Theodore Roethke

The Swan


I study out a dark similitude:
Her image fades, yet does not disappear -
Must I stay tangled in that lively hair?
Is there no way out of that coursing blood?
A dry soul’s wisest. O, I am not dry!
My darling does what I could never do:
She sighs me white, a Socrates of snow.

We think too long in terms of what to be;
I live, alive and certain as a bull;
A casual man, I keep my casual word,
Yet whistle back at every whistling bird.
A man alive, from all light I must fall.
I am my father’s son, I am John Donne
Whenever I see her with nothing on.


The moon draws back its waters from the shore.
By the lake’s edge, I see a silver swan,
And she is what I would. In this light air,
Lost opposites bend down -
Sing of that nothing of which all is made,
Or listen into silence, like a god.