Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Dream-Land,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 342-347 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 342:]


This is one of Poe's most famous poems, a favorite with anthologists; it includes one of his most quoted lines, “Out of Space, out of Time.” Quinn (pp. 415f.) says it has “inevitability,” and “produces the effect of vastness and desolation by ... denying limitations.” Like “Lenore” and many other poems of Poe's later years, it adopts an elaborate metrical scheme, including the refrain — a feature made less striking in the first revision.

It seems to me to be founded on experience, and it is exactly what its title suggests, a description of the world of dreams. There all of us meet phantoms of the real and unreal, of the dead and the living. Nothing is inconsistent with this in the poem. Notable is the absence of true color: the lilies are white, the woods are gray; in dreams by night many sleepers see no colors.

Richard Wilbur suggests to me that Poe's inspiration was in Paradise Lost, II, 890-896:

Before their eyes in sudden view appear

The secrets of the hoary deep, a dark

Illimitable Ocean without bound,

Without dimension, where length, breadth, and highth,

And time and place are lost; where eldest Night

And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold

Eternal anarchy ...

There are at least two foreshadowings of “Dream-Land” in descriptions of dreams in Poe's tales, the first in “Hans Pfaall” (1835): [page 343:]

Now there were hoary and time-honored forests, and craggy precipices, and waterfalls tumbling with a loud noise into abysses without a bottom ... still noonday solitudes where no wind of heaven ever intruded, and where vast meadows of poppies, and slender, lily-looking flowers spread themselves out ... all silent and motionless for ever ... [Elsewhere] it was all one dim and vague lake, with a boundary-line of clouds.

The other is in the second chapter of “Arthur Gordon Pym” (1838): “Immensely tall trunks of trees ... rose up ... as far as the eye could reach ... in wide-spreading morasses, whose dreary water lay intensely black, still, and altogether terrible, beneath. And the strange trees ... were crying to the silent waters...” There are close similarities also in “Fairyland,” “The Sleeper,” and “Ulalume.”(1)


(A) Graham's Magazine for June 1844 (25:256); (B) Broadway Journal, June 28, 1845 (1:407); (C) The Raven and Other Poems (1845), pp. 18-20; (D) Griswold's Poets and Poetry of America, 10th edition (1850), p. 420; (E) J. Lorimer Graham copy of The Raven ... with changes of the summer of 1849; (F) Richmond Examiner, October 23, 1849; (G) Works (1850), II, 41-43.

The Examiner text (F), which is a companion piece to the final text of “The Raven,” is followed. Its reading in line 42 seems to me a definite improvement, although the J. Lorimer Graham changes (E), which are also very late, differ slightly. J. H. Whitty, who discovered the Examiner text, in Complete Poems (1911), p. 217, gave its date incorrectly, and described a misprint in line 50 not to be found in the original paper in the Virginia Historical Society, which I follow. A manuscript in the Huntington Library, wherein Night has a “red throne,” is not regarded as authentic.


By a route obscure and lonely,

Haunted by ill angels only,


Where an Eidolon, named Night,

On a black throne reigns upright, [page 344:]


I have reached these lands but newly



From an ultimate dim Thule —

From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,


Out of Space — out of Time.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,



And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,

With forms that no man can discover



For the dews that drip all over;


Mountains toppling evermore


Into seas without a shore;


Seas that restlessly aspire,

Surging, unto skies of fire;

Lakes that endlessly outspread

Their lone waters — lone and dead, —

Their still waters — still and chilly


With the snows of the lolling lily.



By the lakes that thus outspread

Their lone waters, lone and dead, —

Their sad waters, sad and chilly

With the snows of the lolling lily, —



By the mountains — near the river

Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever, —

By the grey woods, — by the swamp

Where the toad and the newt encamp, —


By the dismal tarns and pools


Where dwell the Ghouls, —

By each spot the most unholy —

In each nook most melancholy, —

There the traveller meets aghast


Sheeted Memories of the Past —


Shrouded forms that start and sigh

As they pass the wanderer by —


White-robed forms of friends long given,


In agony, to the Earth — and Heaven. [page 345:]



For the heart whose woes are legion


’Tis a peaceful, soothing region —


For the spirit that walks in shadow


O! it is an Eldorado!

