David Whyte’s Sweet Darkness: explication de texte

The following is an explication de texte on David Whyte’s poem Sweet Darkness. His poem is in bold face type; my annotation follows and is italicized, followed by a few brief notes at the underneath; and the pages thereafter is the close reading work I did in regards to his poem.

Sweet Darkness

David Whyte

 

When your eyes are tired

the world is tired also.

 

When your vision has gone

no part of the world can find you.

 

Time to go into the dark

where the night has eyes

to recognize its own.

 

There you can be sure

you are not beyond love.

 

The dark will be your womb

tonight.

 

The night will give you a horizon

further than you can see.

 

You must learn one thing:

the world was made to be free in.

 

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

 

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

 

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

 is too small for you.

 

 

Annotation

 

Our environment is actualized by how we perceive it.

 

We choose to be recognized by what we see.

 

It’s time to close your eyes and be recognized by who you really are.

 

For it is there that we be true to ourselves and truly be loved.

 

You will be rebirthed from the darkness of your mind and into a new perception.

 

This personal night—darkness—will allow you to see into the depths of your soul.

 

We are not free if we allow our environment to make perceived our truths.

 

Give up all the other worlds, except your sweet darkness.

Sometimes it takes the confinement of your mind to realize:

 

That only when we see ourselves in the darkness, can we see who we really are.

 

Additional Annotation Notes: This poem holds a great emphasis on duality; it’s free verse; it bears a very personal and intimate tone by addressing the reader in second person; and he employs the use of imagery—personification, metaphor, et al.


The poem Sweet Darkness, by David Whyte, is set in free verse and aims to encourage and explore the depths and purpose of the human psyche: that it’s in our mind’s intimate darkness where we must first learn to live, lest we allow our environment to live us.

The dark will be your womb tonight.”

~David Whyte

David employs a close, intimate tone in writing this poem. Such a tone allows the reader to feel as though she or he is sitting across from the speaker, listening to his exact words. Provided this poem delves into the human psych—a rather personal matter—it seems ever appropriate to speak with such closeness: it allows for encouragement and gives way for meaning to sink into the reader’s soul. Quite simply, I do not believe this poem could have been written with any other tone—formal—and still achieve the same and desired effects.

            Although the use of imagery seems quite an inherent part in creating quality poetry, I do not believe many understand the unique and essential purpose of using it. That is, imagery serves a much greater purpose than to simply dress up a poem in a fine silken dress: it serves to communicate a certain complexity of the poem with ease and clarity. David wrote, “Time to go into the dark/where the night has eyes/to recognize its own.” Had he wrote “Time to go into the dark/where the night has understanding,” I do not believe the reader would have understood in much fullness what He is communicating.

Throughout his poem, he speaks a lot of the night, the dark, and how we, as humans, act. He creates a duality in a couple of places: “When your eyes are tired/the world is tired

also [and] when your vision has gone/no part of the world can find you.” It’s appropriate to create such duality in order to: (1) relate that our sensory perception greatly influences how we understand and how we feel about who we are as people and (2) how we relate this conception to the world around us.

            David writes, “The dark will be your womb/tonight.” Although that line doesn’t appear until half way through the poem, I believe he is referring to the mind, the place where we must first start, must first be born—in order to really learn how to live.

            For in this dark place, “the night will give you a horizon/further than you can see.” The mind is the passage way to the soul. In order to see our soul, we must first journey through the mind.

            We can’t truly live in “the world [that] was made to be free in” until we explore and embrace the truth of our soul, of our darkness.

            One stanza later, he writes, “Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet/confinement of your aloneness/to learn/ anything or anyone/that does not bring you alive/is too small for you.” Aww. But of course: We cannot understand who we really are without spending time reading the poetry of our soul. Once we are rebirthed in our mind, we can understand who we are, thus allowing us to learn we must discard, we must reject with sharp, venom distaste, the things and people that stand in the way of our fullest potential.

Much thanks to David Whyte for sharing his art with the world: his work is eternal. You can visit his website at: www.davidwhyte.com

P.S. Here is his latest, revised edition of Sweet Darkness:

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone,
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

– David Whyte

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5 responses to “David Whyte’s Sweet Darkness: explication de texte

  1. This is such a good interpretation! I’m glad you liked this poem. As you know, it’s a favorite of mine. Great job with it, sir.

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