In a Dark Time

By Theodore Roethke 1908–1963 Theodore Roethke
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 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.

Theodore Roethke, “In a Dark Time” from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. Copyright © 1963 by Beatrice Roethke, Administratrix of the Estate of Theodore Roethke. Reprinted with the permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Doubleday, 1961)

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Poet Theodore Roethke 1908–1963

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Nature, Religion, Life Choices, Animals, Relationships

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Theodore  Roethke

Biography

Theodore Roethke was hardly one who would have been expected to become a major American poet. Though as a child he read a great deal and as a high school freshman he had a Red Cross campaign speech translated into twenty-six languages, he strove to be accepted by peers who felt "brains were sissys." The insecurity that led him to drink to be "in with the guys" continued at the University of Michigan, where he adopted a tough, . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Religion, Life Choices, Animals, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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