Romance and Illusion in ‘In a dream she meets him again’

In ‘In a dream she meets him again’, Maura Dooley, through a third person narrator, attempts to reconstruct memories of a dream in which a female falls in love. The brief romance between the pair – through the bucolic countryside setting – is indeed proven beautiful and verging on ethereal. However, tone of pathos is created as we learn that the romance was purely illusionary and thus cannot be rekindled in the real world.

Through the idyllic pastoral setting of the countryside, Dooley presents the romantic emotions shared by the pair as both beautiful and genuine. There is a semantic field of natural imagery throughout the poem (‘trees’ ‘leaves’ ‘bubbles’) used to convey the simplicity of the love to the pair. One compelling example of this is the opening line, as trees are personified as they ‘shake their leaves’, a technique used by the poet to suggest that even the natural world is celebrating and praising the love felt by the couple. Indeed, this moment could be read as mirroring the tendency of a marriage audience to shower the bride and groom in confetti, thus highlighting the deep emotional bonds between the couple, an idea furthered by the poet’s frequent use of alliteration: from the alliterated ‘l’ connecting ‘loveliest’ and ‘leaves’ to the fricatives linking ‘fresh’ and ‘face’, used to convey the intensity of the emotional connection between the pair. The countryside setting is continued through the setting detail of the ‘red and gold of dusk’ that anoints the pair, with the rich colours acting as emblems of the beauty of love which demands to be treasured.

Nonetheless, the setting of ‘dusk’- as the end of a day- perhaps hints at an unfortunate end to the relationship as the dreamer awakes, and this is mirrored in the form of the poem- the use of free verse, adding a degree of uncertainty to the love of the pair, with the frequent use of enjambment hinting at its inevitable decline of the relationship as time continues. Indeed, the countryside setting is coupled and juxtaposed with antithetical descriptions of the material world throughout the poem, as the male figure tilts a glass ‘at a book or film’, used to warn the lovers that the outside world will eventually corrupt their relationship. To separate this moment through medial caesura from the phrase ‘at life itself’ suggests that the love felt between the pair- however fleeting, is still deserving of respect due to its intensity. Highlighting this is the superlative ‘loveliest’ used to describe the springtime season suggesting that their love has reached the peak of flourishing, with the setting of spring conveying a sense of romantic innocence- suggesting a lack of faults or issues within their relationship. Whilst Dooley’s poetic choice to frame the poem through reference to the female character through personal pronoun ‘she’ in the title and final line might be seen to foreshadow the inevitable dissolution of her relationship with the male character, to position descriptions of the romanticised dreamscape at the heart of the poem implies that such deep emotions will remain with her even after she awakes.

Still, the poet seems to imply throughout the verse that the love between the pair will never truly be able to progress into the future. This is foregrounded through the poet’s use of a the form of a single stanza used to suggest that the love will remain stagnant and unprogressive as contained within a dreamscape. Drawing attention to this is the syntax of the title in which lexis ‘dream’ prefigures ‘she’ and ‘him’ referring to the characters, suggesting that their relationship will eventually be shattered due to its status as a mere dream. This is further represented through the poet’s use of a third person voice to describe the relationship, perhaps reflecting the woman’s objective reflections on the dream having woken, suggesting that she will never truly reconnect with the romance kindled during the dream.

The brief movement into first person in the final line’s ‘Remember me?’ therefore is particularly interesting in its deterioration from this objective perspective, suggesting that the love will transcend into her reality- and to position this moment emphatically on the closing line implies that the love will remain with her in future scenarios. The invocation ‘o, o’ is indicative of the speaker’s desire to re-capture the details of the romantic memories, and yet that it is written in lower case suggests that said memories are fading almost to the point of non-existence. Furthermore, the use of a triple sentence breaks from the lack of punctuation of the rest of the stanza- suggesting that whilst memories of the dream will fade, the poet’s recollection of the deep love between the pair will not, with the conditional ‘maybe’ offering a glimmer of hope for the future of their love.

Dooley in ‘In a dream she meets him again’ explores a romantic relationship within the setting of an idyllic dreamscape. Whilst the relationship begun between the pair is proven to disappear as the speaker wakes, the intensely romantic emotions are presented as able to transcend the barriers of dream. Such sensations, poignant in their own way, remain with the female character in the transition into reality.