Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
Was buried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,
He saw his Native Land.

Wide through the landscape of his dreams
The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
Once more a king he strode;
And heard the tinkling caravans
Descend the mountain-road.

He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
Among her children stand;
They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks,
They held him by the hand!–
A tear burst from the sleeper’s lids
And fell into the sand.

And then at furious speed he rode
Along the Niger’s bank;
His bridle-reins were golden chains,
And, with a martial clank,
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel
Smiting his stallion’s flank.

Before him, like a blood-red flag,
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he followed their flight,
O’er plains where the tamarind grew,
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts,
And the ocean rose to view.

At night he heard the lion roar,
And the hyena scream,
And the river-horse, as he crushed the reeds
Beside some hidden stream;
And it passed, like a glorious roll of drums,
Through the triumph of his dream.

The forests, with their myriad tongues,
Shouted of liberty;
And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,
With a voice so wild and free,
That he started in his sleep and smiled
At their tempestuous glee.

He did not feel the driver’s whip,
Nor the burning heat of day;
For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,
And his lifeless body lay
A worn-out fetter, that the soul
Had broken and thrown away!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem THE SLAVE’S DREAM

25 Comments

  1. Marion Keirs says:

    I was introduced to this poem by my primary teacher at Eastern School in Broughty Ferry, Scotland, almost 60 years ago. For me it has lost none of its sadness and beauty.

  2. MIKAN says:

    GR8 POEM….BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES…………

  3. MIKAN says:

    THIS POEM IS ONE OF THE MOST BEUTIFUL , AND TOUCHING POEMS I HAVE EVER READ …………….
    TEARS CAME TO MY EYES AFTER READING THIS POEM………

  4. joshua says:

    the analysis of this poem is the problem with slavery in the 1800s. the slave ‘sleeping’ was just and illusion of life, it sounds more like he past into a coma before he died, i’ve read this poem quite alot and i still don’t get the full meaning of it, if anybody could try to explain the rest of the poem to me I would be very greatful.

  5. Sajana says:

    In this poem we can see a shift from reality to imagination.Here slavery(or bontage) stands for reality and freedom stands for imagination.Freedom is only the dream of the slave.

Leave a Reply to MIKAN Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.