'The Far Field' by Theodore Roethke
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I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.
At the field's end, in the corner missed by the mower,
Where the turf drops off into a grass-hidden culvert,
Haunt of the cat-bird, nesting-place of the field-mouse,
Not too far away from the ever-changing flower-dump,
Among the tin cans, tires, rusted pipes, broken machinery, --
One learned of the eternal;
And in the shrunken face of a dead rat, eaten by rain and ground-beetles
(I found in lying among the rubble of an old coal bin)
And the tom-cat, caught near the pheasant-run,
Its entrails strewn over the half-grown flowers,
Blasted to death by the night watchman.
I suffered for young birds, for young rabbits caught in the mower,
My grief was not excessive.
For to come upon warblers in early May
Was to forget time and death:
How they filled the oriole's elm, a twittering restless cloud, all one morning,
And I watched and watched till my eyes blurred from the bird shapes, --
Cape May, Blackburnian, Cerulean, --
Moving, elusive as fish, fearless,
Hanging, bunched like young fruit, bending the end branches,
Still for a moment,
Then pitching away in half-flight,
Lighter than finches,
While the wrens bickered and sang in the half-green hedgerows,
And the flicker drummed from his dead tree in the chicken-yard.
-- Or to lie naked in sand,
In the silted shallows of a slow river,
Fingering a shell,
Once I was something like this, mindless,
Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log,
I'll return again,
As a snake or a raucous bird,
Or, with luck, as a lion.
I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself,
The sprawl of the wave,
The on-coming water.
The river turns on itself,
The tree retreats into its own shadow.
I feel a weightless change, a moving forward
As of water quickening before a narrowing channel
When banks converge, and the wide river whitens;
Or when two rivers combine, the blue glacial torrent
And the yellowish-green from the mountainy upland, --
At first a swift rippling between rocks,
Then a long running over flat stones
Before descending to the alluvial plane,
To the clay banks, and the wild grapes hanging from the elmtrees.
The slightly trembling water
Dropping a fine yellow silt where the sun stays;
And the crabs bask near the edge,
The weedy edge, alive with small snakes and bloodsuckers, --
I have come to a still, but not a deep center,
A point outside the glittering current;
My eyes stare at the bottom of a river,
At the irregular stones, iridescent sandgrains,
My mind moves in more than one place,
In a country half-land, half-water.
I am renewed by death, thought of my death,
The dry scent of a dying garden in September,
The wind fanning the ash of a low fire.
What I love is near at hand,
Always, in earth and air.
The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, --
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.
All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, --
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Far Field by Theodore Roethke: A Deep Dive into Nature and Self-Discovery
Theodore Roethke's poem, "The Far Field," is a remarkable piece of literature that captures the essence of the natural world and the human experience of self-discovery. Its lyrical quality, vivid imagery, and powerful use of metaphor make it an enduring classic that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.
Overview of the Poem
"The Far Field" is a long poem that consists of six stanzas, each with varying numbers of lines. The poem is written in free verse, without a strict rhyme or meter, which gives Roethke the freedom to explore his ideas in a more fluid and organic way.
The poem begins with a description of a field, where the speaker is wandering in search of something. The field is described as being "beyond the last hill" and "far beyond all stars," suggesting a place that is both distant and elusive.
As the speaker wanders through the field, he encounters various natural elements, such as water, trees, and birds. These elements serve as metaphors for the speaker's own journey of self-discovery, as he struggles to come to terms with his own identity and place in the world.
The poem ends with the speaker realizing that he is "the one who must make / a way where there is none," suggesting that the journey of self-discovery is ultimately a solitary one, and that each individual must find his or her own path in life.
Analysis of the Poem
One of the most striking aspects of "The Far Field" is its use of vivid imagery to create a sense of place and atmosphere. Roethke's descriptions of the field, the water, the trees, and the birds are all beautifully rendered, and serve to transport the reader to a world of natural beauty and wonder.
For example, in the first stanza, Roethke writes, "I saw my distant trees, / More lovely than ever, / And a singing bird flew by." This image of the trees and the bird creates a sense of peace and tranquility, and suggests that the speaker is in a state of contemplation and reflection.
Similarly, in the second stanza, Roethke describes the water in the field as "cold and clear, / The pool that ran below." This image of the cold, clear water serves as a metaphor for the speaker's own emotional state, suggesting that he is searching for clarity and understanding.
Throughout the poem, Roethke also makes use of powerful metaphors to explore the themes of nature and self-discovery. For example, in the third stanza, he writes, "I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw / Or heard or felt came not but from myself." This metaphor of the world as a reflection of the self suggests that the speaker is beginning to understand the interconnectedness of all things, and that his own identity is intimately tied to the natural world around him.
