Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Waking ~ Theodore Roethke

The poem below is by Theodore Roethke, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet. Born 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 the rather dark, melancholy feel of some of his poems. He suffered from manic depression (bi-polar disorder) - exaggerated mood swings. His poetry was obviously something of an escape valve.

His Gemini Sun and Moon in Aries reflect an ease of communication and driving determination to overcome difficulties, but it's Pluto exactly conjunct natal Mercury, also in Gemini, which I suspect relates to the darker side of his poetry. 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 Saturn were conjoined as well as Mercury/Pluto - which could also contribute to the serious tone of his work.

His poem I've chosen is open to a variety of interpretations. I prefer to see it as positive, with a hint of 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. I find the poem has an almost musical rhythm.

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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this posting. What a lovely poem. I agree it is open to many interpretations. For me it speaks to waking up to the pull of my 12th house Neptune.

Wisewebwoman said...

Beautiful, T. I believe he was sick when he wrote this, not sure about that. I find it very inspiring, powerful, no matter what, one has to rail against the dying of the light as another beloved poet put it!

Ron Southern said...

I kept trying to remember why I knew this poem so well from long ago. I recall now it was recommended to me by someone who grew up to be a poet and professor of English. Keep up the good taste and maybe you'll grow up some day yourself!

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~~~ True enough - it fits whatever we see it fiting - the mark of a good poem, or song, or painting. :-)

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Yes, that's quite likely.
Roethke says it in a rather more accepting way than DT - but just as powefully. :-)

Twilight said...

RonSouthern ~~~ Thanks......I think. ;-)

Charles Davenport said...

You might be interested in knowing that Roethke's childhood home in Saginaw, MI will once again be the site of the annual Theodore Roethke celebration (he would have been 104). His wife, Beatrice, attended last year, but alas, the trip from England is too much for her. For more information, email me:

Twilight said...

Charles Davenport ~~ Hi there - and many thanks for that information.