I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand —

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep — while I weep!

O God! Can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

By "is all that we see or seem", does he mean "Is all that we see or seem to exist"? I was wondering, because he just says "seem" like he omitted a word or two. I was wondering if I read this correctly, or seem has a different meaning than I think it means.

  • 1
    It's poetry, so it's anybody's guess, but "all that we seem" probably means "all that we seem to be"
    – gotube
    Aug 6, 2022 at 23:30
  • 1
    The title is wrong. It reads "all that we seem." Simply means "all that we appear to be, all that we seem to be to others.
    – Fattie
    Aug 7, 2022 at 0:14
  • I thought it was all that we see or that seem
    – Sayaman
    Aug 7, 2022 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


The last two lines form one sentence which could be simplified to

Is all that we see a dream?

which the author has expanded as you see, with an unusual use of 'seem', perhaps to invoke more thoughts in the reader, and to rhyme.

But with poetry, only the author knows their intent.

The line does not say "all that seem" as in the question title. It says

Is / all that we see / or seem /
[Nothing] But / a dream within a dream?

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