Did you have a fantasy world when you were little—a place of fairy tales or superheroes or unicorns or talking animals—that only existed in your dreams but where anything was possible? For Harlem Renaissance writer Gwendolyn Bennett (1902-1981), her fantasy world was simply one where African American women could be powerful leaders and thrive alongside a diverse natural world. Although the poem "Fantasy" might seem less mystical now, in 1927 when the poem was written the idea of Black women commanding power and respect must have seemed like a distant dream in Bennett's pre-Civil Rights America. 

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Table of contents

    "Fantasy" at a Glance

    Written By

    Gwendolyn Bennett

    Publication Date



    Lyric poem



    Rhyme Scheme


    Poetic Devices






    Frequently noted imagery

    Dusk-eyed queen

    Pallor of moon-veiled light

    Slim-necked peacock sauntered

    Garden of lavender hues

    Amethyst chair

    Hyacinth shoes

    The moon gave a bluish light

    Whistled a song

    Dark-haired queen


    Mystical, hopeful

    Key themes

    The power of femininity

    Nature as a respected force


    Both women and nature thrive in a society not defined by the patriarchy, but instead ruled by a powerful, benevolent female.

    "Fantasy" by Gwendolyn Bennett

    "Fantasy" by Gwendolyn Bennett was published in 1927, during the height of Bennett's productive years as a poet. Born in 1902, Bennett was deeply influenced by her family's history of slavery and the oppressive social restrictions placed on women by the patriarchy.

    The late 1800s and early 1900s were a time of enormous social change. After the Union won the Civil War, slaves were emancipated and slavery was abolished, but the Civil Rights Movement wouldn't begin in earnest until the 1950s and 60s. At the same time, women had gained the right to vote in 1920, but there were enormous social and physical obstacles that kept them from exercising that right.

    When Bennett wrote "Fantasy" in 1927, she was fully aware of all the obstacles Black women faced and the way they were still oppressed in their society. "Fantasy" is an empowering poem that examines the ways women, especially Black women, could thrive if they weren't restricted by the patriarchy.

    "Fantasy" Poem

    I sailed in my dreams to the Land of Night

    Where you were the dusk-eyed queen,

    And there in the pallor of moon-veiled light

    The loveliest things were seen ...

    A slim-necked peacock sauntered there

    In a garden of lavender hues,

    And you were strange with your purple hair

    As you sat in your amethyst chair

    With your feet in your hyacinth shoes.

    Oh, the moon gave a bluish light

    Through the trees in the land of dreams and night.

    I stood behind a bush of yellow-green

    And whistled a song to the dark-haired queen ..."

    "Fantasy" Summary

    In her dreams, the speaker is transported to a fantasy world called "the Land of Night" (1). Everything is beautiful and bright here, and the speaker's lover or intimate friend is the queen. Nature and diversity thrive as the colors of the natural world reflect the brightness of the woman in power. She is respected by everything around her, the natural world itself working in harmony with the queen as she rules from her throne. At the end of the poem, the speaker admires the queen from behind a bush and whistles a song for her.

    Fantasy, woman with hand covering one eye, StudySmarterFig. 1 - The speaker admires the dark-haired queen, who is one with nature.

    "Fantasy" Literary Devices

    The main literary devices in "Fantasy" are repetition, allusion, symbolism, and very vivid imagery.

    Repetition in "Fantasy"

    The idea that this is a fantasy world is repeated in the title and the first and last stanzas. The title directly states that this land is a "fantasy," an impossible or improbable place that is fanciful and unrealistic. The speaker reinforces this sentiment throughout the poem, referring to the place as "Land of Night" (1) and "the land of dreams and night" (11). The speaker is very adamant that this place is a figment of her imagination, and although the land is beautiful and mystical, it could never be real.

    This repetition of fantasy presents the central conflict that is only implied in the poem: the tension between the speaker's ideal world and her acceptance that the real world is much harsher and more cruel. She wants to live in a world where women and nature are respected and valued, but that dream feels too good to be true.

    Allusion in "Fantasy"

    "Fantasy" never directly says that the queen is an African woman, but the allusions tend towards that interpretation. The speaker calls her "the dusk-eyed queen" (2) and "the dark-haired queen" (13), giving the queen very rich, dark features. Some of the natural imagery that the speaker includes in her depiction of the queen's kingdom are also directly from Africa. Although the most commonly-known peacocks (5) are from India, the African peacock is indigenous to the Congo. And hyacinths (9) are native to tropical Africa as well as the Mediterranean region.

    All of these details, as well as Bennett's other poetry which centers around uplifting Black women and celebrating her African heritage, allude to the queen being a powerful Black woman. This allusion also makes sense in the historical context of the 1920s, when a Black woman in power seemed even more of a fantasy than a white woman ruling as a queen.

    Symbolism in "Fantasy"

    The colors surrounding the queen in the second stanza are highly symbolic of her power and regality. Consider the purple hues that cover her garden, her throne, and herself:

    In a garden of lavender hues,And you were strange with your purple hairAs you sat in your amethyst chairWith your feet in your hyacinth shoes." (6-9)

    The color purple has been associated with royalty and power for centuries. The fact that the queen has it all around her, from the natural world that surrounds her like the amethyst, hyacinth, and lavender, to her body itself ("purple hair" in line 7), the woman exudes regality and queenliness. Her body itself is a symbol of her power.

