoughts and also knew what was there in his heart. She knew what he was dreaming and woke him up just as he was about to indulge in excess joy.  He says it would be irreverent if he did not see her as someone divine.

In the third stanza he is a little disappointed because she came only to leave immediately. She did not stay to fulfil his desires. He feels like her love is weak and therefore she fears him and is about to leave. He had called her pure in the earlier stanza but now doubts it. She is filled with ‘fear, shame, honour’. He compares her to a torch which is lighted just to be tested and then put off. She had dealt with him like that; came to kindle him with excitement and then left leaving him totally dampened in spirit. Now all that he can do is to dream again.

The Dream has thirty lines split into three stanzas.  The rhyme scheme is different in each stanza. The first stanza has an imperfect rhyme scheme. It is ABBA for the first four lines and in the next four lines we cannot find a rhyme scheme. The last two lines again rhyme and we can say it is CC. The second stanza has a rhyme scheme which ABBACCDDBB. And in the third it again varies; it is ABBACCAADD. The meter of the lines suddenly becomes short in the third line. It is metaphysical conceit when the compassion is extended beyond its usual imagery; her eyes are compared to that of lighting and candle light. It is fairly a straight poem and it is unlike of John Donne not to use metaphors. The beginning of the poem is also quite unlike Donne style as it opens softly and ends with sour feeling for his lover.