The Dream : by John Donne || Analysis

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The Dream

Dear love, for nothing less than thee
Would I have broke this happy dream,
It was a theme
For reason, much too strong for phantasy,
Therefore thou waked'st me wisely; yet
My dream thou brok'st not, but continued'st it;
Thou art so true, that thoughts of thee suffice,
To make dreams truths, and fables histories;
Enter these arms, for since thou thought'st it best,
Not to dream all my dream, let's act the rest.

As lightning, or a taper's light,
Thine eyes, and not thy noise waked me;
Yet I thought thee
(For thou love'st truth) an angel, at first sight,
But when I saw thou saw'st my heart,
And knew'st my thoughts, beyond an angel's art,
When thou I knew'st what I dreamed, when thou knew'st when
Excess of joy would wake me, and cam'st then,
I must confess, it could not choose but be
Profane, to think thee anything but thee.

Coming and staying showed thee, thee,
But rising makes me doubt, that now,
Thou art not thou.
That love is weak, where fear's as strong as he;
'Tis not all spirit, pure and brave,
If mixture it of fear, shame, honour have.
Perchance as torches which must ready be,
Men light and put out, so thou deal'st with me,
Thou cam'st to kindle, goest to come: then I
Will dream that hope again, but else would die.

Dear love, for nothing less than thee Would I have broke this happy dream, It was a theme For reason, much too strong for phantasy, Therefore thou waked'st me wisely; yet My dream thou brok'st not, but continued'st it; Thou art so true, that thoughts of thee suffice, To make dreams truths, and fables histories; Enter these arms, for since thou thought'st it best, Not to dream all my dream, let's act the rest.
The Dream

Critical Analysis

      The Dream by John Donne is a poem of love in which the dream is not distinguishable from reality because it is as factual as reason itself. The dream cannot be called something imaginary it is a 'real' dream. The poet wants to embrace the beloved so that the dream may materialise into physical love. The poet rebukes the beloved for staying with him for a short while and not prolonging her stay for fear of people's loose talk. It shows that her love for the poet is not strong, otherwise she would not have cared for public opinion or hostile criticism. It is strange that the beloved should leave him at a time when his love is passionate and intense. The poet would like to continue the dream so as to enjoy her company and her love.

Development of Thought:

      The dream of the beloved is as sweet and welcome as her real presence. The poet finds her dream as convincing as reason itself. He sees no break in his dream when he is awakened from the dream by the beloved's physical passion. Her love is intense and sincere; it is as solid and real as historical truth. The poet wishes that this dream may continue and her real-love and dream-love may merge into a complete love experience.

Beloved Like God:

      Donne describes the dream when disturbed by the actual love of his beloved. Her eyes appeared like the lightning or the halo of an angel. She could divine his inner thoughts and peep into his heart. This made him feel that his beloved was something more than an angel. She is in fact God or God-like because she has turned his dream into a living and joyful reality.

      The poet finally wishes to return to the state of dreaming, after having known the reality of the physical love of the beloved. She has stayed with him for some time, but her desire to go back makes the poet doubt the sincerity and depth of her love. Why should she be afraid of public opinion ? She should be strong in love, not weak. As she entered his dream, it lightened like a torch and now that she has left, the fire of the love is extinguished. He would rather like to continue his dreaming because it would be a continuation of the presence of the beloved and her response to his love. The poet feels that the beloved's visit to him in a world of dream would keep him alive and joyful.

Critical Remarks:

      This is a poem of three stanzas of ten lines each. The third line is rather short but significant. The poem combines passion with logic. Love in a dream is regarded as real as in actual life. Then the physical passion takes over and when the beloved departs, the poet relapses into the dream again. There is a same contradiction in the poet calling his beloved God and then rebuking her for her 'weak' love. On the whole, the poem's tone reflects a playful mood and dallying with love.

Paraphrase:

(This poem is addressed by the poet to his beloved).

      O my beloved! I would not have broken this happy dream but for you. My dream was a subject for reason and it was stronger than something imaginary. Therefore, you awakened me wisely because it was not a discontinuation of any dream but a continuation of it. Your love is so true and sincere that its wildest dream is as real as the truth; the wildest fable appears as real as historical truth. Since you thought it best not to leave me to my dreams, enter my arms, and let us make love physically and actually.

      Your eyes flashed like lightning or as a candle in a dark place and woke me up and not your words of love. At first sight you appeared to me as an angel but when I saw that you looked into my heart and knew my innermost thoughts which are beyond the power of an angel, I realised that you must be God like. You knew what I dreamt and came to me when excess of joy would wake me to frustration and appeared at the right time to convert my dream into a reality. It would be sinful on my part to regard you anything less than what you really are, namely God.

      You came to me and stayed with me. It showed your true love for me. But your leaving me makes me doubt that your love is not true. Love, which is subject to fear, is weak love. True love is strong, pure and brave and is not a mixture of fear, shame and honour. Just as men use their torches for a purpose in the same way, you have used me for your own joy you came to kindle my torch of love but as you go, it is extinguished. I will rather dream again so as to continue the hope of this love without which life would be death for me.

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