Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 546

The function of time plays a key role in “Dream Horse.” In his quest for creative fulfillment, the speaker finds his daily life mundane and tiresome. The reality that is founded on real time is viewed as restrictive. The speaker desires to remove himself from his reality and its measured systems and to enter a more abstract dimension, best represented by his dreamworld. His vision brings him into contact with a temporal, chaotic state that supplies the speaker with a supernatural creative energy, something that suggests an otherworldly state in which normal time does not function. Poetic knowledge is gained by his contact with the dream state, but the speaker’s desire to remove himself from the confines of time is not entirely possible. One way that the speaker can reach a place unaffected by time is through the immortality of his lines. Poetry itself is the product of his contact with another realm, and poetry is the way for the speaker to transcend his mortality.

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Clearly, “Dream Horse” possesses a strong oneiric, or dream-related, element. The speaker vacillates between his depressing everyday existence, a life that offers little but decay and disintegration, and the power of his dream state, an abstract realm that can be life-sustaining and regenerative as well as chaotic. The speaker’s reality is not a pleasant one. He finds little with which to entertain himself except his own “looking-glass image.” He listens to the solutions offered to him without much faith. His troubling life can never be rewarding, so he must reach beyond its boundaries. The speaker’s quest for “a symmetrical time beyond measure” indicates that the downward spiral into disintegration might be preventable. His creative quest leads him to a place that brings a guarded hope. The poem moves from despair to elation and introspection as the speaker undergoes a subtle transformation. Regeneration is possible, especially regeneration through the creative act. At the conclusion of the poem, the speaker’s pronouncement indicates that he might be able to end the cycle of decay and bring a renewal of spirit to himself and humankind.

The power of creativity is apparent in the poem. The speaker seeks a state that will free him from an unproductive life, but his desire to rid himself of his life’s bonds is not an end in itself: The speaker desires a union with a state that will permit him to create. His early solipsism is not an indication that he desires only a hedonistic escape from his meaningless existence. His intent is to add to life rather than to subtract from it. His supernatural nighttime experience is the wellspring of his creative energy. He seeks to bring this force, if he can control it, to bear on his creative work.

The quest of the speaker parallels humankind’s quest. He longs to find meaning in a confusing world, and although the speaker’s quest is tied to the imagination and creativity, one of his goals is to achieve philosophical insight. This desire to locate a realm outside conventional reality is not unusual—ultimately, the speaker’s desire to find something that will enrich his life and art reflects humankind’s fundamental (and universal) desire to find meaning and illumination in a confusing modern world.

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