The Waking

By Theodore Roethke 1908–1963 Theodore Roethke
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.

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.

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.

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.

Great Nature has another thing to do   
To you and me; so take the lively air,   
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

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.

Theodore Roethke, “The Waking” from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. Copyright 1953 by Theodore Roethke. Reprinted with the permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Doubleday, 1961)

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Poet Theodore Roethke 1908–1963

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Time & Brevity, Nature, The Body, Living

Poetic Terms Villanelle

 Theodore  Roethke

Biography

Theodore Roethke hardly fits anyone’s image of the stereotypical high-minded poet-intellectual of the 1940s through 1960s. Born in Saginaw, Michigan, his father was a German immigrant who owned and ran a 25-acre greenhouse. Though as a child he read a great deal and as a high school freshman he had a Red Cross campaign speech translated into 26 languages, he suffered from issues of abandonment and loss, and his lack of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Nature, The Body, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Villanelle

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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