His Toy, His Dream, His Rest continues and concludes the poem, called The Dream Songs, begun in 77 Dream Songs, which was published in 1964 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. It is a much longer volume than the earlier one and contains 308 songs in all, starting of course with number 78.
"Some of the people who addressed themselves to 77 Dream Songs went so desperately astray," writes the author, "that I permit myself one word. The poem then, whatever its wide cast of characters, is essentially about an imaginary character (not the poet, not me) named Henry, a white American in early middle age sometimes in blackface, who has suffered an irreversible loss and talks about himself sometimes in the first person, sometimes in the third, sometimes even in the second; he has a friend, never named, who addresses him as Mr Bones and variants therof. Requiescant in pace."
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About the Author
John Berryman is the author of the book of poems, His Toy, His Dream, His Rest.
John Berryman (1914-1972) was an American poet and scholar. He won the Pulitzer Prize for 77 Dream Songs in 1965 and the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize for His Toy, His Dream, His Rest, a continuation of the Dream Songs, in 1969.
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His Toy, His Dream, His Rest
308 Dream Songs
By John Berryman
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 1968 John Berryman
All rights reserved.
Op. posth. no. 1
Darkened his eye, his wild smile disappeared,
inapprehensible his studies grew,
nourished he less & less
his subject body with good food & rest,
something bizarre about Henry, slowly sheared
off, unlike you & you,
smaller & smaller, till in question stood
his eyeteeth and one block of memories
These were enough for him
implying commands from upstairs & from down,
Walt's 'orbic flex,' triads of Hegel would
incorporate, if you please,
into the know-how of the American bard
embarrassed Henry heard himself a-being,
and the younger Stephen Crane
of a powerful memory, of pain,
these stood the ancestors, relaxed & hard,
whilst Henry's parts were fleeing.
Op. posth. no. 2
Whence flew the litter whereon he was laid?
Of what heroic stuff was warlock Henry made?
and questions of that sort
perplexed the bulging cosmos, O in short
was sandalwood in good supply when he
flared out of history
& the obituary in The New York Times
into the world of generosity
creating the air where are
& can be, only, heroes? Statues & rhymes
signal his fiery Passage, a mountainous sea,
the occlusion of a star:
anything afterward, of high lament,
let too his giant faults appear, as sent
together with his virtues down
and let this day be his, throughout the town,
region & cosmos, lest he freeze our blood
with terrible returns.
Op. posth. no. 3
It's buried at a distance, on my insistence, buried.
Weather's severe there, which it will not mind.
I miss it.
O happies before & during & between the times it got married.
I hate the love of leaving it behind,
deteriorating & hopeless that.
The great Uh climbed above me, far above me,
doing the north face, or behind it. Does He love me?
over, & flout.
Goodness is bits of outer God. The house-guest
(slimmed-down) with one eye open & one breast
Slimmed-down from by-blow; adoptive-up; was white.
A daughter of a friend. His soul is a sight.
— Mr Bones, what's all about?
Girl have a little: what be wrong with that?
Yóu free? — Down some many did descend
from the abominable & semi-mortal Cat.
Op. posth. no. 4
He loom' so cagey he say 'Leema beans'
and measured his intake to the atmosphere
of that fairly stable country.
His ear hurt. Left. The rock-cliffs, a mite sheer
at his age, in these places.
Scrubbing out his fear, —
the knowledge that they will take off your hands,
both hands; as well as your both feet, & likewise
might be discouraging to a bloody hero
Also you stifle, like you can't draw breath.
But this is death —
which in some vain strive many to avoid,
many. It's on its way, where you drop at
who stood up, scrunch down small.
It wasn't so much after all to lose, was, Boyd?
A body. — But, Mr Bones, you needed that.
Now I put on my tall hat.
Op. posth. no. 5
Maskt as honours, insult like behaving
missiles homes. I bow, & grunt 'Thank you.
I'm glad you could come
so late.' All loves are gratified. I'm having
to screw a little thing I have to screw.
