Saturday, 7 December 2013

Theodore Roethke: "In a Dark Time, the Eye Begins to See..."

Gustave Doré, 1857, from Dante's Inferno
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.
-Theodore Roethke, from 'In a Dark Time'

Roethke's 'In a Dark Time' walks the reader through some of the most fundamental images of the subconscious/unconscious; it's at one and the same time highly immersive (I feel like Dante heading into the dark wood, in those opening lines), and extremely self-aware, even self-observing.

I appreciate this poem, and Roethke's poems generally, for their keen psychological insights. Above all, this poem tells me that we can make use of the dark times. It reminds me of Rumi's famous words: "Don't turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That is where the light enters you." The dark time is when the eye begins to see.

IN A DARK TIME (Theodore Roethke)

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