Week 245: The Shy Man, by Theodore Roethke

I have never quite made my mind up about the work of the American poet Theodore Roethke (1908-1963). I find the musicality of his verse captivating, but when it comes to tone and substance somehow I don’t quite ‘get’ him: the poems come across to me as a bit fey, as not quite earthed. But I do like the way his lines move. See what you think.  

The Shy Man

The full moon was shining upon the broad sea;
I sang to the one star that looked down at me;
I sang to the white house that grazed on the quay, –
As I walked by the high sea-wall.
But my lips they,
My lips they,
Said never a word,
As I moped by the high sea-wall.

The curlew’s slow night song came on the water.
That tremble of sweet notes set my heart astir,
As I walked beside her, the O’Connell’s daughter,
I knew that I did love her.
But my lips they,
My lips they
Said never a word,
As we walked by the high sea-wall.

The full moon has fallen, the night wind is down
And I lie here thinking in bleak Bofin town,
I lie here and thinking, ‘I am not alone’
For here close beside me is O’Connell’s daughter,
And my lips they, my lips they,
Say many a word,
As we embrace by the high sea-wall.
O! my lips they, my lips they
Say many a word,
As we kiss by the high sea-wall.

Theodore Roethke

 

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One thought on “Week 245: The Shy Man, by Theodore Roethke

  1. I’ve recently been reading Yeats again, and I hear him in this, the repetitions, the scene-setting, naming, the figurative images.
    It is soon after this period I find American verse nearly all unreadable. Even now.

    I look forward to your posts.

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