    Fantasy, Purple hyacinths Flowers, StudySmarterFig. 2 - The color purple, apparent in the hyacinths, amethyst, lavender, and the queen's hair, are symbolic of her power and regality.

    Purple has been associated with royalty and power since the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Persians.

    Purple dye was originally made in the city of Tyre, a Phoenician trading city on the Mediterranean coast. The dye came from a mollusk that was only found in that region. As many as 9,000 mollusks were needed to make one gram of the coveted purple die. Because it was so labor-intensive and rare, only very wealthy rulers could afford it.

    Did you know Queen Elizabeth I was extremely protective of the color purple? The Sumptuary Laws forbid anyone but the royal family and their closest relatives to wear the color, to stress the royal family's wealth and regality above everyone else in the country.

    Imagery in "Fantasy"

    "Fantasy" relies very strongly on imagery to present the major themes in the poem, dealing with femininity and nature. Instead of being action-heavy, the speaker spends the entirety of the poem describing the scene before her. The imagery, though consisting entirely of natural objects, colors, and occurrences, is presented as fantastical and otherworldly. Consider the moon, which is described as a mystical, unnatural force:

    And there in the pallor of moon-veiled light" (3)


    Oh, the moon gave a bluish light" (10)

    Although the moon is an ordinary, natural part of every day life, in the poem it is presented with more agency and power. Even the animals and plants are more majestic and purposeful, as "A slim-necked peacock sauntered there" (5) and hyacinths covered the queen's feet as though they were shoes.

    The imagery makes the natural world more powerful and mystical than how it is typically presented. Interestingly, nothing is actually unnatural in the moon, the peacock, or the flowers. They are simply treated with more reverence and respect than they are generally given.

    Fantasy, Peacock, StudySmarterFig. 3 - The strong imagery of the peacock adds to the mystical tone of the poem.

    "Fantasy" Themes

    The major themes of the poem examine the inherent power that both women and the natural world possess (but that are stripped away in 1920s America).

    The power of femininity, especially Black femininity

    "Fantasy" is a direct response to the way power has been kept from women for centuries. For years, women were expected to be socially submissive to their husbands, were prohibited from certain jobs and educations, and were systemically kept from voting

    In the speaker's fantasy world, however, women are in control. Things are allowed to be tender and beautiful, a characteristic of femininity that patriarchal society degrades as a sign of weakness. But the queen in this story uses her femininity as a strength. There is no hint of violence or issues in her land because she rules lovingly. She is respected as a ruler, not in spite of her femininity, but because of its power.

    It is unclear whether the speaker and the queen are lovers or intimate friends. Regardless, their relationship is defined by the tender love of femininity. At the end of the poem, the speaker "whistled a song to the dark-haired queen" (13), symbolic of connection and vulnerability. As the queen is a woman and likely a black woman, her power and control over her peaceful, thriving kingdom showcases the power of femininity, especially Black femininity.

    Nature as a respected force

    In addition to women being respected and powerful, nature itself is valued and celebrated as a respected force in the queen's kingdom. The natural world underlies every aspect of the poem. From the moon and peacock to the flowers, trees, and bushes, the natural world is thriving and robust. Not just submissive to the whims of mankind, the queen's natural world is elevated in power alongside her. The amethyst makes up her throne, the hyacinths cover her feet, and the peacock is allowed to wander around the garden wherever it pleases.

    Fantasy, Picture of a woman and the moon, StudySmarterFig. 4 - The natural world, as shown by the moon, animals, and plants, is respected and valued in the queen's kingdom.

    The natural world is not exploited in any way as it so often is by the patriarchy, who drill into the earth to extract its minerals, cage its animals up for entertainment, and pollute the world with plastic, toxins, and waste. Instead, nature is a respected force that is admired for exactly what it is rather than how it can be sold, manipulated, or manufactured.

    "Fantasy" Meaning

    "Fantasy" considers all the ways women could thrive and succeed in their society if they were given the chance. Although women were considered delicate and subordinate second-class citizens, it is not because they are not capable and powerful. Rather, Bennett's speaker argues, it is because they are never given the chance and the power inherent in their femininity is taken away.

    The traits that are characteristic of femininity like nurture, emotionality, sensitivity, tenderness, and affection have long been labelled as signs of weakness. The patriarchy instead values assertiveness, independence, and aggression. But "Fantasy" argues that by embracing the power of femininity, society could truly know peace and prosperity. The meaning of "Fantasy" is that both women and nature thrive in a society not defined by the limitations of the patriarchy.

    Fantasy - Key takeaways

    • "Fantasy" was written by Harlem Renaissance writer Gwendolyn Bennett.
    • It was published in 1927, likely depicting Bennett's own wish for women to be respected and powerful in early 20th century America.
    • The poem examines how peaceful and idyllic the world would be if women were in control.
    • The central themes are the power of femininity and nature as a respected force.
    • The meaning of "Fantasy" is that both women and nature thrive in a society not defined by the limitations of the patriarchy.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Fantasy

    Who is the poet of the poem "Fantasy"?

    "Fantasy" was written by Gwendolyn Bennett. 

    What is the poem "Fantasy" by Gwendolyn Bennett about?

    The poem is about a fantasy world where women and nature are respected and revered as powerful figures. 

    What is the theme of "Fantasy"?

    The themes are the power of femininity and nature as a respected force. 

    What is the message in "Fantasy"?

    The message of "Fantasy" is that both women and nature thrive in a society not defined by the patriarchy. 

    What movement is Gwendolyn Bennett connected to?

    Bennett was a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. 

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