But the traveller, travelling through it,


May not — dare not openly view it;



Never its mysteries are exposed


To the weak human eye unclosed;


So wills its King, who hath forbid


The uplifting of the fringed lid;

And thus the sad Soul that here passes




Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,

Haunted by ill angels only,

Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,

On a black throne reigns upright,



I have wandered home but newly


From this ultimate dim Thule.


[page 345, continued:]


6  Thule / Thulé (D)

12  dews / tears (E)

13  Mountains / Fountains (B)

21  Before this lines 1-4 are repeated, followed by:

I have reached my home but newly

From this ultimate dim Thule. (A)

25  mountains / mountain (A, B)

38  the Earth / the worms (A, B); earth (D)

39  Before this lines 1-4 are repeated, followed by:

I have journeyed home but newly

From this ultimate dim Thule. (A)

42  O! it is / ’Tis — oh 'tis (all others)

45  mysteries / mysterics (misprint B)

46  unclosed / enclosed (misprint B)

47  its King / the King (A, B)

48  fringed / fringéd (A, E)

50  darkened / darken’d (D)

55  wandered / wander’d (D)

56  Thule / Thulé (D)

[page 345, continued:]


3  An eidolon is a phantom; there is no reason to identify Night with Death here.

6  Thulé was the Greek name for an island north of Britain. Its stock epithet is from Vergil, Georgics, I, 30, “ultima Thule.” Poe's use is purely figurative here and in “The Pit and the Pendulum.” [page 346:]

8  The phrase “out of space, out of time” is a familiar quotation, sometimes applied with partial justice to Poe's poetry. Oddly enough, I find the expression in transposed order — “out of time, out of space” — in the fifth paragraph of Emerson's “Divinity School Address” (1838), where Poe may have seen it, if he glanced at that celebrated document. Whether he did or not, the form Poe used is more memorable in a striking way.

10  The Titans were gigantic predecessors of the Olympian gods, whom they vainly defied. The word “titanic” conveys the ideas of age, great size, and struggle. There are Titanic cypress trees in “Ulalume.”

12  In text E, the change makes the line identical with “Fairy-Land” [II] (1829), line 4.

14  “Seas without shore” are a commonplace in poetry.

21-27  Killis Campbell (Poems, p. 245) compares to these lines the song of the Echoes in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, II, i, 200-202:

By the forests, lakes, and fountains

Thro’ the many-folded mountains;

To the rents, and gulphs, and chasms ...

29-30  Ghouls are haunters of graveyards in Eastern lore; they appear again in “Ulalume” and “The Bells.”

34  There is an interesting parallel in the forty-fifth stanza of the first canto of Henry B. Hirst's “Endymion” (first published in the Southern Literary Messenger for July 1844):

The sheeted shadows of old stories, buried

Long in his memory, weird, and wan, and pale,

Rose, and with solemn wail

Told how of Old were demons, who had hurried

At night from blackest caves, with spells to win

Man's erring soul to sin.

These lines may be the result of Poe's “collaboration” — for Poe and Hirst were much together when “Dream-Land” and “Endymion” were probably composed.

37  See Revelation 6:11, “And white robes were given unto every one” of the saints.

39  See Mark 5:9, where the unclean spirit said, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”

41  Reference is made to the Twenty-third Psalm. Poe used as motto to his story “Shadow,” the phrase “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow,” the translation preferred by many of the learned.

41-42  The rhyming of “Eldorado” and “shadow” again occurs in Poe's poem “Eldorado” of 1849. He used the name El Dorado for “the place of heart's desire” in his “Letter to B———” of 1831.

44  Compare the last paragraph of “Shadow,” for “But we ... having seen the shadow ... dared not steadily behold it.” [page 347:]

50  See I Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.”


[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 343:]

1  in Scribner's Monthly for October 1875, F. G. Fairfield absurdly declared the source of Poe's “Dream-Land” to be in Lucian of Samosata's “Island of Dreams.” By this he clearly meant a famous passage in Vera Historia, II, 33-35. There are no close similarities at all. The chief divinities of “The Island of Dreams” are Night and the Cock, and its king is Sleep. The word “eidolon” is not used in the original Greek.




-p. 345, line 53: named / name (misprint) [This correction is noted by Burton R. Pollin in his copy of TOM's edition of the Poems]

-p. 346, in notes to line 41-42: El Dorada / Eldorado (misprint, or unnoted editorial correction) (in “Letter to B———,” Poe uses the two-part form, not the single name, as TOM gives it)


[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Dream-Land)