'Dream -Pedlary (excerpt)' by Thomas Lovell Beddoes

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1If there were dreams to sell,
2What would you buy?
3Some cost a passing bell;
4Some a light sigh,
5That shakes from Life's fresh crown
6Only a rose-leaf down.
7If there were dreams to sell,
8Merry and sad to tell,
9And the crier rang the bell,
10What would you buy?

11A cottage lone and still,
12With bowers nigh,
13Shadowy, my woes to still,
14Until I die.
15Such pearl from Life's fresh crown
16Fain would I shake me down.
17Were dreams to have at will,
18This would best heal my ill,
19This would I buy.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Dream -Pedlary (excerpt) by Thomas Lovell Beddoes

Are you a fan of poetry? Do you enjoy the works of the Romantics and their complex, often melancholic musings? If so, then you may want to take a closer look at Thomas Lovell Beddoes' "Poetry, Dream -Pedlary" - a haunting and surreal piece that explores the nature of creativity, imagination, and the power of words to shape our dreams and desires.

At first glance, "Poetry, Dream -Pedlary" may seem like a collection of disjointed images and ideas, arranged in a seemingly-random fashion. But on closer inspection, one can discern a clear pattern and structure to the poem, as Beddoes weaves together various themes and motifs into a complex tapestry of symbols and metaphors.

One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of the poet as a "pedlar of dreams" - a figure who trades in the currency of imagination, selling his wares to those who crave escape from the drudgery and monotony of everyday life. This motif is introduced early on in the poem, as the speaker describes the "pedlar" who "knocks at the door of the brain" and offers his wares to the "sleepers and dreamers" within.

Here, we see the poet as a kind of magician or sorcerer, using his words to transport his audience to other worlds and times. But there is also a sense of danger and ambiguity to this figure, as he is described as both a "palmer" and a "Jew" - two archetypal figures from medieval mythology with both positive and negative connotations.

Throughout the poem, Beddoes plays with this idea of the poet as a magical, transformative force, capable of bridging the gap between reality and imagination. He uses vivid, sensory language to evoke the sensations of dreaming and exploring new worlds, as when he describes the "crimson skies" and "purple seas" that the dreamer encounters on his journey.

But there is also a darker side to this vision of the poet as a "pedlar of dreams," as Beddoes suggests that the act of creation is a kind of theft or violation. He uses the metaphor of the "night-robber" to describe the poet's actions, suggesting that he is taking something from his audience without their permission.

This tension between the creative and destructive impulses of the poet is further explored in the poem's second stanza, which shifts from the dream-like imagery of the first to a more sober, philosophical tone. Here, the speaker meditates on the power of words to shape our thoughts and beliefs, and the responsibility that comes with wielding such a potent tool.

He asks, "Who will believe my verse in time to come?" - a question that speaks to the poet's desire for immortality, but also acknowledges the fragility and transience of human creations. The poem's final lines - "I die, I faint, I fail!" - add a sense of urgency and desperation to this meditation, as the speaker grapples with the knowledge that his words may ultimately be lost to time.

Overall, "Poetry, Dream -Pedlary" is a deeply-layered and complex work of poetry, one that rewards close reading and sustained attention. Beddoes' use of vivid imagery, complex metaphors, and shifting tones and perspectives creates a sense of ambiguity and mystery that invites multiple interpretations and readings.

Whether you read it as a meditation on the nature of creativity, a critique of the Romantic idealization of the poet, or simply a surreal dream-like journey, there is much to appreciate and admire in this haunting and mysterious work.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Thomas Lovell Beddoes’ “Poetry Dream - Pedlary” is a haunting and evocative piece of poetry that explores the themes of creativity, mortality, and the human condition. The poem is a part of Beddoes’ larger work, “Death’s Jest-Book,” which is a collection of poems that explore the darker aspects of human existence. In this analysis, we will delve into the meaning and significance of “Poetry Dream - Pedlary” and explore the ways in which Beddoes uses language and imagery to create a powerful and thought-provoking work of art.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a dream in which he encounters a peddler who is selling “poetry, new and old.” The peddler is described as having “a face like a skull” and is dressed in a “tattered cloak.” This description immediately sets the tone for the poem, as it suggests that the peddler is a symbol of death or mortality. The fact that he is selling poetry also suggests that the poem is going to explore the relationship between creativity and mortality.

As the speaker engages with the peddler, he begins to realize that the poetry being sold is not just any poetry, but rather, it is his own poetry. This realization is both exciting and terrifying for the speaker, as he is confronted with the idea that his own creativity is intimately tied to his mortality. The fact that the peddler is selling his own poetry also suggests that the speaker is grappling with the idea of artistic legacy and the fear of being forgotten after death.

The poem then takes a surreal turn, as the speaker describes the peddler transforming into a “skeleton” and the poetry turning into “dust.” This transformation is a powerful metaphor for the fleeting nature of creativity and the inevitability of death. The fact that the poetry turns to dust suggests that even the most beautiful and profound works of art will eventually be forgotten and lost to time.

Despite the bleakness of this realization, the speaker is not completely defeated. He declares that he will continue to create, even if his work is destined to be forgotten. This declaration is a powerful affirmation of the human spirit and the resilience of the creative impulse. It suggests that even in the face of mortality and the impermanence of art, there is still value in the act of creation.

Throughout the poem, Beddoes uses language and imagery to create a haunting and evocative atmosphere. The use of the peddler as a symbol of death is particularly effective, as it creates a sense of unease and foreboding that permeates the entire poem. The description of the peddler’s face as a “skull” and his cloak as “tattered” also adds to the sense of decay and mortality that runs throughout the poem.

The use of surreal imagery, such as the peddler transforming into a skeleton and the poetry turning to dust, is also effective in creating a sense of unease and disorientation. This imagery suggests that the speaker is grappling with profound existential questions and that his understanding of the world is being fundamentally challenged.

The poem’s use of repetition is also noteworthy. The repeated use of the phrase “poetry, new and old” creates a sense of rhythm and momentum that propels the poem forward. This repetition also emphasizes the idea that creativity is a timeless and universal human impulse that transcends individual lives and legacies.

In conclusion, Thomas Lovell Beddoes’ “Poetry Dream - Pedlary” is a powerful and thought-provoking work of poetry that explores the themes of creativity, mortality, and the human condition. The poem’s use of language and imagery creates a haunting and evocative atmosphere that lingers long after the poem has ended. The poem’s affirmation of the human spirit and the resilience of the creative impulse is a powerful reminder of the enduring value of art and the human capacity for hope and perseverance.

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