I Knew a Woman by Theodore Roethke

1110 Words5 Pages
Jaimee Barbee
ENGL 300
Bouton
Poetry Analysis
"I Knew a Woman" by Theodore Roethke Theodore Roethke wrote of the beauty of a woman and how she captivated a man in his poem "I Knew a Woman." Roethke describes a sexual attraction radiating from the man towards the woman that eventually is explored. Who the man is to the women is never revealed but one may interpret him as someone who didn 't get to spend his life with this woman but rather had a beautiful love affair with her long ago and is now reminiscing. Roethke 's opening verse is arresting in it 's artful refutation of the cliche about beauty being "only skin deep."
"I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she
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"Gander" is a male goose while the female is referred to simply as "goose." Why Roethke choose geese as a comparison to these lovers is not clear. The "full lips" of the stanza 's second line provide succulent imagery that distracts the speaker and pulls him in. The musical references of the earlier "sing in chorus" may be reinforced by "played," "quick," "light," and "loose," but those words are not restricted to a single area of meaning. The final four lines of this stanza are heavy with sexual imagery. The speaker describes the woman as an instructress skilled in the art of lovemaking, blessed with beautiful legs, and rabbit-like in her enthusiasm and other "-asms." The line in parentheses refers to her motion during intercourse. "She moved in circles, and those circles," another reference to her breasts, "moved." The concluding verse is dizzyingly philosophical and fittingly so, after all of the turning, whirling, and circling motions of the previous stanzas.
"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 could count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).
The reader notes the musicality of the alliterative "martyr...motion...my,"

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