The speaker tells a fable in the form of a dream he had. A mother ant has lost her way in the night and fears for her children. She wonders if they are crying over their lost mother while she is gone longer than expected. Fortunately, a glow-worm and a beetle hear her cries and show her the way home to her family.
"A Dream" is a five-stanza poem made up of rhyming couplets. The first stanza sets the scene of the poem as a dream the speaker had while napping. The second stanza begins to describe the "Emmet," the ant, and her efforts to find her family. The speaker disappears in the third stanza, leaving the reader alone with the story of the ant's efforts to rejoin her family. In the fourth stanza, the speaker again interrupts with his weeping reaction to the ant's plight and the happy realization that help is on the way.
This poem parallels the theme and imagery of "Little Boy Lost" and "Little Boy Found." Here the mother ant represents the human soul, longing for the peace and comfort only God can give. God intervenes in the form of the glow-worm, who lights the path, and the beetle, who gives direction through his humming wings, both of whom reunite the lost ant with her family.
The role of the mother figure is also similar to that in "A Dream" and the "Little Boy" poems. Here it is the mother who is lost, not the child, but in both cases, the fixing of the situation calls for a mother-child reunion. Also in both cases, the earthly father figure is impotent: the father of "Little Boy Lost" leaves his son behind, while the father ant in "A Dream" sits at home and "sighs." Neither does anything to help the lost soul find its way. In both cases, it is up to God to intervene, to reunite mother and child. He does not draw the lost soul directly to himself, but to a restoration of the maternal relationship.