‘You should appear less often in my dreams’ by Anna Akhmatova contains short lines of longing for a relationship that doesn’t exist in the real world. Akhmatova’s characteristic clear and thoughtful style comes through in these lines, providing a reader an insight into the Acmeist style of writing that she’s known for. As a leader of this movement, she pioneered new considerations of poetry in Russia during her lifetime.
Explore You should appear less often in my dreams
In the lines of this poem, the speaker describes how different the person she loves is in her mind, while she’s dreaming, from the person they are in real life. In reality, they don’t know her as well as she’d like, and they forget her name, suggesting that they certainly don’t feel the same way about her as she does about them. But, in her dreams, they flatter her with praise, are sad, tender, and troubled.
You can read the full poem here.
In ‘You should appear less often in my dreams,’ the poet primarily explores the themes of relationships and unrequited love. The latter is quite clear from the first couple of lines as the speaker starts making contrasts between who the person she loves is in her dreams and who they are in real life. The two are quite different, but she’d love to be able to reconcile them.
Structure and Form
‘You should appear less often in my dreams’ by Anna Akhmatova is an eight-line poem that is contained within one short stanza of text. The lines were originally written in Russian, meaning that any rhyme scheme or intended metrical pattern is mostly lost through the translation into English. But, knowing her work, which was part of a movement known as Acmeism, it is likely that the sustained clarity of the lines is reminiscent of her style.
Despite the fact that the poem was translated from Russian, readers can still find some interesting literary devices. But, it’s important to keep in mind that the text is not identical in wording and structure to the original. These include but are not limited to enjambment, caesura, and imagery. The latter is one of the most important devices a poet can use in their work. Without it, readers will likely walk away uninterested and unmoved in what has been described. In the last lines, with words like “gently,” “sight,” “seraphic,” and “flattery,” Akhmatova easily depicts the differences between the person she sees in her dreams and the person who she knows in real life.
Enjambment is a formal device, one that’s concerned with the way that lines end. For example, the transition between lines three and four, as well as five and six. In these moments, the line is cut off before the conclusion of the sentence. A reader has to go down to the next line to find out what happens next.
Caesurae are another formal element. They occur when the poet inserts a pause in the middle of a line. For example, line eight reads, “Or gently sigh, as you do here.” These pauses might be created with punctuation or with a natural pause in the meter.
You should appear less often in my dreams,
Are you sad, troubled, and tender.
In the first lines of ‘You should appear less often in my dreams,’ the speaker uses the line that later came to be used as the title of the poem. This was, and still is, a common practice among poets either because they didn’t want to add more context or information to the poem with the addition of a title or because their poem went entirely untitled.
She suggests that this person, someone she loves, should appear “less often” in her dreams because she sees them “so frequently.” Dreaming about someone, she appears to think, means that one doesn’t see them as often as they’d like. Therefore, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for this person to haunt her so constantly. But, as the poem progresses, it’s clear that everything is not as she’d like it to be.
In contrast to the person she sees during the day, the person she meets in her dreams is “sad, troubled, and tender.” This is only how they act at night, so one can assume they are the opposite of all these things during the day. They’re usually happy, lively, and brusque. Readers should also take note of the use of the word “sanctuary” in the third line. This confirms, if one still had any doubt, that the speaker likes the person she knows in her dreams. It’s a special place and provides her with time with this person that doesn’t occur in the real world.
And sweeter than seraphic praise
Or gently sigh, as you do here.
In the next four lines, she adds more details to how this person acts in her dreams versus how they act in real life. While she’s asleep, this person is kinder and sweeter than they ever are in person. She uses the word “seraphic,” meaning of the angels, to describe the praise they give her. They flatter her, pay attention to her, and presumably love her as they do not in the real world.
She starts off the seventh line with the word “Ah,” a way of conveying a realistic sense of emotion in her words. She’s sighing as she recalls how in her dreams this person knows and loves her. They do not “gently sigh” or forget her name like they do in the real world. These last lines tell the reader that the speaker is dissatisfied with the real-world relationship she has with this person. They aren’t as close as she’d like them to be.
Readers who enjoyed ‘You should appear less often in my dreams’ should also consider reading some of Akhmatova’s other poems. For example,
- ‘Lot’s Wife’ – This poem tells the traditional Bible story of Lot from his wife’s perspective. One is left with the wife’s insights as she’s transformed into a pillar of salt.
- ‘I Taught Myself to Life Simply’ – This is a simple and beautiful poem in which the poet promotes living a similar life. She speaks on the value of nature and how fulfilling it is to live “Far from the madding crowd.”
- These related poems might also be of interest:
- ‘Love’s Philosophy’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley – This poem contains a speaker’s plea to his lover that they grow closer and maintain a more intimate, physical connection.
- ‘Sometimes with One I Love’ by Walt Whitman – This poem explores the powers of unrequited love to bring one pleasure in other parts of their life.