Study Guide

Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock

Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock Summary

The speaker describes houses that are haunted by boring, white nightgowns. He or she then goes on to list a number of more interesting options for nightgowns (we have just one question: where's the taffeta?).

Finally, the speaker concludes that the people who wear the boring nightgowns will have boring dreams, but the drunk, old sailors are going to have crazy dreams, perhaps because they're sleeping in their boots.

  • Lines 1-9

    Lines 1-2

    The houses are haunted
    By white night-gowns.

    • Okay. Right off the bat, this is a silly poem.
    • We mean, nightgowns are basically big, white shirts that come down to the ankle. They're glorified sheets that people sleep in. They're ridiculous-looking.
    • Like out of some cartoon (do people watch Scooby Doo anymore?), a house is haunted by a person in a sheet… ish.
    • But it's not just one house. It's a whole bunch of houses. Those nightgowns are on the rampage.
    • The speaker might be giving the suburbs a hard time for being filled with boring people. In other words, we think that whole "haunted" business is really just a metaphor for the way in which all those denizens of suburbia wear the same exact boring old thing to bed.

    Lines 3-6

    None are green,
    Or purple with green rings,
    Or green with yellow rings,
    Or yellow with blue rings.

    • Yep, it's a silly one.
    • Ugh, what a shame that none of these nightgowns are green, or purple, or any other color, with a little pattern. You know, something to shake things up?
    • See, the speaker is listing all the crazy colors that the nightgowns could be, but aren't, because the people in them don't like fun. He's using a little thing we like to call anaphora, or repeated phrases at the beginning of a like (in this case "Or") to really drive home the point.
    • By saying what the nightgowns don't look like, the speaker is giving us clues into how the scene could be more interesting if the people in the houses put a little effort into their wardrobes.
    • These nightgowns almost sound clown-like. The imagery here is all about bright colors and bold patterns.

    Lines 7-9

    None of them are strange,
    With socks of lace
    And beaded ceintures.

    • None of the nightgowns are weird enough for the speaker, who's obviously into absurd art. Either that or he's friends with Dolly Parton, who's no stranger to beads and lace. 
    • Since the subject of the sentence is a pronoun ("them"), we're not exactly sure what he or she is talking about, but we can assume he's referring to the nightgowns here.
    • Still, it's possible that the speaker is trying to tell us that the houses or the people in the houses aren't strange either. Which is a big ol' bummer.
    • The speaker thinks some lacy socks (um, those sound uncomfortable) or beaded belts (a.k.a. "ceintures") could jazz up the nightgowns. 
    • We agree. You know, we here at Shmoop our known for our style, and we'd like to add a little flow and color to the outfit.
  • Lines 10-15

    Lines 10-11

    People are not going
    To dream of baboons and periwinkles.

    • So the people in the houses, with their boring, beltless nightgowns, are going to have lame dreams.
    • No dreams about baboons (those funny monkeys with blue faces and the pink butts).
    • And no dreams about little flowers called periwinkles
    • Why baboons? Why periwinkles? We're not sure. The two certainly don't have much in common. But hey, maybe that's the point—they're different, random, and just fanciful enough to get our creative juices flowing.
    • What we notice here is that our speaker seems to know what's gonna go down before it happens. He already knows what dreams may come.

    Lines 12-13

    Only, here and there, an old sailor,
    Drunk and asleep in his boots,

    • It looks like the speaker has found a few crazy old sailors to liven up the scene. Thank goodness.
    • We'd usually expect sailors to be by the sea, but here they are scattered throughout some (presumably) suburban houses.
    • However, sailors probably have lived through some exciting experiences: storms, foreign lands, new cultures.
    • They've traveled, seen the world, and are definitely not your typical suburban house dwellers.
    • Old and drunk, the sailors are passed out in chairs, on beds and floors, and even in front yards still wearing their boots. They must be pooped, if they couldn't even bother taking their shoes off before catching some Z's.
    • "[H]ere and there" suggests that there are more than one sailor doing this at the same time.
    • It's like a flash mob of booted, sleeping sailors.

    Lines 14-15

    Catches tigers
    In red weather.

    • The speaker gives an example of what an un-boring dream for a sailor might be.
    • The sailor catches tigers (this is probably before tigers were protected by the government).
    • And he catches them in red weather. 
    • Have you ever heard of the expression "Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning"? It's a classic old sailing adage, and it means that red weather at sunset is a good sign. 
    • So, because it's night, and these dudes are sleeping, the fact that they're catching tigers in red weather probably means that the crazy dreams are more delightful than frightening. We mean, who wouldn't want to catch tigers? We're betting that's pretty thrilling.
    • So our speaker seems to be saying that a vivid imagination is nothing to be afraid of, rather it's to be enjoyed like a circus full of clowns and lion tamers.