A Dream Within a Dream

I dreamed last night that I had just awakened from a nightmare. Later, I awakened from dreaming that I had awakened. This wasn’t my first such experience with dreams within dreams. Once I gave myself the pinch test to verify that I was awake. I passed the test, but later awakened. Such dreams leave me confused about what being awake means.

I heard a former South African political prisoner say that he survived prison by “becoming a zombie,” and was overwhelmed by such simple things as color when he got out. Noting that people who had never been to prison were practically dead to color, he concluded that they were like the zombie he had been in prison, and that he was one of the few who were awake.

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
Grains 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?

A Dream Within a Dream
Edgar Allen Poe