H.W. Longfellow’s Poems on Slavery are said to be “so mild that even a Slaveholder might read them without losing his appetite for breakfast”. The Slave’s Dream is about a series of dreams of a victim of slavery during the 19th century.
The physical image of a slave is portrayed through the first stanza of the poem. He is tired from the all work that he has to do on the fields and falls asleep. This last dreaming slumber gives way to a series of oneirisms which reflects the desires of his waking life.
The phrases “ungathered rice” and “sickle in his hand” indicates that his assigned task is left incomplete by him due to his immense fatigue. His bare breast represents the barrenness of his life as a slave and his matted hair “buried” in the sand symbolizes death slowly creeping over his exhausted body. As he sleeps, he sees his once again “Native Land” in his dream.
From the second stanza onwards, his dream is described vividly by the poet. We come to know from the phrase “lordly Niger” that his native land was Africa. “Once more a king he strode” makes us guess that perhaps he was the King of a tribe of his land. In his sleep, he once again relives the days of his freedom and he almost hears the “tinkling caravans/ Descend the mountain road”.
The third stanza introduces us to his family. He misses his “dark-eyed queen” and his children. He dreams of how they would clasp his neck, kiss his cheeks and hold him by his hand. Such is the intensity of his dream that he cries in his sleep and a futile tear drops on to the sand and is absorbed.
In the fourth stanza, we see how he perceives his life as a free man. He sees himself riding a horse at a “furious speed”, with golden chains as bridle-reins and warrior- like he smites his sword on his stallion’s flanks.
The fifth stanza is a continuation of the fourth as he sees himself following the flight of flamingos over...