Analyzing “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke.
Great Nature has another thing to do. A To you and me; so take the lively air, B And, lovely, learn by going where to go. C This shaking keeps me steady. I should know. A What falls away is always. And is near. B I learn by going where I have to go. C lines (called a terrace), except in the last stanza where there are four lines (called a quatrain). Poems written like this, including nineteen lines are called vileness’s. The rhyme scheme is not constant. There is not a pattern in the way the rhymes are set up. If you look above, you will see the variations in which the poem rhymes.
This is a typical style of modern poetry. Modern poetry is considered anything written from 1920 till now days. This poem, “The Waking” was written in 1953. This poem could be taken literally, but I think if you look into it further, it is a figurative piece. There are many lines that can be taken for what they say, while other lines take time to understand and pull meaning from. 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. This first stanza starts off with a rhythm, and is him drifting into states of sleep and wariness.
He wakes to sleep, which I take he lives to be inside this dreamland he creates, while he takes his waking slow, he comes into reality but doesn’t Jump completely into it with both feet quickly. He feels his fate in what he cannot fear, is where he knows what his fate is and he knows he must not be afraid of it. All the while, he learns by going where he has to go, meaning he learns more about this fate one step at a time, while he goes in the direction he knows he needs to go in. The second stanza goes: 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 sleeping slow. The way we feel, is the way we think is what the first sentence is telling us. He believes our feelings influence the thinking process. Then he goes on to say, “What is there to know? ” , him questioning what is there for us to know? What are we thinking about? And why is it important? Why are these feelings important and do they mean anything at all? The line is him tossing his thoughts around and he describes it as them dancing from ear to ear inside his head. Then he goes on to repeat how he lives laity isn’t something he isn’t too fond of.
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. The first line in this stanza is the writer wondering which of the people in his life of whom he calls his friends or is close family, or anyone close to him; which one of these people are really beside him. He wants to know who is there for him when and if he needs them. The ground that is blessed, is where he will walk. He is saying, which I’m guessing this may be America, because the American “logo” is God Bless America, and America is maybe considered blessed ground on which he will walk on.
While he is Journeying there, he will learn as he goes this fate in which he speaks of. Moving on to stanza four: Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how? The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair; The first line is asking who knows how the light takes the tree. I’m thinking that by the way tree is capitalized it is in a symbol of life, and it is asking how life can be taken away in the speed of light maybe. The second line is about a lowly worm climbing up a winding stair, which ay represent a soul going up the stair up to heaven perhaps?
I’m guessing this because of the first line, that seems to be referring to death. Maybe the author feels that the fate he knows and must not fear is death and he is talking about how fast it happens and who can say why or how. Then the last line repeats itself to give across the message before, about his dreamlike state and him going into reality slowly. Maybe because the reality is death coming. Great Nature has another thing to do. To you and me; so take the lively air, And, lovely, learn by going where to go. Another thing to do.
This could be him saying that death was maybe put off for a while for him. He thought it was coming quickly, yet great mother nature came in with another plan and gave him longer time. Since everyone eventually dies, this explains the next line saying, “To you and me; so take the lively air,” where he is saying we have this time so go and take in all the life around you while you still have it. While doing this, take in all the lovely things and learn as you go along where you are going in life. The last stanza; This shaking keeps me steady. I should know. What falls away is always. And is near.
This is first saying how the shaking, which could be his fear inside of him, because people sometimes shake when afraid, keeps him steady. This keeps him steady because he knows of what could and is going to be and it keeps him grounded and he is always reminded of it. The second line says, “What falls away is always. And is near. ” is saying that even though something may fade away, doesn’t mean it completely disappeared, it always lingers nearby. Then the last two lines, you see throughout the poem is restated; this is saying that he still in the loving of the ramekin state, and he doesn’t still want to go quickly into reality.
He also will continue to learn by going where he feels fate is directing him in his life. The imagery I get from this is first in a very dreamlike, calm, sort of a lullaby type feeling. Going on to being a little dark in referring to death, but it is very light and doesn’t give you unpleasant images. At the end of the poem, you feel a peace and calmness again, where you feel the writer has had a resolution and feels at ease with himself and his fate. There is calm and peaceful imagery through the poem overall.