Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday's Poem and Poet

Theodore Roethke's poem, The Waking, is open to a variety of interpretations. I see it as positive, a hint, good advice: take things calmly, whatever events are before you, take each day as it comes, and keep on keeping on...just keep putting one foot in front of the other, learning by mistakes and from nature.

The poem, in villanelle pattern, has a kind of musical rhythm. In fact jazz singer Kurt Elling has recorded it - here it is at YouTube.

The Waking

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, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, was born on 25 May, 1908 in Saginaw, Michigan. The death of his father and suicide of his uncle when Theodore was just 15 must have been engraved in memory and triggered a dark melancholy reflected in some of his poems. He suffered from manic depression (bi-polar disorder). His poetry must have acted as an escape valve. He was also an alcoholic - a less productive escape valve!
 12 noon chart

A glimpse of the man himself comes through from this piece: Stanley Kunitz on Theodore Roethke
For all his six-foot-three, two-hundred-plus pound build and his lumbering gait, he was amazingly nimble on his feet and ruthless at the kill, with a smashing service and a thunderous forehand drive. The daemon in him played the game [tennis] just as it wrote the poems. Whatever he did was an aspect of the same insatiable will to conquer self and art and others. He could not bear to lose. If you managed to beat him by cunning and luck, you could not expect to be congratulated; he was more likely to smash his racket across his knees. After the steady deterioration of his body had forced him to abandon the game—his knees in particular gave out—he retreated into croquet and badminton, which he played with the same rapture and schrecklichkeit [= "terror" or "frightfulness"].

As a young man he felt humiliated and disgraced by the periodic mental breakdowns that were to afflict him all his life. There were outbreaks and absences and silences that he had to cover up, partly because he realized what a threat they offered to his survival in the academic world
His Gemini Sun with Moon, almost certainly in Aries whatever time he was born, reflect an ease of communication and a driving determination to overcome difficulties (and, it appears, to beat opponents in games of sport). It's Pluto exactly conjunct natal Mercury, also in Gemini, which I suspect relates to the darker side of his poetry, and his nature. Mars, Neptune and Venus in Cancer reflect a deep sensitivity which must have made the tragedies in his young years even harder to cope with. I don't have a time of birth for him, but it's possible that Moon and serious Saturn were conjoined as well as Mercury/Pluto. The uncomfortable square aspects from Uranus and Mars to Saturn must be reflections of the emotional difficulties brought on by his life history's saddest moments.
(Click on chart image for a better view.)

A more detailed chart:


mike said...

All of his planets are inter-related by aspects. His Moon's possible range is 3* to 15* Aries and makes difficult aspects, whatever the position. The most supportive aspect is his Jupiter-Saturn trine, with Sun at the midpoint sextile both, which isn't necessarily an easy aspect, likely to induce an over-blown ego to balance self-doubt and fears, particularly with Saturn's other, frictional aspects...this aspect may have contributed the up-down nature of his bipolar-ness. Venus is opposing Uranus (why doesn't your software show that?) and possibly T-square with Moon:
"...Rebellious, unconventional attitudes appear; and with this opposition aspect, you will feel that you have to assert your own unique identity even though it may create discord between yourself and others. You will often feel disturbed by emotional insecurity and an instability in the consistency of your feelings towards others. In intimate relationships, this will be displayed in swings between red-hot passions and ice-cold disinterest. This puzzles you, and can obviously confuse a partner, especially when the need for a deeper commitment arises. You wouldn't be sure what to do; and your lover would doubt your real feelings. Your desires can feel extremely powerful, demanding satisfaction; and the intensity of this energy can lead you to explore unconventional ways of life. A certain impulsiveness and reckless spirit can take you into experiences that could be dangerous..."

He has many aspects that would require much maturity and nurturing to produce positive results, but then we probably wouldn't have Roethke's poetry. I think his Mercury-Pluto conjunction in Gemini brought his poems forth and the trine to Chiron allowed the catharsis.

Twilight said...

mike ~ I don't know why my software misses Uranus/Venus opposition. The version of the software I use now is a pared down one, the full version didn't work on Windows 7 and at the time I didn't feel like buying all new software. I've dug out a chart I produced years ago, with my full software, and it's a little clearer - I'll add it at the end of the post for reference.

Thanks for your additional astrology and other commentary. :-)

Anonymous said...

Rank amateur went looking for the bad knees - lol. So Saturn (knees) cj Moon (8th) - could be hereditary via mother, Mars (ruler Aries) in Cancer (debilitated) ruled by Moon, and back to Sat/Moon. Capricorn on the 5th and Saturn in 7th, exacerbate a natal condition when playing games with others (7th and Gem, of course.) Yes? No?

His mashed-up Moon looks like a real mess in relationship with mother and women partners. Ughsville.

Twilight said...

Sabina ~ LOL! We don't know for sure Moon's degree though, but it'd likely still be close enough to Saturn for your diagnosis. Houses will not be reliable without a time of birth though.

And you're no rank amateur! :-)

In general, as signs, I like Gemini, I like Cancer, and I like Aries - but his mix of these could be a bit too much for me! "He'd be a right handful!" - as my grandma would have said.

LB said...

I sometimes sleep in shifts. Got up early and read your post, then fell back asleep and dreamed. In my dream I *thought* I was awake, then questioned the dream-like scene I found myself in as my surroundings began to move in and out of focus, growing further and further away until finally the landscape stretched out before me like an endless frozen sea scattered with people and activity, far off in the distance, far away from where I stood. Afraid at first, I quickly gathered myself and began walking, headed toward some unknown destination.

In retrospect, I realize it was related to the poem, "The Waking", which seems (to me), to be about the fragile dance of growing more conscious and appreciative, of becoming more aware of the spiritual limitations of intellect and self-reliance in touching the mystical ~ Pluto-Mercury in Gemini trine Chiron in Aquarius, with Saturn in Aries at the midpoint. Theodore's Saturn also squares his Nodes.

He used his periods of depression (Saturn) to deeply inform his writing (Mercury-Pluto) and gave a voice to our collective longing and sense of isolation (Chiron in Aquarius). With his North Node so close to Mars, Venus and Neptune, his search for the divine led him to explore the sometimes dark, sometimes beautiful, sometimes illusionary places along the way.

Thanks, Twilight. After reading your post and intrigued by his beautiful poetry, I requested a couple of books from the library, one of his poems and the other of his notes.

Twilight said...

LB ~ What a lovely dream! And a different interpretation of the poem - I like it.

I too woke too early (often do) and dozed with addition of a shallow dream, which for once I've remembered. I was walking too, but I was younger, stick thin with a pencil skirt and very high heels, very conscious of how I was walking. Semi-conscious mind kept concentrating on the rhythm and placing of every step and wondering how I could manage on those very thin heels after all these years in flats (and have never worn a skirt, let alone a pencil skirt, since retiring from work). LOL! - no idea where I was going, but I had a destination in mind, ("going where I had to go" no doubt) - nothing like your dream landscape though. :-)

Thanks for your additional astrology points.

I hope you'll let us know how you like the books. I found poems of his I've read on line to seem to be coming from a quite different character from that described in the snipped quote in my post.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Funny how you also dreamed you were walking somewhere.:)

When I was much younger, pencil skirts and high heels were part of my work 'costume' too. Later, skirts and flats (I walked everywhere). I think I've only worn a skirt once since the school I worked for closed, to a funeral. Now I mostly wear yoga pants and athletic shoes.

Of all the things I miss, wearing high heels isn't one of them!