The Dream Within a Dream

If in my dreams I may perceive myself to be

One who walks among gods and angels,

Or flies as free as the owl between midnight trees,

Or that I dine at the tables of the wealthy and elite,

That I love with all my heart famous kings and queens –

Then can it be true to say I have experienced all this

In an essence, as though I were fully awake?


And what if, when I awake, I suddenly understand

That the reality I inhabit is one where I stand

Among devils and thieves, that I am incarcerated

Like the canary in a cage against my will;

That I pluck bones from poor broth with fellow proles

Ten pounds the heavier for the sweat and the dust

That clings to our skin from a day’s gruelling toil,

And that my only love is the common rose?


Yet, what if I awaken once again, hark!

And I newly understand that I was in fact still dreaming

All along, all along, all along, a dream within a dream!

A false awakening dripping with promises and dewdrops

Of a dawn revealed to be not what it seemed; and I –

Neither rich nor poor, but liberated by the twin-faced mirror

And double-edged sword reflecting the extremes

Of all my desires wrapped up in a dream within a dream.


05:05. As I look into the mirror while brushing my teeth

I think to myself…

This day is as fresh as when I was a child and first learned

To walk and string pearls of words to the necklace of sentences:

That I am the architect of my destiny, fooled only by dreams

Within dreams and false awakenings.


06:06. Upon the billboards as I cycle to work are gone the slogans

And soundbites selling me fragrances and alcohol

And a body I will never fit into,

And I see now their images replaced by a diorama of question marks,

Like a domino rally awaiting the first to fall against the second

And the second against the third, while printed beneath are the words

Of Edgar Allen Poe selling us nothing but a question:

“Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?” 




Editor’s note: My poem The Dream Within a Dream is a short study based on my experiences of dreaming while dreaming; that is (for me) to go to sleep, to dream, then to awaken (while still in a dream) with the knowledge I have dreamed, then to finally waken to reality with the knowledge I have been dreaming of dreaming.

It’s pretty mind-bending stuff, and I would say I have these type of ‘double dreams’ two or three times a year. Typically, I may be experiencing in the ‘first dream’ a world of oppression and danger. Then, when I awake from the first dream into the ‘second dream’, I may rise from a chair (strangely – often a comfy brown armchair) and reflect upon the nature of the first dream and its significance to me. Then, (in the second dream) I may go over to a window and look outside, and discover that a mayhem still exists beyond my walls.

Finally, I awake into the reality of my present life, and understand that I have just dreamed I have been dreaming.

Wikipedia states simply:

“A false awakening is a vivid and convincing dream about awakening from sleep, while the dreamer in reality continues to sleep. After a false awakening, subjects often dream they are performing daily morning routine such as showering, cooking, cleaning, eating, and using the bathroom. False awakenings, mainly those in which one dreams that they have awoken from a sleep that featured dreams, take on aspects of a double dream or a dream within a dream.”

Dear readers, if any of you has had dreams like these I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Dream Within a Dream poem by Ford July 2021

The Dream Within a Dream– found objects and acrylic paint collage, clip art and digital render by Ford July 2021





  1. That’s really fascinating. I’ve had dreams before where the setting seems to quickly align with the real world, I think to alert me of something (a sudden nose bleed being the most ‘spooky’ one, sure enough I woke up with one!) but not sure if I’ve encountered one quite like this. It sounds a bit like sleepwalking without the movement. Another great effort and the artwork totally captures the entrancing weirdness that are our dreams.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Jacob. Wow, that’s super crazy you dreamt you had a nose bleed then awoke with one!! The sleepwalking idea is interesting – to my knowledge have only ever done that once as a kid. Plenty of times though when in a dream I’ve been shouting or calling out then on awakening been told I was shouting or calling out, or have been aware I am doing so. Also interesting how if you are sleeping while the TV or radio is on, how the background noises and chat can infiltrate your dream and become part of the narration.
      Dreams are fascinating eh? Like our own little private cinemas in a way 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, it was a bit weird! It’s certainly the only time I’ve ever woken with a nose bleed so, if it wasn’t related in some way, it would have to be some coincidence.

        Sleepwalking came to mind because my sister used to do it quite often. She would set about her morning routine, just like the wiki description says. One time it was about 11pm and she went charging into mum and dad’s room, telling them to hurry up or they’ll be late for work! Yeah, there are times when your dream exchanges feel so real, you wake wondering if you were actually speaking or shouting. There was a time when, according to my brother, I was commentating on a wrestling match… embarrassing, but I could quite believe it!

        I love the cinema analogy – a mysterious theatre where we don’t know what we’re going to see. Cool!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Funny about your sister, as one of my brothers was a sometimes sleepwalker and did the same – getting everyone up in the middle of night for school!
          Lol at the wrestling commentary 😁


  2. Hello Mage, I wish my “dreams” were less painful. In a few recent nightmares I have been attacked by various armed people who don’t actually fire their weapon but just as they are about to, I throw a kick at them to disarm them. Weird and painful thing is I usually miss and try again to kick the weapon – having to stretch further – then BANG! I find that I have been kicking out for real and I kicked the wall next to my bed. I have bruised myself up twice. Unfortunately living in a small flat there are only so many places I can move the bed to away from any walls….
    I’m just glad my nightmares don’t have lightsabers in them 🤣


  3. Hi FT. Yikes, sounds painful and a bit scary! (a bit of NERF making its way into your dreams maybe, regarding the weapons?).
    I’ve had similar dreams where I’ve had to fight or defend, but in the dreams my limb movements are too slow… like they’re weighted down, and when I awake I’m sort of slow-punching the air.
    Others are when I’m trying to run – but again it feels like the legs are weighted down, and when I awake I’m aware my legs are trying to move but have a pins and needles sensation or are completely numb (maybe I slept in a funny position and activated a nerve?).
    Yes! Good job you’re not having lightsaber battle dreams (yet) lol 😂


  4. “They do not deceive, they do not lie, they do not distort or disguise … They are invariably seeking to express something that the ego does not know and does not understand.”
    Carl Jung had a thing or two to say about dreams.
    I am not surprised you are having this kind of complexity in your dreams; it is believed to match the complexity of the dreamer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent quote! I confess I never studied Jung but when I catch snippets such as you quoted I realise I should do.
      Complexity? I’m still trying to figure out a recent dream in which I was protecting the life of a red fox who was driving a miniature car from being attacked by people who had sadly lost their mind…. ? I understand I have an affinity with red foxes that runs deep and spiritual, though I don’t know why or how. In real life I have had several encounters with these creatures.
      As always, dear wizard, thank you for your words and thoughts 😎

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are always welcome dear Mage 😎
        If I may propose a collection of Jung writings (it’s the one I have) The Portable Jung by Penguin Books. A huge advantage of this edition – for me at least- is that it is edited by Joseph Campbell.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you for the pointers!
          Joseph Campbell – am familiar with ‘Journey of the Hero’… but for sure more works to read.
          George Lucas gave him credit for influencing Star Wars (as an aside I was working with a 90 year old lady yesterday and she was wearing a very cool Star Wars T-shirt 😎)
          So much to read (and to listen to and see), it’s nonstop. (which is cool) 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I have had MANY dreams within a dream.
    I have had dreams within a dream, layered up to 8 (ish) deep. I don’t keep track, but if it is only 2, 3 or 4 – I remember that.
    Very difficult to really know when I’ve actually awakened. You know, I AM SURE I am finally really awake…then ..
    Sometimes I think perhaps death is dreams within dreams. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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