Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“A Dream of Governors” is a poem about the human condition, about the governors, the rational and irrational desires and ideas that control human actions. In another sense, it is also about poetic vision, about Simpson’s early efforts to demonstrate his way of seeing, feeling, understanding, and transmitting the meaning that he sees in the actions and experiences in people’s lives. By juxtaposing the literal details and interrelationships of ordinary people in unusual patterns (dreams and fairy tales), Simpson shows the outer event as well as the inner truth of the experiences, the hidden reality behind the experiences.

One of the basic desires controlling human actions is the conscious need for feelings of worth, honor, and self-validation gained from societal approval or rewards for deeds accomplished. The young knight who wants to become a hero by slaying the evil dragon, receiving a king’s crown, and marrying his lady exemplifies this basic desire, the wish fulfillment promised in a dream or fairy tale. Likewise, contemporary people also have the same ambition to overcome their personal, competitive dragons and become successful heroes. They, too, dream that their endeavors will merit constant rewards, honor, and praise. Analogously, both fairy-tale heroes and modern people suffer frustration, rejection, and self-doubt when their valiant efforts are only a distant memory and not a constant presence in society’s mind, and both suffer when...

(The entire section is 486 words.)