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10 of the Best Poems about Dreams and Dreaming

The best poems about dreaming

What are the best poems about dreams? The word ‘dreams’, of course, is ambiguous: it can refer to both the imaginative stories and visions our unconscious creates for us while we sleep, but it can also refer to our ambitions and aspirations. Here, we’ve taken ‘dreams’ to mean both these things when compiling this list of ten of the greatest poems about dreams. We’ve tried to limit ourselves to relatively short poems – the kind that can be read in a five-minute break – and so there’s no ‘The Dream of the Rood’ here, one of the earliest poems in English. But we hope you enjoy the poems we have included here.

John Donne, ‘The Dream’. What if you were dreaming about someone, only to be woken up by the very person you had been dreaming about? This scenario is the focus of this lesser-known John Donne poem, which – as in a number of other John Donne poems – sees the poet trying to seduce the woman to coming to bed with him (well, they’re already in bed – but you know what we mean). Read the rest of this entry

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Five Fascinating Facts about Menander

Fun facts about a classical writer

1. For over 2,000 years, Menander’s works were lost. Then, in the twentieth century, they were rediscovered. Menander (c. 342/41 – c. 290 BC) was praised by his contemporaries as a great comic playwright – some even said the greatest, beating even Aristophanes into second place. Yet his work was lost during the Middle Ages and remained so until papyrus scrolls containing several of his plays surfaced, and even then only as incomplete manuscripts. Only one of his 108 plays, Dyskolos (‘Old Cantankerous’), can be read today in (more or less) its entirety. Among the plays which remain lost are Rhapizomene (‘The Woman Who Had Her Face Slapped’), Synaristosai (which roughly translates as ‘Ladies Who Lunch’), and Empimpramene (‘Woman on Fire’).

2. When Menander’s work was rediscovered in the twentieth century, it was something of a disappointment. The discovery of the Cairo codex in 1907, containing fragments of a number of Menander plays, and the finding of the Bodmer papyrus in 1959, brought Menander’s work back, seemingly, from oblivion – but this wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s ‘It was not Death, for I stood up’

A reading of a classic Dickinson poem

Emily Dickinson (1830-86) wrote many poems about death. She also wrote often, and insightfully, about depression, and ‘It was not Death, for I stood up’ is a powerful evocation of what it feels like to be gripped and paralysed by this debilitating emotion. Below is the poem, along with some notes towards an analysis of it. If it was not Death, what was it? A kind of death, at any rate.

It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down—
It was not Night, for all the Bells
Put out their Tongues, for Noon.

It was not Frost, for on my Flesh
I felt Siroccos—crawl—
Nor Fire—for just my Marble feet
Could keep a Chancel, cool— Read the rest of this entry