This poem uses surreal imagery to describe visions of an imaginary world from the point of view of a man before and after his burial. In the first stanza, the man is in a crowd, thinking about his beloved, but he is shaken out of his ease when a pile of fish sing about a forgotten isle where people love eternally. The man next wanders on the beach of Lisadell, and the worms too sing about the isle, though he doesn't understand them. Again, at Scanavin, the grass sings to him.
In the final stanza, we find the man buried under the hill of Lugnagall where he hopes to know eternal peace. But the worms proclaim that God has made a beautiful pattern in the sky. The man does not rest in peace.
The title of this poem is somewhat misleading. The man in the poem is invited to contemplate Faeryland, but he repeatedly fails to do so. He cannot "listen" to the songs of the fish, the worms, the grass, who could tell him of Faeryland. Faeryland, in this poem, might be thought of as a place of universals and absolutes, where truths are unqualified by human context. The man never gives up his petty loves and hates, and so cannot attain eternity even in his death.
The naturalistic imagery in the poem, as well as the specific place names that Yeats assigns to where the man wanders, stems from his experience as a youth in Sligo. Sligo is a county in westernmost Ireland, a place that Yeats said affected his poetry more than anywhere else in the world. The images of fish, worms and other natural creatures also resonate with Yeats' expressed aim in "The Rose upon the Rood of Time" that he wishes to notice the lowly things in the world, not just the searing bright things. Indeed, in this poem, it is the lowly, overlooked creatures who contain a spark of divinity. They are the key to eternal contemplation. The man, like many of us, remains deaf to them.
"The Man Who dreamed of Faeryland" is similar to "Who goes with Fergus?" in that the poet implicitly urges Irish men and women to return to nature. Indeed, "Faeryland" evokes very strongly the spirit of the druids, who felt that all natural things contain the divine. Yeats asks that his countrymen reflect upon the land that they purport to love and defend in their political battles. He also suggests that the ultimate value in life is to be found in such contemplation, not in the temporary concerns of politics.