Does the poem, "A Dream Within a Dream," by Edgar Allan Poe contain anastrophe, metonymy, synechdoche, or hyperbole?

1 Answer

I'll vote for the presence of anastrophe in order to enhance the overall hyperbole.


Here's the text of the poem:

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Do we have:

  • anastrophe?

This is where nouns and adjectives swap places so as to add impact. And yes, there is. "Surf-tormented shore". "Golden sand". "Pitiless wave".

  • metonymy?

This is where we substitute in a word for something with another word with which it's closely related (for example, saying an announcement is coming from Buckingham Palace instead of from a representative of Queen Elizabeth). In this case, I don't think it's in the Poe poem.

  • synecdoche?

This is where we use a part of a whole to refer to the whole (for example, saying "get your feet moving" is actually referring to you getting ready and doing what you need to do). I don't think I see any in this poem.

  • hyperbole?

This is the classic overstatement (for example "I can't eat another bite" means you are very full). Is the entire poem hyperbole? The first stanza is, I think, referring to a realization that nothing is real - it's the crashing down of hope in the face of reality being found to be not real. And the second stanza goes on to talk about how he can't even keep a grain of sand safe - it will drop back into the ocean - again, the reality of something so simple as trying to hold onto something and not being able to (that safety and security is an illusion).

And so I'll vote for the presence of anastrophe in order to enhance the overall hyperbole.