Please explain "I Dream'd in a Dream" by Walt Whitman. Is there rhyme, rhythm, consonance, assonance, imagery or other poetic devices?  

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In I Dream’d in a Dream by American poet Walt Whitman he is discussing a city where there is peace and harmony – a city that is protected from the judgemental attacks of others in society. Whitman talks of this city, which is really a reference to a society and culture anywhere where freedom of expression is honored, whether others agree with one’s views and opinions or not. This dream is a manifestation of the hope that lies within Walt Whitman. It is a hope that he wishes to be a reality everywhere. In fact, this could relate to actual physical cities worldwide, where residents at least respect others no matter their differences and where citizens protect their neighbours as a matter of decency.

Whitman talks of a “new city of Friends.” This is an ideal not always prevalent in today’s often selfish society, where it seems the norm is competition and “looking out for number 1” - the self. Strong love is the predominant characteristic of this city or more accurately society. The city represents a more philosophical view, although, as I state above, the goal in society is for all cities, towns, and such to be this way. I guess it is the quest for that elusive utopian society.

To Whitman, Love is the number one quality and all other qualities are subordinate to it. Not only is Love the ultimate to Whitman, it has to be a “quality” Love to earn this regard, not a superficial love or “luv” to use pop-culture terminology.

This is a free verse poem and there is no end rhyme utilized in "I Dream'd in a Dream." There is a rhythm to the poem and this is achieved through the line breaks, where Walt Whitman chooses to end a line, and on what word, and how the thought flows to the next sentence.

Rhythm is also achieved with the varying line lengths and the slight pauses a reader will make when he or she comes to the end of a line. Rhythm is also achieved with the repeated use of the words “I dream’d”, “dream”, as well as “city.”

Alliteration is used in line number one with the phrase “I dream’d in a dream.” This is the repetition of initial consonant sounds, in this case the letter “d.” In addition, assonance is also achieved here, identical vowel sounds with the vowels “eam” in “dream’d” and “dream.”

Mood is a poetic device. Whitman sets the mood from the get-go, talking of this splendid city that he wishes humankind would aspire to – one where people are not sniping and attacking one another.

Symbolism is achieved in this poem as well. The “city” symbolizes an ideal condition in an ideal society where human relationships are harmonious and where, essentially, the Golden Rule is practiced. It may seem trite to say this, but this is at the heart of what Walt Whitman is saying when he states that “I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth.”

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Walt Whitman reveals different types of love in his Leaves of Grass collection. I Dream'd in a Dream is from the Calamus poems and discusses man's love for man as opposed to his love for woman. "Robust love" is required in order to complete the person and a man cannot be whole without it because, as he says, "it led the rest." Whitman's tendencies and his desire to express his passion for men creates or leads to the ideal for him. Using straight-forward language and "free verse," Whitman basically dreams of a perfect democratic society which is "invincible to the attacks of... the rest of the earth" and which creates a "new city of Friends." His capitalization of "Friends" and his new invincibility reveal a desire to not be judged and to find harmony.

The rhythm and lyrical quality of I Dream'd in a Dream comes from the repetition as "I dream'd" and the "city" to which Whitman refers is figurative and is a state of being and, of course, is not a city at all.  Strong words - "invincible" and "robust" give it a determination, despite being so short and to the point, that must not be overlooked.