Dream Song #4

Dream Song #4 is one of the more famous songs. Henry is eating alone in a restaurant, lusting after someone else's wife. She is only one table away but "She might as well be on Mars." #4 is really sad and very funny at the same time.

After catching her eye a few times, and then pushing down his desires, in one turn of phrase we get funny and sad:

'You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.' I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.

"the hottest one" is a funny and immature way to describe someone.

"years of night" is a crushingly sad phrase.

Somehow, the nickname he gives the woman - "Brilliance" - seems very touching but comes off as sad.

And then - Despairingly advancing upon spumoni is very funny.


Hard on the land wears the strong sea

There really are 77 Dream Songs. Each one is 18 lines long and divided into 3 stanzas.

The songs trace the life of Henry as told by himself, from several different points of view, and by his unnamed friend who calls him Mr. Bones.

John Berryman has said that he is not Henry, although most people don't believe him. Berryman lost his father to suicide and Henry's life seems forever burdened by "a departure" that's mentioned in Dream Song #1.

One important thing to remember is that Henry often speaks in the first and third person, even within the same line:  "I don't see how Henry, pried / open for all the world to see, survived." Henry is observing himself.

In Dream Song #1 we are introduced to a sad but surviving Henry, himself surprised that he's still alive.