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In a Dark Time

Theodore Roethke
by

Wesley Moncrief

on 29 January 2013

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Transcript of In a Dark Time

In a Dark Time Theodore Roethke Line by Line Explication Literary Analysis stanza 4 2nd stanza stanza 3 1st stanza Childhood Late Career Early Career Biography Born May 25, 1908
Father: Otto Roethke
Uncle: Charles Roethke
Influences from Greenhouse
Unresolved quarrels between Otto and his son
Uncle's suicide and Father's death Law and Advertising in college
Michigan State teacher, 1935, first attack (manic-depressive/bipolar)
Kept him from draft
Penn State, "Open House" published 1947 - Professor at University of Washington
1953 - Married
1958 - Daily therapy sessions
1962 - "Prayed" for his next attack
1962 - "In a Dark Time"
August 1, 1963 - Heart attack, death 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. Literal anatomy of human eye - rods and cones a
b
c
a
d
d Sea-bird Land-bird noble strong evil hated "ing" implies journey Identifies subject More of a "beasts of the hill" than serpent, circumstance to den Complete, intense Real, Powerful Connotation: Darkness Stressed acuteness of torment of the spirit Place = madness Trapped, stuck, hopeless, isolated Journey to enlightenment Rough Small force is enough to hold him Threshold of path and cave So many that they can't be counted Connections between inner and outer world In the middle of clarity, mental disorder strikes again
madness akin to visionary transcendence, where "again" refers to youth Contradiction The part that isn't the true self Paradox Makes sense when you look at his entire personality Brink of transcendence/insanity Universalist "God" Born again, into a violent world History/Art/Music Little known about mental illness
Little from the outside world influenced Roethke

Original artwork

Frederic Chopin Influences Wordsworth (natural)
Whitman (free verse) Chaotic Stanza Theme Tone Mood Rhyme Scheme Literary Devices One must plunge to the dark bottom of his consciousness to find clarity. Dark, Forlorn "despair", "weeping", "serpents", "sweating", "death", "tearless", "tearing" Melancholy, Reflexive "Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire" Incremental Repetition Synecdoche "I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood" Metaphor "That place among the rocks - is it a cave,
Or a winding path? Literary Devices Consonance "A steady storm of correspondences!" Simile "My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill." Paradox "The mind enters itself" Other Analysis - abcadd - shows initial confusion Lyric Emotional, subjective Purpose for writing - attempt to deal with mental breakdown,
- "attempt to break through rational experience" Romantic Freedom of individual, passion Diction Analysis Pathos Appeal to emotion 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. Art Music History Persona Man trying to find clarity Near Rhyme Rhyme scheme deteriorates as poem progresses - our line-by-line analysis mimics this
Full transcript