Please give a summary of "The Slave's Dream."

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem is written in 8 6-line stanzas with a regular rhyme scheme of ABCBDB. The focus of the poem in the first stanza is a slave who lies in a rice plantation, sickle in his hand, and is clearly in a bad physical state, as his "matted hair" is buried by the sand. However, it is suggested that he is dreaming or losing consciousness, and in this state, he is able to "return," to his home land. The middle six stanzas form the focus of this reverie or metaphorical "return."

He is able to return to his former state before he became a slave, striding "once more a King" as he surveys his realm, and he returns to his "dark eyed queen" and their children. As they embrace him in love, a tear falls from the eye of the slave. The next three stanzas focus on a presentation of Africa's flora and fauna as the slave is shown to be riding on his horse along the banks of the Niger. As he goes, he sees "bright flamingoes" and hears various animals make their sounds, such as the lion roaring. The penultimate stanza reinforces the freedom and liberty that he enjoyed in his home environment, as the forests "shouted of liberty" and the cry of the desert is that of freedom as well.

The last stanza, however, returns to the slave lying in his plantation and the reality of his present life, citing the "driver's whip" and the conditions he had to work under by talking about "the burning heat of day." The poem ends by telling us that he has died during the course of his dream, and his body is now like "a worn-out fetter" discarded by the soul. Thus the poem presents slavery as a cruel, dehumanising force by showing us the kind of freedom that slaves enjoyed before being taken.