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By Martz, William J.; Berryman, John

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Henry is John Berryman saying, Here I am as a man, as the particular implies the universal. In this he succeeds. Henry is interesting. He has sheer interestingness, which is of course not to say that every Dream Song succeeds by this standard. That the poetic technique of "The Dream Songs" tends to shift from 77 Dream Songs to His Toy, His Dream, His Rest is, it seems to me, a weakness, and this is true despite the flexibility gained by the device of fluid characterization. For a shift in technique must be functional, must be, in fact, part of the organic character of the poem as a structure.

The words used to describe him in His Toy, His Dream, His Rest are quite consistent with those found in 77 Dream Songs: disordered, obsessed, stricken, sad, wilful, sympathetic, lively, miserable, impenetrable, mortal, joyous, perishable, anarchic, apoplectic, and edgy. But in 77 Dream Songs, although we have a visual, a concrete sense of what he is, he is not detailed in the sense that Mistress Bradstreet is detailed. When we finish Homage we can recall the facts of a biography, but when we finish 77 Dream Songs we can recall only the existence of a man.

Bones, a friend, a vaudeville stereotype, an alter ego, a mere name suggesting death. Both characters are comic, with the comedy springing from Henry's premise that he normally expects something very bad to happen to him every day. We are at once in the world of the vaudeville skit. It is a charming and disarming world, and in its way a fit place to discuss the nature of man. But at the end of the first stanza the voice of Henry — and the vaudeville skit — is dropped, and the poet's voice enters.

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