“Daylights” uses a contemporary urban setting to explore the idea of nature. By juxtaposing the gritty streets of New York with the sky, the speaker questions popular representations of nature as a benign or even a beneficent force. Here, the sky “stabs” the speaker, offering her no solace from the ugly and threatening street crime she witnesses. As lines 14–15 show, the blue sky itself makes the speaker vulnerable, “unclouding” and “un-naming” her, until she feels as if she is facing her own death. Nature for Warren, as for the symbolist poets of the nineteenth century, is not a place of refuge but rather a mirror-like entity that reflects the poet’s own fears and desires. Whereas nature inspired the romantic poets, it just as often casts dread into the hearts of the symbolists, making them aware of their own aloneness in the world. Curiously, it is another human being that finally prods the speaker of “Daylights” into action after she is rendered almost catatonic by witnessing the robbery and by seeing someone from “a previous life.” The speaker’s gratitude, apparently for being physically unharmed, comes “in the grit gray light of day,” an urban image posed in stark contrast to the blue of the “Grecian dreams” the speaker imagined earlier.
In “Daylights,” Warren paints a psychological profile of a person caught in the midst of urban violence. Stereotypes of the...
(The entire section is 407 words.)