The Waking, By Theodore Roethke Essay

The Waking, By Theodore Roethke Essay

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Theodore Roethke 's "The Waking," is a villanelle, and is made up of five tercets and a quatrain. This villanelle is made up of only two rhyme schemes, two lines of the first stanza alternate repeating with the last line of each tercet and are joined together in the ending quatrain. The two most important lines of the poem are "I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow” (Roethke 1) and "I learn by going where I have to go”(3) These two lines create the meaning of the poem. They are both mentioned throughout the poem connecting each stanza of the poem. Where these lines do not repeat, the sound pattern becomes a vital part of the poem. Three half rhymes; ”wake”(1) and “go”(3) and “fear”(2) flow from each verse through the vowel sound. End-stopped lines reinforce the rhyme scheme, causing the movement of the poem to slow and heighten sound pattern of the assonances and rhyme scheme. This helps the reader to flow from one verse to another in a smooth circular movement that displays the cycle from birth to death. The villanelle does the best job at displaying the circular movement of a poem.

The meaning of the repeating two lines of the poem gives more depth to the form of the poem. "Both the lines "waking to sleep”(1) and "learning by going where you have to go”(3) represent paradoxical phrases. This gives the poem a circular effect. Since this poem is made of multiple paradoxes, the meaning of the poem and sound pattern display a circular pattern. The display of the circular form and content help to demonstrate the nature of the poem. The circular pattern is related to our lives through our sleep and awaken pattern by learning by experiences. As the poem unfolds, the paradoxes help to give the poem a clearer meaning.
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...d death when all these things come in contact. Being alive, we learn to understand logical part of nature or life and death it is inevitable. Being living beings, we learn to let our minds wander into the unconscious state and understand its connection to the physical world. This poem shows that humans come to terms with " [W]hat falls away is always. And is near.”(17) Meaning that what dies and disappears is always near due to the cycle of life.
Roethke’s poem thoroughly displays the metaphor of life and death through its rhyme schemes and movement between stanzas. The poem uses movement displays the circular sound to allude to the circle of life. The comparison of the awaken, sleeping state relates to the life and death stages to display the stages of life. The flowing movement of the poem further heightens the metaphor between life, death and the stages of sleep.

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