Good nature is over.
Herewith ill-wishes. From a cozy grave
rainbow I scornful laughings. Do not do,
Father, me down.
Let's shuck an obligation. O I have
done. Is the inner-coffin burning blue
or did Jehovah frown?
Jehovah. Period. Yahweh. Period. God.
It is marvellous that views so differay
(Father is a Jesuit)
can love so well each other. We was had.
O visit in my last tomb me. — Perché?
— Is a nice pit.
Op. posth. no. 6
I recall a boil, whereupon as I had to sit,
just where, and when I had to, for deadlines.
O I could learn to type standing,
but isn't it slim to be slumped off from that,
problems undignified, fiery dig salt mines? —
Content on one's back flat:
coming no deadline — is all ancient nonsense —
no typewriters — ha! ha! — no typewriters —
For I have much to open, I know immense
troubles & wonders to their secret curse.
Yet when erect on my ass,
pissed off, I sat two-square, I kept shut his mouth
and stilled my nimble fingers across keys.
That is I stood up.
Now since down I lay, void of love & ruth,
I'd howl my knowings, only there's the earth
Op. posth. no. 7
Plop, plop. The lobster toppled in the pot,
fulfilling, dislike man, his destiny,
succulent, and on the whole becoming what
man wants. I crack my final claw singly,
wind up the grave, & to bed.
— Sound good, Mr Bones. I wish I had me some.
(I spose you got a lessen up your slave.)
— O no no no.
Sole I remember; where no lobster swine, —
pots hot or cold is none. With you I grieve
lightly, and I have no lesson.
Bodies are relishy, they say. Here's mine,
was. What ever happened to Political Economy,
leaving me here?
Is a rare — in my opinion — responsibility.
The military establishments perpetuate themselves forever.
Have a bite, for a sign.
Op. posth. no. 8
Flak. An eventful thought came to me,
who squirm in my hole. How will the matter end?
Who's king these nights?
What happened to ... day? Are ships abroad?
I would like to but may not entertain a friend.
Save me from ghastly frights,
Triune! My wood or word seems to be rotting.
I daresay I'm collapsing. Worms are at hand.
No, all that froze,
I mean the blood. 'O get up & go in'
somewhere once I heard. Nowadays I doze.
It's cold here.
The cold is ultimating. The cold is cold.
I am — I should be held together by —
but I am breaking up
and Henry now has come to a full stop —
vanisht his vision, if there was, & fold
him over himself quietly.
Op. posth. no. 9
The conclusion is growing ... I feel sure, my lord,
this august court will entertain the plea
Not Guilty by reason of death.
I can say no more except that for the record
I add that all the crimes since all the times he
died will be due to the breath
of unknown others, sweating in their guilt
while my client Henry's brow of stainless steel
rests free, as well it may,
of all such turbulence, whereof not built
Henry lies clear as any onion-peel
in any sandwich, say.
He spiced us: there, my lord, the wicked fault
lodges: we judged him when we did not know
and we did judge him wrong,
lying incapable of crime save salt
preservative in cases here below
adduced. Not to prolong
Op. posth. no. 10
these hearings endlessly, friends, word is had
Henry may be returning to our life
adult & difficult.
There exist rumours that remote & sad
and quite beyond the knowledge of his wife
to the foothills of the cult
will come in silence this distinguished one
essaying once again the lower slopes
in triumph, keeping up our hopes,
and heading not for the highest we have done
but enigmatic faces, unsurveyed,
calm as a forest glade
for him. I only speak of what I hear
and I have said too much. He may be there
or he may groan in hospital
resuming, as the fates decree, our lot.
I would not interrupt him in whatever, in what
he's bracing him to at all.
