If there were dreams to sell,
     What would you buy?
Some cost a passing bell;
     Some a light sigh,
That shakes from Life’s fresh crown
Only a rose-leaf down.
If there were dreams to sell,
Merry and sad to tell,
And the carrier rang that bell,
     What would you buy?

A cottage lone and still,
     With bowers nigh,
Shadowy, my woes to still,
     Until I die.
Such pearls from Life’s fresh crown
Fain would I shake me down.
Were dreams to have at will,
This would best heal my ill,
     This would I buy.

But there were dreams to sell
     Ill didst thou buy;
Life is a dream, they tell,
     Waking, to die.
Dreaming a dream to prize,
Is wishing ghosts to rise;
And if I had the spell
To call the buried well,
     Which one would I?

If there are ghosts to raise,
     What shall I call,
Out of hell’s murky haze,
     Heaven’s blue pall?
Raise my loved long-lost boy,
To lead me to his joy.—
There are no ghosts to raise;
Out of death lead no ways;
     Vain is the call.

Know’st thou not ghosts to sue,
     No love thou hast.
Else lie, as I will do,
     And breathe thy last.
So out of Life’s fresh crown
Fall like a rose-leaf down.
Thus are the ghosts to woo;
Thus are all dreams made true,
     Ever to last!

Thomas Lovell Beddoes, sometime 1829-1844


  1. It’s an interesting poem, Frances. I primarily wanted to post this because of the first two stanzas, which are entirely beautiful, the first being positively sublime. But I think, too, that this is ultimately a very sad poem, though not without its alleviation.

    Beddoes’ life is a very sad story. He was a truly gifted poet, but lacking the confidence that such a gift usually accompanies (pace Blake, Lord Byron, Shelley, et al.). He ended his life in suicide. He was truly a tragic Romantic poet if ever there was one. But this doesn’t detract from the beauty of some of his work. I thought of merely posting the first two stanzas above, but that’s hardly fair.

    I see in this poem a reflection of that sadness that led him to such despair, particularly in the last stanza: he wants to flee, to go where dreams are never unmade. As his dead cannot return to him, he will go to them, to where “are all dreams made true / Ever to last”.

    It’s a curious sentiment, a belief in an afterlife of good, while denying resurrection. Or perhaps he wanted resurrection on his own terms, here and now, for his beloved lost child? In any case, we must never despair so. For, ultimately, out of death lead all ways: we shall all be raised (by force, if necessary!), and death itself will die and be no more.

    Pray a prayer for the soul of Thomas Lovell Beddoes sometime, as I have done. I’m sure it will help.

  2. I am with you Kevin. Beddoes was a sad case. All great art extracts from the artist a certain amount of their sanity. Can we judge a man outside of his art, considering what that art costs them?

  3. My version (from The Bibelot, Vol. V) has three small variations:

    And the crier rung the bell,

    Such pearl from Life’s fresh crown

    And, if I had the spell

    Beddoes is an exact poet and I wish I could be sure of the meaning of lines like

    Dreaming a dream to prize,
    Is wishing ghosts to rise;

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