"Beautiful Dreamer" (1864) by Stephen Foster
Composed late in his life and published posthumously, Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" (1864) is one of the composer's most memorable ballads. It was written at least six months before Foster's death, when he was destitute and in poor heath, and survived by selling songs (at extremely cheap rates) that were written in haste. While prolific in number, these last songs, for the most part, were less inspired than his earlier efforts such as "Oh! Susanna," which had launched his career as a songwriter.
For his songs composed after 1860, Foster turned his creative energy to the parlor ballad, a type of song noted for its sentimental or narrative text, frequently at a slow tempo. The subjects of Foster's ballads were relatively free of minstrel-song influences and centered on topics devoid of southern themes, such as mother, love, and home. With its lilting triplet rhythm, "Beautiful Dreamer" exemplifies Foster's final sentiments and has become one of America's most beloved serenades.