Wide World of Quotes > Theodore Roethke Quotes


Theodore Roethke
American poet
(1908-63)



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I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolour of pad and paperweight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places.
-- The Lost Son (1948), 'Dolour'

And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium.
-- The Lost Son (1948), 'Dolour'

And what a congress of stinks! --
Roots ripe as old bait,
Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,
Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks,
Nothing would give up life:
Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.
-- The Lost Son (1948), 'Root Cellar'

I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp, as tendrils;
And her quick look,, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And, how, once starled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her,
And she balanced in the delight of her thought.
-- The Waking (1953), 'Elegy for Jane'

In the dark wood I saw --
I saw my several selves
Come running from the leaves,
Lewd, tiny, careless lives
That scuttled under stones,
Or broke, but would not go.
-- 'The Exorcism' (1958)

I knw 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!
-- Woods for the Wind (1958), 'I Knew a Woman'

What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who could count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)
-- Woods for the Wind (1958), 'I Knew a Woman'

I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The diying of time in the white light of tomorrow.
-- The Far Field (1964), 'The Far Field'

O who can be
Both moth and flame? The weak moth blunderng by.
Whom do we love? I thought I knew the truth;
Of grief I died, but no one knew my death.
-- 'The Sequel' (1964)


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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