The Collected Poems Quotes

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The Collected Poems The Collected Poems by Theodore Roethke
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The Collected Poems Quotes Showing 1-23 of 23
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, The Collected Poems
“By daily dying, I have come to be.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“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.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“What is madness but nobility of the soul at odds with circumstance.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“I teach my sighs to lengthen into songs,
Yet, like a tree, endure the shift of things.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“She moves as water moves, and comes to me,
Stayed by what was, and pulled by what would be.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
tags: poetry
“I Knew a Woman"

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“I wake to sleep and take my waking slow. I learn by going where I have to go.
The Waking”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
(November, 1939)

The winds of hatred blow
Cold, cold across the flesh
And chill the anxious heart;
Intricate phobias grow
From each malignant wish
To spoil collective life.
Now each man stands apart.

We watch opinion drift,
Think of our separate skins.
On well-upholstered bums
The generals cough and shift
Playing with painted pins.
The arbitrators wait;
The newsmen suck their thumbs.
The mind is quick to turn
Away from simple faith
To the cant and fury of
Fools who will never learn;
Reason embraces death,
While out of frightened eyes
Still stares the wish to love.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“The Dying Man"

in memoriam W.B. Yeats

1. His words

I heard a dying man
Say to his gathered kin,
“My soul’s hung out to dry,
Like a fresh salted skin;
I doubt I’ll use it again.

“What’s done is yet to come;
The flesh deserts the bone,
But a kiss widens the rose
I know, as the dying know
Eternity is Now.

“A man sees, as he dies,
Death’s possibilities;
My heart sways with the world.
I am that final thing,
A man learning to sing.

2. What Now?

Caught in the dying light,
I thought myself reborn.
My hand turn into hooves.
I wear the leaden weight
Of what I did not do.

Places great with their dead,
The mire, the sodden wood,
Remind me to stay alive.
I am the clumsy man
The instant ages on.

I burned the flesh away,
In love, in lively May.
I turn my look upon
Another shape than hers
Now, as the casement blurs.

In the worst night of my will,
I dared to question all,
And would the same again.
What’s beating at the gate?
Who’s come can wait.

3. The Wall

A ghost comes out of the unconscious mind
To grope my sill: It moans to be reborn!
The figure at my back is not my friend;
The hand upon my shoulder turns to horn.
I found my father when I did my work,
Only to lose myself in this small dark.

Though it reject dry borders of the seen,
What sensual eye can keep and image pure,
Leaning across a sill to greet the dawn?
A slow growth is a hard thing to endure.
When figures our of obscure shadow rave,
All sensual love’s but dancing on a grave.

The wall has entered: I must love the wall,
A madman staring at perpetual night,
A spirit raging at the visible.
I breathe alone until my dark is bright.
Dawn’s where the white is. Who would know the dawn
When there’s a dazzling dark behind the sun.

4. The Exulting

Once I delighted in a single tree;
The loose air sent me running like a child–
I love the world; I want more than the world,
Or after image of the inner eye.
Flesh cries to flesh, and bone cries out to bone;
I die into this life, alone yet not alone.

Was it a god his suffering renewed?–
I saw my father shrinking in his skin;
He turned his face: there was another man,
Walking the edge, loquacious, unafraid.
He quivered like a bird in birdless air,
Yet dared to fix his vision anywhere.

Fish feed on fish, according to their need:
My enemies renew me, and my blood
Beats slower in my careless solitude.
I bare a wound, and dare myself to bleed.
I think a bird, and it begins to fly.
By dying daily, I have come to be.

All exultation is a dangerous thing.
I see you, love, I see you in a dream;
I hear a noise of bees, a trellis hum,
And that slow humming rises into song.
A breath is but a breath: I have the earth;
I shall undo all dying with my death.

5. They Sing, They Sing

All women loved dance in a dying light–
The moon’s my mother: how I love the moon!
Out of her place she comes, a dolphin one,
Then settles back to shade and the long night.
A beast cries out as if its flesh were torn,
And that cry takes me back where I was born.

Who thought love but a motion in the mind?
Am I but nothing, leaning towards a thing?
I scare myself with sighing, or I’ll sing;
Descend O gentlest light, descend, descend.
I sweet field far ahead, I hear your birds,
They sing, they sing, but still in minor thirds.

I’ve the lark’s word for it, who sings alone:
What’s seen recededs; Forever’s what we know!–
Eternity defined, and strewn with straw,
The fury of the slug beneath the stone.
The vision moves, and yet remains the same.
In heaven’s praise, I dread the thing I am.

The edges of the summit still appall
When we brood on the dead or the beloved;
Nor can imagination do it all
In this last place of light: he dares to live
Who stops being a bird, yet beats his wings
Against the immense immeasurable emptiness of things.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“The Dream"

I met her as a blossom on a stem
Before she ever breathed, and in that dream
The mind remembers from a deeper sleep:
Eye learned from eye, cold lip from sensual lip.
My dream divided on a point of fire;
Light hardened on the water where we were;
A bird sang low; the moonlight sifted in;
The water rippled, and she rippled on.

She came toward me in the flowing air,
A shape of change, encircled by its fire.
I watched her there, between me and the moon;
The bushes and the stones danced on and on;
I touched her shadow when the light delayed;
I turned my face away, and yet she stayed.
A bird sang from the center of a tree;
She loved the wind because the wind loved me.

Love is not love until love’s vulnerable.
She slowed to sigh, in that long interval.
A small bird flew in circles where we stood;
The deer came down, out of the dappled wood.
All who remember, doubt. Who calls that strange?
I tossed a stone, and listened to its plunge.
She knew the grammar of least motion, she
Lent me one virtue, and I live thereby.

She held her body steady in the wind;
Our shadows met, and slowly swung around;
She turned the field into a glittering sea;
I played in flame and water like a boy
And I swayed out beyond the white seafoam;
Like a wet log, I sang within a flame.
In that last while, eternity’s confine,”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“Many astounds before, I lost my identity to a pebble;
The minnows love me, and the humped and spitting creatures.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“She loved the wind because the wind loved me.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
tags: love, wind
“I kiss her moving mouth,
Her swart hilarious skin;
She breaks my breath in half;
She frolicks like a beast;
And I dance round and round,
A fond and foolish man,
And see and suffer myself
In another being, at last.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“I prefer the still joy:
The wasp drinking at the edge of my cup;
A snake lifting its head;
A snail's music.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
tags: joy, nature
“Is there a wisdom in objects? Few objects praise the Lord.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“She knows the speech of light, and makes it plain
A lively thing can come to life again.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
tags: life
“Who sighs from far away?”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“Oh, to be something else, yet still to be!”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree:
The pure serene of memory in one man, –
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“Am I reduced to the indignity of examples?”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
“Listen, love,
The fat lark sang in the field;
I touched the ground, the ground warmed by the killdeer,
The salt laughed and the stones;
The ferns had their ways, and the pulsing lizards,
And the new plants, still awkward in their soil,
The lovely diminutives.
I could watch! I could watch!
I saw the separateness of all things!
My heart lifted up with the great grasses;
The weeds believed me, and the nesting birds.
There were clouds making a rout of shapes crossing a windbreak
of cedars,
And a bee shaking drops from a rain-soaked honeysuckle.
The worms were delighted as wrens.
And I walked, I walked through the light air;
I moved with the morning.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
tags: nature
“The grass says what the wind says:
Begin with the rock;
End with water.”
Theodore Roethke, The Collected Poems
tags: water