“Of a happy forest child,
With the fawns and flowers at play;
Of an Indian ’midst the wild,
With the stars to guide his way:
Of a chief his warriors leading,
Of an archer’s greenwood tree: —
My heart in chains is bleeding,
And I dream of all things free!”
Felicia Hemans’ “I Dream of All Things Free” (page 324, lines 17-24)
In Hemans’ poem “I Dream of All Things Free,” the poetic speaker describes dreaming of and admiring various things that exhibit freedom, ranging from a ship sailing on the ocean to “some proud bird” (2-3, 9). However, in particular, the last stanza not only examines things that have freedom, but also encapsulates various themes common to Romantic poetry. Nostalgia, an awe for nature, and even a hint of emotional sorrow are all incorporated into the final stanza of the poem in order to emphasize the speaker’s personal desire for freedom.
The first image described by the speaker is of a “happy forest child, / With the fawns and flowers at play” (17-18). The lines are whimsical and immediately invoke a sense of nostalgia and innocence, along with an appreciation of nature. Furthermore, the image is a strong choice in regards to an example of freedom. Not only does the child possess the freedom to play amongst the fawns and flowers within the forest, but symbolically children are considered to be free from the hardships and struggles of adulthood as well. The poem’s next two lines take on another strong example of freedom amongst nature. Like the image of fawns and flowers, the image of “an Indian ’midst the wild” suggests the beauty of the natural world (19). However, rather than the playfulness of nature, this image instead emphasizes the subliminal aspect of it in order to convey the concept of freedom. By using the term “wild,” and by describing the stars as the Indian’s guide, the speaker views nature as a broad expanse, with the Indian free to explore it (19-20). The speaker implies that the Indian is not restricted to a certain path, but is instead able to freely explore at his will.
The next two images in the stanza are brief compared to the previous two. While it does not incorporate nature, the image of a chief leading his warriors continues the poem’s theme of freedom (21). Being a leader, the chief possesses his own freedom above his warriors. War in general can also be associated with freedom, or in many cases, specifically the fight for freedom. Nature returns in the next image, that of “an archer’s greenwood tree” (22). Though the speaker does not provide anymore details, it is still possible to comprehend the freedom associated with the image. As with the Indian, the speaker may be referring to the freedom the archer has to explore and hunt through the forest.
The final two lines of the stanza display a shift in tone. The speaker describes their heart as “in chains [and] bleeding” and reiterates their dream of all things that are free (23-24). The image of a chained, bleeding heart is much darker than the previous images provided by the speaker. It is emotionally powerful and illustrates his or her sorrow. Furthermore, given the fact that the line “I dream of all things free!” has been repeated throughout the poem, its final repetition carries a sense of desperation, and emphasizes the speaker’s wish for freedom.
Overall, Hemans’ poem provides readers with a prime example of Romantic literature. Not only does the poem focus on a speaker who passionately longs for freedom, but in this key passage Hemans also intertwines other themes and concepts frequently found in Romantic work, including nostalgia and childlike innocence, and a reverence for the natural world.
Word Count: 564
Hemans, Felicia. “I Dream of All Things Free.” British Women Poets of the Romantic Era: An Anthology. Ed. Paula Feldman. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. 324. Print.
On my honor, I pledge I have neither given nor received help on this assignment.