Op. posth. no. 11
In slack times visit I the violent dead
and pick their awful brains. Most seem to feel
nothing is secret more
to my disdain I find, when we who fled
cherish the knowings of both worlds, conceal
more, beat on the floor,
where Bhain is stagnant, dear of Henry's friends,
yellow with cancer, paper-thin, & bent
even in the hospital bed
racked with high hope, on whom death lay hands
in weeks, or Yeats in the London spring half-spent,
only the grand gift in his head
going for him, a seated ruin of a man
courteous to a junior, like one of the boarders,
or Dylan, with more to say
now there's no hurry, and we're all a clan.
You'd think off here one would be free from orders.
I didn't hear a single word. I obeyed.
Op. posth. no. 12
In a blue series towards his sleepy eyes
they slid like wonder, women tall & small,
of every shape & size,
in many languages to lisp 'We do'
to Henry almost waking. What is the night at all,
his closed eyes beckon you.
In the Marriage of the Dead, a new routine,
he gasped his crowded vows past lids shut tight
and a-many rings fumbled on.
His coffin like Grand Central to the brim
filled up & emptied with the lapse of light.
Which one will waken him?
O she must startle like a fallen gown,
content with speech like an old sacrament
in deaf ears lying down,
blazing through darkness till he feels the cold
& blindness of his hopeless tenement
while his black arms unfold.
Op. posth. no. 13
In the night-reaches dreamed he of better graces,
of liberations, and beloved faces,
such as now ere dawn he sings.
It would not be easy, accustomed to these things,
to give up the old world, but he could try;
let it all rest, have a good cry.
Let Randall rest, whom your self-torturing
cannot restore one instant's good to, rest:
he's left us now.
The panic died and in the panic's dying
so did my old friend. I am headed west
also, also, somehow.
In the chambers of the end we'll meet again
I will say Randall, he'll say Pussycat
and all will be as before
whenas we sought, among the beloved faces,
eminence and were dissatisfied with that
and needed more.
Op. posth. no. 14
Noises from underground made gibber some,
others collected & dug Henry up
saying 'You are a sight.'
Chilly, he muttered for a double rum
waving the mikes away, putting a stop
to rumours, pushing his fright
off with the now accumulated taxes
accustomed in his way to solitude
and no bills.
Wives came forward, claiming a new Axis,
fearful for their insurance, though, now, glued
to disencumbered Henry's many ills.
A fortnight later, sense a single man
upon the trampled scene at 2 a.m.
insomnia-plagued, with a shovel
digging like mad, Lazarus with a plan
to get his own back, a plan, a stratagem
no newsman will unravel.
Room 231: the forth week
Something black somewhere in the vistas of his heart.
Tulips from Tates teazed Henry in the mood
to be a tulip and desire no more
but water, but light, but air.
Yet his nerves rattled blackly, unsubdued,
& suffocation called, dream-whiskey'd pour
sirening. Rosy there
too fly my Phil & Ellen roses, pal.
Flesh-coloured men & women come & punt
under my windows. I rave
or grunt against it, from a flowerless land.
For timeless hours wind most, or not at all. I wind
my clock before I shave.
Soon it will fall dark. Soon you'll see stars
you fevered after, child, man, & did nothing, —
compass live to the pencil-torch!
As still as his cadaver, Henry mars
this surface of an earth or other, feet south
eyes bleared west, waking to march.
General Fatigue stalked in, & a Major-General,
Captain Fatigue, and at the base of all
pale Corporal Fatigue,
and curious microbes came, came viruses:
and the Court conferred on Henry, and conferred on Henry
the rare Order of Weak.
— How come dims one these wholesome elsers oh?
Old polymaths, old trackers, far from home,
say how thro' auburn hair titbits of youth's grey climb.
I have heard of rose-cheekt but the rose is here!
I bell: when pops her phiz in a good crow.
My beauty is off duty! —
Henry relives a lady, how down vain,
spruce in her succinct parts, spruce everywhere.
They fed like muscles and lunched
after, between, before. He tracks her, hunched
(propped on red table elbows) at her telephone,
white rear bare in the air.
Excerpted from His Toy, His Dream, His Rest by John Berryman. Copyright © 1968 John Berryman. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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