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 was hardly one who would have been expected to become a major American poet. Though as a child he read a great deal and as a high school freshman he had a Red Cross campaign speech translated into twenty-six languages, he strove to be accepted by peers who felt "brains were sissys." The insecurity that led him to drink to be "in with the guys" continued at the University of Michigan, where he adopted a tough, . . .

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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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