The Land of Dreams

William Blake

In ‘The Land of Dreams,’ William Blake depicts a conversation between a father and his son. These two will talk about a dream that the little boy had.

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William Blake

Nationality: England

William Blake was one of the greatest artistic and literary geniuses of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Notable works include 'The Tyger,' 'The Schoolboy,' 'The Lamb,' 'A Poison Tree,' and 'London.'

The author establishes the Land of Dreams as a space that imparts knowledge and experience. This dream space reflects, similarly, the longing for transcendence as well as a yearning for happiness. Also, the Land of Dreams, functions as a halfway expanse, a passage. In this intermediate space, imagination is the path to learn and to experience things that can’t be encountered in the everyday world. Therefore, ‘The Land of Dreams’ shows a tension between the dream, with its own space and peculiarities, and the daytime.

The tone of this poem is very nostalgic as it is always portraying a place that can no longer be reached. Both the father and the kid are constantly longing to return to that beautiful scenario that brought them joy. The poem has 5 stanzas with 4 lines each which have an AABB rhyme scheme.

The Land of Dreams
William Blake

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.

"O, what land is the Land of Dreams?What are its mountains, and what are its streams?O Father, I saw my Mother there,Among the lillies by waters fair.

Among the lambs clothed in whiteShe walked with her Thomas in sweet delight.I wept for joy, like a dove I mourn -O when shall I return again?"

Dear child, I also by pleasant streamsHave wandered all night in the Land of Dreams;But though calm and warm the waters wide,I could not get to the other side.

"Father, O Father, what do we here,In this land of unbelief and fear?The Land of Dreams is better farAbove the light of the Morning Star."

The Land of Dreams Analysis

Stanza One

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.

This stanza starts with an utterance from the father. He tries to wake up his son as he is dreaming and he, on the other hand, is awake. The moment of the awakening will be very significant throughout the poem. This waking up will denote the transition between the beauty of the dream and the dismay of the daytime. There will always be a longing for the dream; a constant yearning to return to this dreamlike space. Notice, also, that the father states that this little boy was his “Mother’s only joy”. This suggests that the mother died and that she had a very special relationship with the little boy as he was her “only joy”. Moreover, the capitalization of the names “Boy”, “Father”, and “Mother” is important as the designations will earn higher importance with this emphasis. Capitalization will appear throughout the poem and they will be significant for the importance of the terms.

Stanza Two

“O, what land is the Land of Dreams?

What are its mountains, and what are its streams?

O Father, I saw my Mother there,

Among the lillies by the water fair.

The poem has a Dialogic structure as the verses will follow the conversation between the father and the son, taking turns and focusing on each one as they speak. In this stanza, the child wakes up and answers his father. He talks about his dream as a particular place which he will name the Land of Dreams. He will then describe its landscape. Furthermore, the little boy will tell his father that he saw his mother in this dreamlike space and that she was situated in a very particular and poetic space as she was “Among the lillies by the water fair”. Here the description of the Land of Dreams starts to be more vivid. The boy describes the place as a natural scenario, as he talks about mountains, streams, and flowers. This first characterization depicts the Land of Dreams as an idyllic space not only because of the landscape, but because of the presence of his mother.

Stanza Three

Among the lambs clothed in white

She walked with her Thomas in sweet delight.

I wept for joy, like a dove I mourn

O when shall I return again?”

In this third stanza, the little boy continues talking about the Land of Dreams. He continues describing the place as an archaic one, similar to those known as locus amoenus. The picture of the lambs gives the impression of this idyllic natural space. Moreover, the boy tells his father that he walked with her “in sweet delight”. The Land of Dreams is a space where the boy can reunite with his dead mother. The boy, then, says that he cried for joy, as he was incredibly glad to see his mother and expresses his wish to go back again. The reader can deduce that the little boy wants to go back to the Land of Dreams because of the beautiful scenery and because of his mother. The Land of Dreams is described as an ideal space where the boy can fulfill his ultimate wish which is to reunite with his mother. Also, notice the images that are constantly created by William Blake which involve movement between lighter images and darker images.

Stanza Four

Dear child, I also by pleasant streams

Have wandered all night in the Land of Dreams;

But though calm and warm the waters wide,

I could not get to the other side.

In this stanza, the father answers the boy’s account of the place. He says that he has been to the Land of dreams and he corroborates the beauty of the place. The father also describes the place as “pleasant” and displays similar imagery to the one in his son’s description. The father also says that he has been wandering through the Land of Dreams and that he could not get to the other side. This means that his father couldn’t have an experience like his son had; he couldn’t undergo an encounter as his son did. The poem doesn’t say what the father might have been looking for on the other side of the waters, but it says that he couldn’t cross them meaning that he couldn’t find what he wanted.

In William Blake’s poems, adults are represented as corrupted, portraying the impossibility of experience. According to the author’s vision, adults are contaminated with everyday life despairs and can’t experience moments or occurrences as well as children, who are not as corrupted as adults. Here the father and the child represent William Blake’s vision of the experience of adulthood and childhood. In this poem, the kid is the one who is able to go and experience the Land of Dreams while the father goes to the place, but is not able to undergo an experience similar to the one his son had. In fact, the father doesn’t find the experience of the Land of Dreams as fulfilling as his son had, as he couldn’t sense anything more than the scenery.

Stanza Five

“Father, O Father, what do we here,

In this land of unbelief and fear?

The Land of Dreams is better far

Above the light of the Morning Star.”

In this last stanza, the child talks one last time. He asks his father why they are still there, in the daytime, as the Land of Dreams, the dreams, are much better. The little boy accentuates, once again, the difference between dreaming and the everyday life. He even calls the daytime as the land “of unbelief and fear” meaning that only bad things could happen. The boy depicts the location of the Land of dreams as a faraway place, referring to the “Morning Star”. So, after waking up and leaving his dream, the boy finds in his vision the possibility of looking for another place or another world; a different place from the one he is with his father in the daytime.

About William Blake

William Blake was a poet from the late 18th century and early 19th century. The poem ‘The Land of Dreams’ was written in 1800. William Blake was a remarkable poet who showed throughout his texts a desire for liberty emphasizing the individual. He also had a special appreciation for the natural world and everything that lived in it. William Blake was also a painter and printmaker. He wasn’t recognized during his lifetime but he is now considered one of the first and most significant poets of the Pre-Romantic and Romantic Movement. Furthermore, William Blake wrote some texts known as his “prophetic works” which are very significant and renowned.

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Julieta Abella Poetry Expert
Julieta has a BA and a MA in Literature and joined the Poem Analysis team back in May 2017. She has a great passion for poetry and literature and works as a teacher and researcher at Universidad de Buenos Aires.
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