The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Eyes of Night-Time” is a full-throated song about the beauty of night and darkness. This short poem in free verse expresses the poet’s awe over nature’s beauty at night. The first stanza describes with passionate wonder the creatures that see in the dark. In the second stanza, the poet considers what human beings may see in the darkness, or what the darkness may reveal to them.

For Muriel Rukeyser, “night-time” has strong metaphorical connections to the human spirit’s darkness or hidden truths. The poem, while offering minute observations on nature at night, also deals with self-examination and attempts to comment on human nature in general. Speaking in the first person, as if recalling a recent experience, the poet describes in the first stanza what she saw “On the roads at night.” Nighttime, traditionally a time of openness and reflection, allowed her to see “the glitter of eyes.” Eyes are often thought of as windows to the soul or entryways into the inner life of another being. Much communication occurs through the eyes alone. Thus these eyes of nighttime creatures are potentially the bearers of important messages. Each might be an entrance point for understanding some mystery of nature or its beauty.

The poet enters a nighttime temperament, one of free-ranging thought and expression. She confides that “my dark around me let shine one ray.” This ray could be interpreted as her inner light, which is responding to the “spangles” and “eye shine” of the creatures whose eyes she sees. She is attempting to connect somehow with nature, and the intensity of her descriptions indicates how urgently she is doing so.


(The entire section is 683 words.)