Richard Allen Blessing: On "North American Sequence"

In Roethke, as in Eliot, time is conquered through time, through the recapturing in memory of those moments in which time and the timeless have had their intersection. For Roethke, of course, such moments are always characterized by an uncommon awareness of their dynamism, of the vitality of the greenhouse fraus, for example, or the velocity of a careening automobile. Thus, as the driver he has been speeds into the eternal present, Roethke's narrator becomes one with his youthful self and finds in that reunion his own vision of the rising and falling waters. . . .

The journey to the interior of the continent has led to the sea; the journey into the self has led out of the self. As the narrator gazes into the pool be suddenly "sees," flower and water join metaphorically, as if for a moment the lotus blossom rises in the glassy pool. Staring at his image, the narrator finds that the water around his reflection seems to be above him as well as below him; there is a kind of hypnotic confusion as self and reflection of self seem equally real and he is no longer sure "which I is I."

Roethke's North American expedition, like Thoreau's, moves outward from the "sensual emptiness" of the city to that wilderness of the spirit from which one may survey the boundaries between time and eternity. And, again like Thoreau, who experienced his symbolic winter death and spring rebirth at Walden pond, Roethke's old man finds himself renewed by contemplation of that energy which at once alters him and turns the seasons.


Title Richard Allen Blessing: On "North American Sequence" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Richard Allen Blessing Criticism Target Theodore Roethke
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 22 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Theodore Roethke's Dynamic Vision
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