The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“A Dream of Governors” is the title poem of a five-part collection of twenty-nine poems. This lyric poem is divided into five stanzas, each composed of eight lines. An epigraph borrowed from poet Mark Van Doren provides the source for the poem’s title: “The deepest dream is of mad governors.” The repetitive use of “dream” in the title and the epigraph suggests a common human experience and a basic framework for the poem. Thus the events occur in a dreamworld in which deeply hidden and subjective thoughts, experiences, wishes, and inner truths surface briefly into consciousness before returning to oblivion. The poem is written in the third person from the standpoint of an objective observer who sees, hears, and feels everything the sleeper does in the dream episode. “A Dream of Governors” also uses the familiar childhood memory of reading or listening to fairy tales. Thus, the first stanza introduces characters and plot suggestive of a typical fantasy. The cast includes a knight and his lady, a dragon, a witch, and a chorus. In this scenario, the knight relives stereotypical plot actions. As a young knight, he travels from far away and accepts the supreme task of combating the city’s local enemy, a dragon. After slaying the monster and routing the witch, the brave hero returns and receives his rewards. Crowned king, he marries the lady and plans to live happily ever after.

The second stanza presents emphatic contradictions. All is not...

(The entire section is 449 words.)