Study Guide

Dream Song 14 Quotes

  • Dissatisfaction

    Life, friends, is boring. (1)

    Well, this speaker sounds pretty darn dissatisfied with his life. This very first line of the poem lets us know that the speaker's feelings of boredom are global; though he goes on to provide us with specific examples of stuff that bores him, this line tells us that he really thinks everything is a yawnfest.

    'Ever to confess you're bored
    means you have no

    Inner Resources.' (5-7)

    In these lines, the speaker is quoting dear old Mom. Notice that the speaker's mom here doesn't say you should never be bored. She just says it's bad to confess that you're bored. So, it's not that the speaker is weird or weak because he feels bored with his life. The mom here seems to be saying that a sense of boredom or dissatisfaction is to be expected, and we have to rely on our "inner resources" to combat that boredom. Oh, and we definitely shouldn't admit to feeling it.

    […] I am heavy bored.
    Peoples bore me,
    literature bores me, especially great literature,
    Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes[…]

    And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag (8-11, 14)

    We get it, Henry. You're bored. Enough already. In these four lines alone, Berryman uses four variations of "bore." And three of those "bores" occur in exactly the same spot in the line: in the second word. Berryman also starts and ends line 10 with the same word, "literature." He's really hitting us over the head here. He wants us to experience what the speaker is feeling: it's all the same, nothing is new or exciting. Uh. Mission accomplished.

  • Man and the Natural World

    […] the sky flashes, the great sea yearns, (2)

    The poem's second line gives us a good dose of nature's drama. We feel like we're in an episode of Deadliest Catch. But really, this line presents us with a version of nature that is far more dramatic, and more alive, than most of us experience. The personification of the sea—as a being that can "yearn"—connects the dramatized landscape to the human realm.

    we ourselves flash and yearn, (3)

    See. Shmoop told you there was a connection. Now, we are flashing and yearning just like the sky and sea. And if that's true, then it's all just drama, drama, drama in this human life. And if you've ever watched any reality TV, you know that all that drama can get super boring. The speaker wants—er, yearns—for something more. Maybe it's time to flip the channel, folks.

    And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
    and somehow a dog
    Has taken itself & its tail considerably away
    into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
    behind: me, wag. (14-18)

    In the first stanza, the speaker seems dissatisfied with the excitement of the natural world. Now, in the poem's final stanza, it's nature's tranquility that's getting on his nerves. Jeez, what does this guy want? Maybe he needs a drink? Nope, that's "a drag" too. And then a dog appears. Or, more accurately, disappears. The dog goes into the landscape—into the mountains or sea or sky, echoing the nature imagery from stanza 1. Yup, things are getting a little surreal here. Dogs don't spend much time in the sky. Even the sea can be tricky for the little pups. But this ending does reinforce the link between our experiences/emotions and the natural world. It's all connected, see? We are not as separate from the "mountains or sea or sky" as we'd like to think. In Berryman's Dreamland, people are as predictable as tranquil hills and wagging tails. (Ugh, we're starting to sound like an advertisement for your local yoga studio here. Just understand this: you are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.)

  • Art and Culture

    Peoples bore me, (9)

    That's right, Shmoopers. That's "peoples," not "people." That "s" really changes the tone of this line. The speaker here isn't talking about being bored by individual people. He's writing off entire groups—peoples. He finds all cultures boring. Imagine trying to go out to dinner with this guy. Mexican? Nope. Chinese? Nope. Yugoslavian? Not interested. He's bored by all of it.

    Literature bores me, especially great literature, (10)

    First, he writes off every single group of people in the world. Next to get the ax is "great literature." What gives? We get the sense that this guy has some kind of chip on his shoulder. It seems like the better something is, the less he's interested in it. So maybe the problem isn't with these things that bore the speaker. Maybe his boredom comes from within.

    Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
    as bad as achilles,

    who loves people and valiant art, which bores me. (11-13)

    Ay, there's the rub: the speaker is bored with himself (Henry). He's tired of his life. He's tired of his own "plights and gripes." (And we have to agree with you on that one, buddy. No one likes a complainer.) Interestingly, even though he's so, so bored by art and culture, he compares himself to the mythological warrior, Achilles. I guess even people who are bored with culture can't describe their boredom without referencing other elements of culture. So I guess we kind of need that culture stuff after all? Like, to communicate with each other? Ow, our brains hurt.

  • Versions of Reality

    "Dream Song 14" (title)

    It's right there in the title, Shmoopers. This poem isn't called real song, or my song or even just plain old song. Berryman named this poem (and those 300+ other ones) "Dream Songs" for a reason: he wants to orient us to an altered reality.

    And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
    and somehow a dog (14-15)

    Things start to feel pretty dream-like here in the third stanza. There are unexpected, dramatic jumps from topic to topic, as in a dream. We bet you didn't see that dog coming the first time you read this poem (we know we didn't). Berryman emphasizes the sudden shift and surprise by using enjambment. Line 14 doesn't have anything at the end to slow us down (no comma, no period, no nothin'), so we just fly right through and then "somehow" a dog shows up. Weird.

    has taken itself & its tail considerably away
    into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
    behind: me, wag. (16-18)

    The syntax is pretty strange here, right? Why mention the dog's tail, separate from the rest of the dog? And why isn't the speaker clearer about where the dog goes? All this weirdness and irregularity in the last stanza really reinforce the sense that this poem is taking place in some kind of a dream state. We hope so, anyway. Or next thing we know, pigs will be flying too.