Friday, April 17, 2009

Waking and Sleeping

After talking about my new word-of-the-week the day before yesterday (grognard: someone who has just woken up and is not yet happy about it, for those of you who missed it) I somehow did something I've never done before. I set my alarm clock for 6:30 am. My excuse is that I was not wearing my glasses at the time, because I was convinced I had set it properly to my real wake-up time, 7:30. Let me tell you, I was quite the grognard in the morning! Once the alarm blared at 6:30 I just couldn't get back to sleep. Utter torture. But, this utter longing for more sleep had one small benefit. It got me started thinking about poetry that discusses sleeping and waking -- not surprising, considering how much poetry I've been reading and sharing this Poetry Month. Anyway, my mind dredged up a beautiful villanelle I hadn't thought of in quite some time. So here is Theodore Roethke's stellar poem, The Waking.

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.

And just because April is National (U.S.) Jazz Appreciation Month as well as National Poetry Month, here is an exquisite jazz version of these gorgeous lyrics.


  1. I had missed the grognard word-of-the-week, so thanks for mentioning it again because it's a perfect one for me too! (It sounds like a French word, though, so I'm having trouble figuring out how to say it in English!)

  2. Ouch, that is torture. Thanks for sharing your word of the week. Now I know how to describe myself to others -- I'm definitely a grognard

  3. I love that poem: thanks for posting it. :)

  4. I love villanelles, ever since we first learned about them in high school. Thanks for posting this poem!


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