'The Storm' by Theodore Roethke

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1Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming againstthe lamp pole.Where have the people gone?
There is one light on the mountain.2Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,
The waves not yet high, but even,
Coming closer and closer upon each other;
A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,
Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,
The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,
Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.A time to go home!--
And a child's dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,
A cat runs from the wind as we do,
Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,
Where the heavy door unlocks,
And our breath comes more easy--
Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over
The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating
The walls, the slatted windows, driving
The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer
To their cards, their anisette.3We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
Flattening the limber carnations.A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
Water roars into the cistern.We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
Breathing heavily, hoping--
For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Storm by Theodore Roethke: A Masterpiece of Emotional Turmoil and Natural Imagery

As I sit down to write about Roethke's poem "The Storm," I'm struck by the raw power and intensity of the emotions he conveys. This is a poem that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go until the very end. It's a masterpiece of natural imagery and psychological insight that leaves a deep impression on anyone who reads it.

The Poem's Structure and Style

Roethke's use of free verse is particularly effective in "The Storm." He doesn't feel bound by traditional meter and rhyme schemes, but instead lets the rhythm of his words flow naturally, just like the storm he's describing. This gives the poem a sense of urgency and immediacy that would be lost if he had tried to force it into a strict poetic form.

The poem is divided into five stanzas, each with a different focus. The first stanza sets the scene, describing the approach of the storm and the way it affects the trees and the landscape. The second stanza turns inward, focusing on the speaker's emotional response to the storm. The third stanza shifts back to the natural world, describing the storm's effects on the animals. The fourth stanza returns to the speaker's emotions, but this time with a sense of catharsis. And the final stanza brings everything full circle, describing the storm's departure and the calm that follows.

The Imagery of the Storm

What really sets "The Storm" apart, though, is Roethke's masterful use of imagery. He paints a vivid picture of the storm that engages all the senses. We can feel the wind whipping through the trees, hear the thunder crashing in the distance, and taste the rain as it pelts our faces. The storm is a living, breathing thing, with a personality all its own.

Roethke also uses the storm as a metaphor for the speaker's emotional state. Just as the storm is wild and unpredictable, so too are the speaker's feelings. The storm brings out his fear, his anger, and his sense of awe and wonder. It's a primal force that reminds him of his own mortality and the fragility of human life.

The Psychology of the Speaker

The speaker in "The Storm" is not a detached observer, but an active participant in the drama unfolding around him. He's not just describing the storm, but experiencing it in all its power and intensity. This makes the poem deeply personal and relatable, as we've all experienced feelings of fear and awe in the face of nature's fury.

The speaker's emotions run the gamut from fear and anxiety to a sense of liberation and catharsis. He's both afraid of the storm and drawn to it, unable to resist its pull. It's as if the storm is a mirror that reflects his own inner turmoil back at him.

The Role of Nature in the Poem

Roethke was a poet deeply influenced by the natural world, and "The Storm" is no exception. Nature is not just a backdrop for the poem, but an active participant in the drama. The storm is a force of nature that can't be controlled or tamed, just like the speaker's emotions.

At the same time, nature is a source of comfort and solace for the speaker. Even in the midst of the storm, he can find beauty and meaning in the world around him. The trees swaying in the wind, the lightning illuminating the sky, and the rain washing everything clean are all symbols of renewal and rebirth.

Conclusion: A Powerful Poem That Leaves a Lasting Impression

In the end, "The Storm" is a poem that lingers in the mind long after it's been read. Roethke's use of natural imagery and psychological insight create a powerful emotional effect that's hard to shake. It's a poem that speaks to our primal instincts and reminds us of the raw power of nature and the human spirit. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Theodore Roethke's "The Storm" is a classic poem that captures the raw power and beauty of nature. This poem is a perfect example of how a poet can use vivid imagery and figurative language to create a powerful emotional response in the reader. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in "The Storm" to understand why it is considered a masterpiece of American poetry.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the storm as "the wind rises, the sea roars, the rain slashes." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it immediately creates a sense of chaos and danger. The speaker then goes on to describe the storm in more detail, using vivid imagery to paint a picture of the scene. For example, he describes the waves as "mountains" and the wind as a "whip." These descriptions help the reader to visualize the storm and feel its power.

One of the main themes of "The Storm" is the idea that nature is both beautiful and dangerous. The speaker describes the storm as "wild" and "fierce," but also as "glorious" and "majestic." This duality is reflected in the structure of the poem, which alternates between descriptions of the storm's destructive power and its awe-inspiring beauty. For example, in the second stanza, the speaker describes the storm as "a dance of bashing branches" and "a wild embrace of tossing boughs." These descriptions create a sense of movement and energy that is both terrifying and exhilarating.

Another theme of the poem is the idea that nature is uncontrollable and unpredictable. The speaker describes the storm as "unpredictable" and "uncontrollable," suggesting that humans are powerless in the face of nature's fury. This theme is reinforced by the use of personification, as the storm is described as having a will of its own. For example, in the third stanza, the speaker says that the storm "will not let go" and "will not be still." These lines suggest that the storm is a force of nature that cannot be tamed or controlled.

The structure of the poem is also worth noting. "The Storm" is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter. This allows the poet to create a more natural and organic flow to the poem, which is appropriate for a poem about nature. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each of which contains four lines. This structure creates a sense of rhythm and balance, which helps to offset the chaotic and unpredictable nature of the storm.

Roethke uses a variety of literary devices in "The Storm" to create a powerful emotional response in the reader. One of the most effective devices is imagery, which is used throughout the poem to create vivid and memorable descriptions of the storm. For example, in the fourth stanza, the speaker describes the storm as "a great black horse" that is "galloping across the sky." This metaphor creates a sense of movement and power that is both terrifying and exhilarating.

Another literary device used in the poem is personification. The storm is described as having a will of its own, as if it is a living thing. For example, in the fifth stanza, the speaker says that the storm "will not be tamed" and "will not be broken." This personification creates a sense of the storm as a force of nature that is beyond human control.

Roethke also uses repetition in the poem to create a sense of rhythm and emphasis. For example, in the first stanza, the phrase "the wind rises, the sea roars, the rain slashes" is repeated three times. This repetition creates a sense of urgency and intensity that is appropriate for a poem about a storm.

In conclusion, "The Storm" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the raw power and beauty of nature. Through vivid imagery, personification, and repetition, Roethke creates a sense of chaos and danger that is both terrifying and exhilarating. The themes of the poem, including the duality of nature and the uncontrollable power of the storm, are timeless and universal. "The Storm" is a masterpiece of American poetry that continues to inspire and move readers today.

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