You don't have to dig very deep into "Dream Song 14" to realize that Henry doesn't feel satisfied with life. He's bored. Really, really, painfully bored. And he lets us know it. But as he lists all of the external sources of his boredom, we start to feel like the true source of his dissatisfaction is internal. Like, it's all in his head.
When you're unhappy with yourself, nothing in the world will bring you happiness… unless you change your attitude.
Romanticizing nature is, like, so classic poetry, and Berryman is over it.
While "Dream Song 14" certainly doesn't qualify as a nature poem, the natural world does play an important role in it. In fact, the connection between man and nature becomes one of the poem's central themes. Let's take a look at what Berryman is after with his "flashing" skies and "yearning" seas.
Without the nature imagery, the speaker's sense of boredom in this poem would seem less far-reaching and all-consuming.
Berryman uses nature imagery to balance out the speaker's incessant (and, let's admit it: kind of unreadable) griping.
Remember that class on literary classics you couldn't stay awake in? Of course you don't. Well, the speaker of "Dream Song 14" shares your lack of enthusiasm for great literature and art (even if it makes us cry a little). He seems to know quite a bit about the stuff, but he finds it all boring. Literally all of it. Which seems impossible, right? Almost everyone knows of some books and paintings that they like. So let's take a closer look at this speaker's complete and utter distaste for all of the arts to figure out what's up here.
Obviously the speaker can't really hate all art, because he's voicing his boredom for the stuff in a poem.
If boredom can't be cured by experiencing a lot of great art, and having some really wacky dreams, then we're all screwed.
Whenever you're reading this poem and thinking, "Hey, what the heck is going on here?" just remember the title: "Dream Song 14." That's right, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore. Or New Jersey. Or wherever you are. We're in Berryman's Dreamland. And you know how it is when you're dreaming. Things can be going along in a nice, linear, logical way, then, BAM! All of a sudden, you're someplace else. Or, someone or something appears with no warning—a dog, perhaps? All this disorienting appearing, disappearing, and flying around can be fun, but sometimes, it's downright disturbing.
If you don't accept that this poem is set in the land of dream logic, then it's unintelligible gibberish.
Berryman relies on repetition to lull us into a dreamy state.