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.  Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

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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