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Christina Rossetti's "Dream Land"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Christina Rossetti

Introduction and Text of "Dream Land"

Christina Rossetti's classic work, "Dream Land," features four octaves, each of which is structured by combining two quatrains with a unique rime-scheme, AAABCCCD. This unusual structure melds with the theme in nearly perfect ambience. The speaker dramatizes an experience amazingly similar to samadhi, the ineffable state of consciousness wherein the individual realizes Bliss (God-union).

Many of Rossetti's poems demonstrate an elevated consciousness that led the poet to descriptions of blissful states of mind. These rare individuals usually are found to have spent a great deal of time alone in contemplation. Another example is Emily Dickinson, who is widely noted to have lived a cloistered life.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Dream Land

Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.

She left the rosy morn,
She left the fields of corn,
For twilight cold and lorn
And water springs.
Through sleep, as through a veil,
She sees the sky look pale,
And hears the nightingale
That sadly sings.

Rest, rest, a perfect rest
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.
She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.

Rest, rest, for evermore
Upon a mossy shore;
Rest, rest at the heart's core
Till time shall cease:
Sleep that no pain shall wake;
Night that no morn shall break
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.

Reading of Rossetti's "Dream Land"

Commentary

The description of the state of consciousness portrayed in Rossetti's "Dream Land" lends itself remarkably to a close yogic interpretation, as do many of her poems.

First Stanza: Unattached Experience

Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.

The speaker declaims in third person, as if reporting the experience of someone else. The reader, however, may infer that the experience, in fact, belongs to the speaker. In the first quatrain, the speaker likens her meditative awareness to "sunless rivers" whose waters are sinking into the depth of the ocean. The speaker maintains that this "sleep"—a metaphor for meditation—is a "charmed sleep." It is charmed because it reveals a deep superconscious awareness that engenders absolute peace. The speaker then admonishes anyone who would try to disturb her, "Awake her not."

The speaker wishes to preserve this meditative state as long as she can. In deep meditation, the advanced yoga devotee sees the spiritual eye in the forehead, a white star engulfed in blue inside a golden circle of light. The speaker says, "Led by a single star, / She came from very far." This "single star" refers to the spiritual eye. The speaker reports that she "came from very far / To seek where shadows are / Her pleasant lot." She has prayed and meditated deeply in order to arrive at her goal, "her pleasant lot."

Second Stanza: Relinquishing Worldly things

She left the rosy morn,
She left the fields of corn,
For twilight cold and lorn
And water springs.
Through sleep, as through a veil,
She sees the sky look pale,
And hears the nightingale
That sadly sings.

The speaker confirms that in order to gain her consciousness of inner awareness, she had to give up outward, worldly things; thus, she "left the rosy morn, / She left the fields of corn." The speaker exchanged these things, which also represent the earth (coccygeal) center in the lower spine, for the solitude of "twilight" where she can hear the water sound of the sacral center.

The speaker's consciousness is traveling upward from the lower centers of the spine. As her awareness evolves, she seems to be peering "through a veil" seeing the color of the "sky," again representing the spiritual eye, made pale. The speaker "hears the nightingale," which probably indicates that she is still aware of the earth center.

Third Stanza: Meditative Peace

Rest, rest, a perfect rest
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.
She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.

The speaker then avers that the feeling she is experiencing is that of "a perfect rest" that has spread from her "brow" and over her "breast" and thus the rest of the physical person. She metaphorically faces the west, seeing "the purple land," while her consciousness continues to deepen.

Averring that she "cannot see the grain" nor can she "feel the rain / Upon her hand," the speaker demonstrates that her physical body has become unresponsive to physical stimuli.

Fourth Stanza: Deep Rest

Rest, rest, for evermore
Upon a mossy shore;
Rest, rest at the heart's core
Till time shall cease:
Sleep that no pain shall wake;
Night that no morn shall break
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.

The speaker revels in the peace she is experiencing and longs to remain in this state of consciousness. Likening her comfort to reclining on "a mossy shore," she implies that her heart is comforted by a rest so deep it extends to "the heart's core."

The speaker hopes to remain in this consciousness "till time shall cease." Intuitively, the speaker senses that nothing can disturb her in this state of mind: "no pain shall wake" her from this "sleep," and this kind of "night" shall not be interrupted by morning. The only ending will be "joy" surpassing her "perfect peace."

Christina Rossetti

Questions & Answers

Question: When was "Dream Land" first published?

Answer: It appeared in the collection Goblin Market in 1862.

Question: Why is the title of Christina's Rosetti's poem "Dream Land"?

Answer: The speaker is describing and dramatizing an experience amazingly similar to samadhi, the ineffable state of consciousness wherein the individual realizes Bliss (God-union). However, the title is "Dream Land," not "dreamland."

Question: Does Christina Rossetti's poem, "Dream Land," represent her customary theme?

Answer: Yes, it does. Many of Rossetti's poems demonstrate an elevated consciousness that led the poet to descriptions of blissful states of mind. These rare individuals usually are found to have spent a great deal of time alone in contemplation. Another example is Emily Dickinson, who is widely noted to have lived a cloistered life.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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