Study Guide

Dream Song 29 Stanza 3

By John Berryman

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Stanza 3

Lines 13-15

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.

  • Woah, we bet you didn't see that coming. Henry thought he might have "ended" (killed) someone. It turns out, he didn't. But the speaker gives a pretty graphic description of what Henry didn't do. This graphic description leaves us with the feeling that Henry must have imagined or dreamt very vividly about doing these things.
  • Not only does he imagine he has committed this terrible act, he imagines he wants people to know about it. He "hide[s] the pieces, where they may be found." Creepy, Henry. Creeeepy.
  • You might have also noticed that the funky syntax returns here: "end anyone and hacks her body up and hide the pieces."
  • Sounds kind of mixed up, right? Shmoop is starting to think something's up with this speaker.

Lines 16-18

He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

  • Henry knows he didn't kill anyone. Whew. That's a relief. But he doesn't know right away. It turns out Henry was dreaming or was in a kind of dream-like state. When he wakes up in the morning, he thinks he might have done some awful things. So, "he reckons […] them up." He counts up all the people he knows, and since nobody is missing he figures he hasn't killed any of them. Of course, given the biographical background of Berryman's alcoholism, these lines can also be read as Henry's struggle to remember what happened after a blackout drinking binge. Either way, Henry is trying to figure out what happened during the night.
  • Great, Henry's not a killer. A strange guy? Definitely—but not a killer. Still, it's important to note that Henry must think himself capable of such acts, because he doesn't know he hasn't killed anyone until he does the math. Until Henry has crunched the numbers, he thinks he might have done it.
  • It's also noteworthy that he does this "Often." He wakes up in the morning and counts up the people he knows to make sure he hasn't killed anyone. Shmoop likes to start the day with a cup of coffee and a bran muffin. Henry's morning sounds really depressing.
  • When it's all said and done, Henry's no killer. Still, we would recommend steering clear of Henry until he gets some professional help.

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