The Waking by Theodore Roethke 1908-1963

Theodore Roethke won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. This is the title poem from the collection that won the prize. He grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. His parents ran a green house. His vision returns to those plants and his child’s perceptions of it all, the smell and the feel of plants and how they die and turn back to soil, and back into plants. This seems like an encouraging poem. The rhythms and repetitions sound like Robert Frost, another farmer poet. The two died in the same year.

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.

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