Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Written when Warren was in his seventies, “Dreaming in Daylight” appears in the collection Being Here: Poetry, 1977-1980. In an afterword, Warren discloses that the poems are placed in thematic order “played against, or with, a shadowy narrative, a shadowy autobiography.” Within the five divisions of poems moving from childhood to youth to old age, the poem at hand is listed in part 2, which finds the poet (the protagonist of all the poems) in young manhood after initially wrestling as a boy in part 1 with childhood memories and issues of life and death. Like other works in its division, the poem treats one of Warren’s major themes: man’s ageless drive toward self-discovery and self-determination.

Victor H. Standberg, in The Poetic Vision of Robert Penn Warren (1977), suggests that for Warren, individuals encounter a sense of alienation as they search for their identity in a perplexing, often corrupt or indifferent world. To overcome estrangement and pursue their intended purpose, they must undergo a period of intense self-examination that ideally can lead to further knowledge about self and the world. Although the search may not always end in success, Warren does not counsel giving up. In this piece, the poet searches for his identity within nature, a typical Warren landscape. Yet in spite of his initial joy in seeking unity with nature, the poet finds in nature no oneness but rather rejection embodied by hidden animal eyes...

(The entire section is 513 words.)