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"The Waking" by Theodore Roethke

Poem analysis
by

Jessica Hartwell

on 11 October 2012

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Transcript of "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke

The Waking by: Theodore Roethke About Theodore: What do you think? Form: Question time! Works Cited: The poem is a villanelle which is composed of 19 lines with repeating rhymes and refrains. It also has 5 tercets followed by a quatrain. Why do you think the speaker asks a question at the beginning of every stanza? Blessing, Richard Allen. Theodore Roethke's Dynamic Vision. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1974. Theme: Piece by piece:

Video Time: -Born 1908 in Saginaw, Michigan -Spent much of his Childhood working in a greenhouse with his father.
-This is reflected in his usage of natural living objects in his poetry.
-Sadly, when he was 15 his Father died of Cancer and his Uncle committed suicide.
-Tragic/Poetic Impact A little bit of crazy: -Considering Roethke's tragic past he began to suffer from manic depression.
-Became a heavy drinker
-Dealt with depression for most of the remainder of his life until he died in 1963 from a heart attack. Education: -Theodore attended the University of Michigan receiving his Masters degree and shortly attended law school there after.
-Great Depression he began teaching English.
-He taught at several well known Universities such as: Pennsylvania State, University of Washington, and Lafayette College



Understanding: Poetic Devices: 1. Repetition:
"I wake to sleep and take my waking slow / I learn by going where I have to go"
2. Paradox:
"I feel my fate in what I cannot fear"

3. Imagery:
"Tree", "Lowly Worm", and "The Winding Stair"

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go. He is talking about life and death, living it to the fullest. We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. Uses his sense perceptions. He hears something
that cannot be heard. He learns through feeling. Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

This is the beginning of the journey. Roethke interprets the ground as the start of life. Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

This again goes along with the last stanza. The tree transcending toward the light represents the growth. The worm could also portray life moving forward. Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

Nature repeats. It is a focal point in the poem. Air in this case could be the sense of direction. This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
The final stanza reveals a paradox. Unclear at first but I believe is intended to show faults as the solution rather than the problem. Self Acknowledgment:
The speaker learns about himself throughout the problem as he learns the journey of life. He is "Waking" to his own existence. In the line, "Great nature has another thing to do, to you and me take the lively air." What do you think the speaker is suggesting that nature has yet to do? Do you believe the title contributes to the overall meaning of the poem? If so, in what way? Describe the tone of the poem. Is the speaker afraid, sad, happy, or angry? Roethke, Theodore. "Selected Poems of T. Roethke | The Waking." Ga Moon, Ga Stars, Ga WOW!. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <http://gawow.com/roethke/poems/104.htm
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