Dreams Poem Notes & Explanation, Poetic Devices

This poem “Dreams” by Langston Hughes is a beautiful reminder about the importance of holding onto our dreams, no matter how big or small they may seem. It uses powerful imagery to paint a picture of what life might be like without dreams.

Dreams Poem Text

by Langston Hughes


The poem “Dreams” by Langston Hughes emphasises the importance of holding onto one’s dreams. It depicts the consequences of abandoning dreams through vivid imagery. The poet compares life without dreams to a broken-winged bird that cannot fly and a barren field frozen with snow. These metaphors illustrate the sense of limitation, emptiness, and stagnation that come with giving up on one’s aspirations. The repeated refrain “Hold fast to dreams” serves as a reminder to cherish and pursue our dreams, as they bring vitality, purpose, and fulfilment to life. Overall, the poem encourages resilience and determination in the face of challenges, urging readers to never stop believing in their dreams.

Stanza Wise Explanation & Glossary

Stanza 1


Hold fast: To firmly hold onto something and not let it go.
Dreams: Your hopes, wishes, and aspirations for the future.
Die: Fade away or cease to exist.
Dreams die: If we stop dreaming or lose hope.
Broken-winged bird: A bird that cannot fly due to injured wings, symbolising someone unable to achieve their goals.

Line by Line Explanation:

  • Line 1: “Hold fast to dreams”: This is the main message of the poem. It’s like saying, “Don’t give up on your dreams! Keep believing in them!”
  • Line 2: “For if dreams die”: This means if we stop dreaming, if we give up on our hopes and aspirations.
  • Line 3: “Life is a broken-winged bird”: This is an image to show how life would feel without dreams. Imagine a bird with a broken wing, unable to fly. It’s stuck on the ground, unable to reach its full potential.
  • Line 4: “That cannot fly”: This emphasises the feeling of being trapped and limited without dreams.

Simple Explanation: The poet tells us to never give up on our dreams, as they give us hope and direction. If we lose our dreams, life becomes hard to bear, like a bird unable to fly.
The poet is using the metaphor of a broken-winged bird to represent a life without dreams, emphasizing the feeling of being stuck and unable to move

Stanza 2


Barren field: Land that is dry and unproductive, symbolising a life without purpose or meaning.
Frozen with snow: Covered in snow and ice, unable to move or grow, symbolising a life stuck and unable to change.

Line by Line Explanation:

  • Line 5: “Hold fast to dreams”: This line is repeated for emphasis. It’s like a reminder to really listen to this important message.
  • Line 6: “For when dreams go”: This is similar to line 2, but it uses the word “go” instead of “die.” It means if we let go of our dreams, if we forget them.
  • Line 7: “Life is a barren field”: Imagine a field with nothing growing in it, no flowers, no crops, just empty land. This image represents a life without dreams, where there’s nothing exciting or fulfilling happening.
  • Line 8: “Frozen with snow”: This adds to the feeling of emptiness and coldness. Imagine a field covered in snow, where everything is still and lifeless. This makes the picture of a life without dreams even more bleak.

Simple Explanation:

The poet reminds us again to keep our dreams alive, as without them, life becomes empty and unproductive, like a field covered in snow where nothing can grow.
The poet uses the metaphor of a barren, frozen field to represent a life without dreams, emphasising the feeling of emptiness and desolation.

Key Points of The Poem:

This poem by Langston Hughes is a powerful message about the importance of holding onto your dreams. He compares life without dreams to two things:

  1. A broken-winged bird: Imagine a beautiful bird with its wings hurt, unable to soar through the sky. That’s how life feels without dreams – you’re stuck on the ground, unable to reach your full potential.
  2. A barren field covered in snow: Think of a vast field where nothing grows, frozen and lifeless. That’s how life can feel without dreams – empty, cold, and without purpose.

Both images evoke a sense of limitation and emptiness. The poet’s message is to hold onto our dreams, as they bring vitality, interest, excitement, and purpose to our lives.

Poetic Devices

The poem “Dreams” by Langston Hughes utilizes several poetic devices to convey its message effectively. These poetic devices collectively enhance the impact of the poem, making it a poignant and memorable exploration of the significance of holding onto one’s dreams.

Here’s an analysis os some major poetic devices used in the poem “POEM” by Langston Hughes

Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows an ABCB rhyme scheme, where the 2nd  and 4th lines of each stanza rhyme with each other. This contributes to the poem’s rhythmic flow and musicality.

Simple Language: The poem uses clear and concise language, avoiding complex words or phrases. This makes the poem accessible to young readers and ensures the message is easily understood.

Direct Address: The poem directly addresses the reader with the repeated line “Hold fast to dreams.” This creates a personal connection and encourages young readers to engage with the message.

Metaphor: The poem uses two powerful metaphors to illustrate the consequences of losing dreams. Comparing a life without dreams to a “broken-winged bird that cannot fly” paints a vivid picture of limitation and inability to reach our full potential. 

Similarly, likening a dreamless life to a “barren field frozen with snow” evokes feelings of limitation, emptiness, coldness, and stagnation that result from abandoning one’s dreams.

Repetition: The poem heavily relies on repetition, particularly the phrase “Hold fast to dreams.” This repetition emphasises the importance of the message of nurturing dreams, making it stick in the reader’s mind.

Imagery: Hughes uses vivid imagery to create visual and sensory impressions in the reader’s mind. For example, the image of a “broken-winged bird” unable to fly and a “barren field frozen with snow” evokes feelings of constraint, desolation, and stagnation. 6. Imagery: The poem uses vivid imagery to create strong mental pictures. The “broken-winged bird” and the “barren field” are concrete images that young readers can easily connect with.

Alliteration: Alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words, is subtly employed in phrases like “broken-winged bird” enhancing the poem’s rhythm and emphasising key concepts.

Symbolism: The broken-winged bird and barren field serve as symbols representing a life devoid of dreams and aspirations. The broken-winged bird and barren field serve as symbols in the poem. The bird represents an individual unable to achieve their goals when dreams are abandoned, while the barren field symbolises a life without purpose or fulfilment.

Parallelism: The structure of the poem follows a parallel pattern, with each stanza presenting a similar scenario of life without dreams followed by a reminder to hold onto them. This parallelism reinforces the poem’s thematic coherence and adds to its rhythmic flow.

Personification: The line “Life is a broken-winged bird” personifies life, giving it the characteristics of a living being with a broken wing. This personification adds a deeper layer of emotion to the description of life without dreams.

Dreams are given the ability to “die” and “go,” personifying them as living things that need care and attention. This makes dreams feel more tangible and relatable for young readers

Enjambment: The use of enjambment (continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line) in some lines contributes to the smooth and flowing movement of the poem, connecting ideas across lines.

By using these poetic devices effectively, Langston Hughes crafts a simple yet powerful poem that resonates with young readers, encouraging them to hold onto their dreams and pursue their goals.

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