Theodore Roethke

(1908 - 1963 / Michigan / United States)

In A Dark Time


In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or a winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Richard Vandervoort (5/10/2009 11:06:00 PM)

    IN A DARK TIME is a great poem of mood and tone, of a man's encounter with 'self' or 'Self', a searching for his truer, deepest identity. 'Which I is I? ' the speaker asks. Anyone who ever experienced an 'identity crisis' may identify with this poem. Richard Lee Van Der Voort, M.A. (Report) Reply

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