Emily Sinclair, soprano; Kathleen Purcell, flutes; Vanessa Ruotolo, cello; Elizabeth Poole, piano. Text by Edgar Allan Poe.

Click here for a copy of the score.


This poem has a wonderful arc, beginning with a kiss, visiting a roaring ocean and ultimately realizing that life is meaningless, as ephemeral as sand rushing through our hands or as dreams lost within echoes of themselves. This, at least, is Poe’s vision of life: one that is endlessly tense, baleful, fascinating and putrid. We enjoy the shadows once in a while because we’re able to step away from that beautiful desolation, that stench of death. We step back into our bougainvillea filled gardens, our halls filled with flutes, lutes and lullabies, our Lou Harrison with a cup of tea.

A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow! And, in parting from you now, Thus much let me avow -
You are not wrong, who deem That my days have been a dream: Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,
In a vision or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone? All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand Grain of the golden sand - How few! yet how they creep Through my fingers to the deep While I weep – while I weep! O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?