Today’s poem by Edgar A. Poe is an achingly beautiful verse about love lost, and the interminable forces of the world that inevitably wash away everything we hold dear.

‘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 metaphor is lovely: the pitiless reality of how everything sifts away, so that you can’t even hold on to a grain of sand.

Through the course of his short life, Poe lost everything he loved: His mother, his siblings to either alcohol or madness, his young wife to consumption, and–from his perspective–his chance at literary greatness. The last was the greatest of all, and on that count he was wrong. Alas, that recognition came only after his death.

This was published in 1849, the year of Poe’s death. The poem almost seems an epitaph.

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