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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 326

"In a Dark Time" by Theodore Roethke examines the mental illness of the writer and how it can contribute positively to the creative process. It ends with him stating that he is beginning to feel free of the shackles that were holding him.

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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.

The poem, however, starts in a very dark place where, in a wood, the poet seems to be expecting the appearance of his maker.

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—

It is precisely his journey from here to his spiritual awakening at the end that makes the poem so interesting. In the next stanza the poet seems ready to start accepting his condition.

What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,

In the last few lines of the stanza, he asks if it is a cave he can see or a winding road. In other words, it is either a place he can hide himself or a place he can continue on his journey. As he is inside his own dark mind, this is more likely a choice he has to make.

That place among the rocks—is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

In the next stanza he states, "a man goes far to find out what he is, " suggesting he has taken the path, which, at the end of poem, the poet suggests leads to his salvation. By accepting who he is, he has freed himself to become what he wants.

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?

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