‘Dream Land’ by Christina Rossetti is a four stanza poem which has been separated into sets eight lines, or octaves. The octaves are made up of two distinct four-line phrases following the rhyme scheme of aaabcccd. A reader should also take note of how the rhyming pattern matches with the rhythm.
Rossetti has chosen to utilize a strong metrical pattern within the text. Lines 1-3 and 5-7 of each stanza are written in iambic trimeter. This means that they contain three sets of two syllables. The first of these unstressed and the second stressed. The remaining lines, 3 and 6, only contain four syllables. This pattern is continued throughout the entire text.
The coordination between meter and rhyme occurs with the two unrhymed end words. They match up with the two four-syllable lines.
Summary of Dream Land
The poem begins with the speaker describing how a woman she is observing is slipping into a deep and “charmèd sleep.” She must not be woken up or have her peace broken. She is on a quest to find a place where she is far from the world. The speaker takes the reader through a number of elements of the earth that the woman has had to abandon. It has taken a great separation to move beyond the earth.
In the next stanzas, the new mental state of the main character is described. She is facing a new world that is reminiscent of heaven and entering into a world not un-similar to death. The final lines show the woman as having reached her goal. She will now be able to reside in peace for the rest of time.
Analysis of Dream Land
Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmèd sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.
Rossetti’s speaker begins by describing the actions of another in the first stanza. The narration comes from a third person perspective. She is informing the reader of what she knows of a sleeping woman. The main character of the poem has found a way into a “charmèd sleep” somewhere “Where sunless rivers weep.” This location is somewhat magical in what the initial descriptions one is given are of “rivers” separate from the sun that appear to weep. There are also “waves…deep.” Here, the woman is sleeping in a meditative state. The landscape resides entirely within the woman’s mind.
Rossetti’s speaker continues on to warn the listener not to wake the woman up. It is important to help her maintain her transcendent moment.
In the second half of the first stanza of ‘Dream Land’, the speaker describes how the woman is being “Led by a single star.” Her purpose is strongly defined. She is seeking out a place where “shadows are.” It is here she will come upon her “pleasant lot.” While the journey is being described as a physical one, it is taking place entirely within the woman’s mind. At this point, it is important to consider whether the speaker may be describing an experience she had herself. This would explain the access to the woman’s deeply interior thoughts and feelings.
She left the rosy morn,
She left the fields of corn,
For twilight cold and lorn
And water springs.
Through sleep, as through a veil,
She sees the sky look pale,
And hears the nightingale
That sadly sings.
Within the second stanza of ‘Dream Land’, the speaker goes deeper into the woman’s mind at the same time as the woman is sinking deeper into her own mind. In the first lines, she describes how in order for the woman, who may be the speaker herself, to reach this state she had to give things up. It was necessary for her to leave “the rosy mourn” and the “fields of corn.” These are earthbound elements the woman had to let go of. Her destination is too far within herself to care for the physical world.
In addition to these first two elements of the earth she had to forget, there is the “twilight cold and lorn / And water springs.” These words evoke intense sensory experiences. A reader should be able to take in these lines and place themselves in the woman’s position.
While the woman is deep within her own mind, she is still able to “see the sky look pale.” The world is slipping away from her. There are only a few elements that are still able to pierce into her consciousness. One of these is the singling of “the nightingale.” There is a sadness in the song which seems to be serenading her deeper into sleep.
Rest, rest, a perfect rest
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.
She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.
The sleep the woman is entering into is growing heavier. It has moved from her “brow” to her “breast,” taking over her entire body. Her rest is becoming more “perfect.” It is a state that allows the woman to live outside of damaged reality and within the pristine interior of her mind.
The woman is said to be facing “toward the west,” where the sunsets. This allusion is often used to represent death. While the main character may not be dying, she is separating herself so far from reality that it is like death. The “purple land” is where she is headed. This represents a higher, transcendent plane of existence, and once again references death. It is an image of heaven.
In the next four lines, the speaker tells the reader that the woman is no longer able to see the “grain / Ripening on hill and plain.” This is another base element of the physical world she has left behind. Finally, it seems, she is completely separate from the “rain” that is falling “Upon her hand.”
Rest, rest, for evermore
Upon a mossy shore;
Rest, rest at the heart’s core
Till time shall cease:
Sleep that no pain shall wake;
Night that no morn shall break
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.
The final stanza of ‘Dream Land’ takes the reader to the deepest part of the woman’s rest. It is a sleep that will last “evermore.” She will reside “Upon a mossy shore,” in a state of eternal happiness for the rest of time. It has taken this drastic movement into her mind to find a true “rest” at her “heart’s core.” The woman is going to remain there until there is no more “time.”
Her sleep is so deep that no pain, such as that she might’ve normally been bothered by, can touch her.
In the last three lines, the speaker draws the description to a conclusion stating that the “night” the woman is now a part of will never change. Her “peace” is “perfect” and everlasting.