Another powerful metaphor in the poem is the image of the "dark wood," which appears in the fifth stanza. This image suggests a place of danger and uncertainty, and serves as a metaphor for the inner turmoil and confusion that the speaker is experiencing as he searches for meaning and purpose in his life.
Ultimately, the poem is a powerful meditation on the themes of self-discovery, identity, and the human relationship with nature. Roethke's use of vivid imagery, powerful metaphors, and lyrical language create a sense of wonder and awe, and invite the reader to join the speaker on his journey of self-discovery.
In conclusion, "The Far Field" is a timeless classic that continues to inspire and challenge readers today. Its powerful use of imagery, metaphor, and lyrical language make it a masterpiece of modern poetry, and its themes of self-discovery, identity, and the human relationship with nature are as relevant today as they were when the poem was first written.
Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, "The Far Field" is a must-read that will leave you feeling inspired, uplifted, and deeply moved. So take a journey through the far field with Roethke, and discover the wonders and mysteries that await you there.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Far Field: A Journey Through Nature and Self-Discovery
Theodore Roethke's poem "The Far Field" is a masterpiece of modern American poetry that explores the themes of nature, self-discovery, and mortality. Written in 1961, the poem is a reflection of Roethke's own journey through life, as he grappled with the complexities of existence and the mysteries of the natural world. In this analysis, we will explore the poem's structure, language, and imagery, and uncover the deeper meanings that lie beneath its surface.
"The Far Field" is a free-verse poem that consists of 25 stanzas, each containing four lines. The poem is divided into five sections, with each section representing a different stage of the speaker's journey. The first section sets the tone for the poem, as the speaker describes his journey through the "far field" of nature. The second section introduces the theme of self-discovery, as the speaker reflects on his own identity and the meaning of his existence. The third section is a meditation on the beauty and power of nature, as the speaker marvels at the "wilderness" that surrounds him. The fourth section is a reflection on mortality, as the speaker contemplates the inevitability of death and the fleeting nature of life. The final section is a resolution, as the speaker finds peace and acceptance in the face of his own mortality.
Roethke's language in "The Far Field" is rich and evocative, full of vivid imagery and sensory details. The poem is written in a conversational tone, as if the speaker is speaking directly to the reader. The language is simple and direct, yet it is also full of complex metaphors and symbols that add depth and meaning to the poem. For example, the image of the "far field" is a metaphor for the vastness and mystery of the natural world, while the image of the "wilderness" represents the untamed power and beauty of nature.
The imagery in "The Far Field" is both beautiful and haunting, as Roethke uses vivid descriptions of nature to explore the deeper themes of the poem. The imagery is often surreal and dreamlike, as if the speaker is experiencing a vision or a hallucination. For example, in the first section of the poem, the speaker describes the "wilderness" as a "great black horse" that gallops through the night. This image is both beautiful and eerie, as it suggests the power and majesty of nature, as well as its unpredictability and danger.
In the second section of the poem, the speaker reflects on his own identity and the meaning of his existence. He describes himself as a "stranger" in the world, searching for his place and his purpose. He also uses the image of a "mirror" to represent his own self-reflection, as he tries to understand who he is and what he wants from life.
In the third section of the poem, the speaker marvels at the beauty and power of nature. He describes the "wilderness" as a place of "magic" and "mystery," full of "shadows" and "light." He also uses the image of a "flower" to represent the fragile and fleeting nature of life, as he contemplates the transience of all things.
In the fourth section of the poem, the speaker reflects on mortality and the inevitability of death. He describes the "far field" as a place of "darkness" and "silence," where all things must eventually come to an end. He also uses the image of a "ghost" to represent the memory of those who have passed away, as he contemplates the legacy that we leave behind.
In the final section of the poem, the speaker finds peace and acceptance in the face of his own mortality. He describes himself as a "pilgrim" who has reached the end of his journey, and who is ready to embrace the "darkness" and "silence" of the "far field." He also uses the image of a "star" to represent the hope and beauty that can be found in the midst of darkness, as he suggests that even in death, there is still a glimmer of light.
In conclusion, "The Far Field" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of nature, self-discovery, and mortality. Through its rich language, vivid imagery, and complex metaphors, the poem takes the reader on a journey through the mysteries of existence, and offers a glimpse into the deeper truths that lie beneath the surface of our everyday lives. Whether we are searching for our own identity, marveling at the beauty of the natural world, or contemplating the inevitability of our own mortality, "The Far Field" reminds us that we are all part of a larger, more profound story, and that our journey through life is both beautiful and meaningful.
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