As one of the "Fireside Poets," Longfellow wrote homilies for the "hearth." His poem, "The Slave's Dream" underscores a prevalent theme of his regarding the soul as an immortal force. Thus, death, according to Longfellow, is a beginning, not an end. In the last two lines, the slave's body is a "worn-out fetter" that the soul has discarded as useless--"had broken and thrown away."
The slave gets his freedom at the beginning of the poem. It is not necessarily a good thing, though, because he only gets it by dying.
During the poem, the slave's body is lying there next to the rice, but his soul is flying, seeing his life as it was in the past (or at least seeing what life he might have had in Africa). He is being beaten, but he doesn't feel it. In that sense, he is free, but only because he is dead.
Can anyone tell me the diction (layered meaning) of this poem?