12 of the Best Poems About Dreams

On this list, readers will find twelve of the best poems about dreams and dreaming. These present dreams as something positive— a form of escape and pleasure, and something negative— a space where unpleasant memories return.

Many of the poems consider dreams and reality, suggesting that the two are really one and the same. For instance, ‘Life is but a Dream’ by Lewis Carroll. Other poems think about dreams more physically, such as the American dream is described in ‘Montage of a Dream Deferred’ by Langston Hughes. 

Best Poems about Dreams

 

A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe 

In ‘A Dream Within a Dream,’ the speaker questions the reasons for his existence. He knows that life is purposeless and that there is no real reason to keep going. It has all turned into a dream state that he floats and struggles through. Here are a few lines: 

All that we see or seem

is but a dream within a dream

 

Montage of a Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes 

Also commonly known as ‘Harlem,’ ‘Montage of a Dream Deferred’ is a book-length poem. It is made up of a selection of poems that are linked together by an innate musicality. The text speaks about the lives of Harlem residents who are not experiencing the “American Dream,” but instead are having their dreams deferred. Here are a few lines from the poem: 

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

 

Dreams by Anne Brontë

In ‘Dreams,’ Brontë discusses the world of dreams and the difference between entering and leaving them. The speaker is alone in their home dreaming about the company they most desire, that of an infant that sees the speaker as their mother. Here are a few lines from the poem: 

While on my lonely couch I lie,

I seldom feel myself alone,

For fancy fills my dreaming eye

With scenes and pleasures of its own

 

The Dream by John Donne

In this intellectual love poem, the speaker describes dreaming about someone he loves only to be awoken by them. He attempts to seduce this person in the lines of ‘The Dream.’ Here are the first four lines: 

Dear love, for nothing less than thee

Would I have broke this happy dream;

It was a theme

For reason, much too strong for fantasy,

 

He Wishes for the Cloths in Heaven by W.B. Yeats

‘He Wishes for the Cloths in Heaven’ is one of Yeats’s most popular poems. It was written for Maud Gonne, a woman Yeats loved but never married. The poem places romance over-ambition. The former is far more important. Scholars have noted that Yeats was never happy with this piece. 

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half light,

 

The Dream by Lola Ridge

‘The Dream’ depicts the speaker’s dreams about her degrading natural environment. She depicts the world falling apart, sulfurous mist, and a still sea, frozen by algal bloom. She’s incredibly disappointed by all of this. 

I have a dream

to fill the golden sheath

of a remembered day . . . .

(Air

heavy and massed and blue

as the vapor of opium . . .

 

Dreams by Helen Hunt Jackson

‘Dreams’ depicts how regretful memories haunt one’s past. She speaks on the negative effects dreams can have, specifically those that remind us of sorrowful memories. These are things one usually tries to forget but they continue to return at night. 

Mysterious shapes, with wands of joy and pain,

Which seize us unaware in helpless sleep,

And lead us to the houses where we keep

Our secrets hid, well barred by every chain

 

You should appear less often in my dreams by Anna Akhmatova 

This poem describes the difference between a dream relationship and the one that exists in real life. The speaker describes how different the person she loves is in her mind than they are in real life. She protects an idealized version of them in her head, one that flatters and praises her. 

You should appear less often in my dreams,

Since we meet so frequently;

Yet only in night’s sanctuary

Are you sad, troubled, and tender.

 

The Land of Dreams by William Blake 

‘The Land of Dreams’ depicts a conversation between a father and a son. The two talks about a dream the latter had with the “land of Dreams” is depicted as a space that provides experiences. This poem is beautiful and nostalgic. 

Awake, awake my little Boy!

Thou wast thy Mother’s only joy:

Why dost thou weep in thy gentle sleep?

Awake! Thy Father does thee keep.

 

Wild Dreams of a New Beginning by Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

This speculative poem is written about the modern world and the ways human beings create meaning in industrialized landscapes. The second half of the poem is different, it describes the destruction of these spaces and presents the reader with the question of whether or not the world will be remade differently. 

There’s a breathless hush on the freeway tonight

Beyond the ledges of concrete

Restaurants fall into dreams

With candlelight couples

Lost Alexandria still burns

In a billion lightbulbs

 

A Dreaming Week by Carol Ann Duffy

In this poem, Duffy explores the role that books and dreams have in creating an escape from one’s everyday life. She may have been using this piece as a way to trace a dying relationship. She describes one week in her life and then the final evening where the relationship comes to an end. 

Not tonight, I’m dreaming

in the heart of the honeyed dark

in a boat of a bed in the attic room

in a house on the edge of the park

where the wind in the big old trees

creaks like an ark.

 

Life is but a Dream by Lewis Carroll

In this piece, Carroll uses juxtaposition in order to emphasize a strange world—that of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The poem is a tribute to the novel and its sequel. He presents images o children walking through life, “Dreaming as the days go by” and then concludes by asking “Life, what is it but a dream?” Here are the fifth and sixth stanzas: 

Children yet, the tale to hear,

Eager eye and willing ear,

Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,

Dreaming as the days go by,

Dreaming as the summers die;

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