Study Guide

Dream Song 14 Man and the Natural World

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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.)

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