Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” begins with a simple observation, yet ends in intense emotion. The tone of the poem starts off fairly light with an emphasis on words that describe happy memories. He refers to his father as being “not lanky,” and describes him in similar terms when he says, “He held me warm against his knee/And hummed a tune. ” However, the poem’s tone gradually shifts towards darkness. The child becomes the adult, and the light-hearted memories become melancholy ones.
When Roethke writes, “I shut my eyes. I try to see again/That happy room, that circle warm/Of beat and tenderness,” there is an almost sadness in his voice. The last line of the poem underscores this change when he says, “But all I hear is what you say/And all I see is falling snow. ” Here Roethke recalls happier times with strong nostalgia but also recognizes that they are long gone. The father’s final words create harsh feelings because they bring about memories of death and pain caused by the father.
In Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz,” he evokes a childlike sense of happiness and reverence for his father throughout his recollection of memories from childhood to adulthood. The tone of the poem starts off fairly light with an emphasis on words that describe happy memories of his father, describing him as tall and not lanky; holding him warm against his knee while humming a tune. However, the poem progressively becomes darker with each line, letting us know slowly how much has changed since innocent times.
When Theodore Roethke writes about sitting in front of his father and closing his eyes to see again “that happy room,” there is a certain sadness in his voice. As the poem tumbles towards the end, Theodore Roethke recounts how he can only remember his father’s last words to him. The last line of the poem underscores this change when Theodore Roethke recalls “But all I see is falling snow,” and that reflects bittersweet memories from a once happy time in Theodore Roethke’s life.
In Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz,” there are varying tones used throughout the poem that provide insight into Theodore Roethke’s feelings for his late father, as well as his current state of mind. At the beginning of his recollection, Theodore Roethke begins with a childlike tone because it speaks a time when Theodore Roethke was happy, comfortable, and safe. The way Theodore Roethke speaks about his father is with this tone of reverence because he is remembering him as being warm, loving, tall, not lanky, and holding Theodore Roethke close to his knee while humming a tune.
Theodore Roethke recaptures many of these memories throughout the poem that are sweet but also create an ominous undertone since Theodore Roethke knows these memories are no longer around. Theodore Roethke’s tone becomes somewhat melancholy at the end of the poem as he tries to remember what it felt like to be sat in front of his father who would “hold me warm against his knee/And hummed a tune. ” He struggles to recreate the feeling of safety and comfort that he once had.
Theodore Roethke’s tone becomes a little more bitter when he refers to his father at the end of his recollection, using a tone that is more sullen, saying “But all I see is falling snow. ” Theodore Roethke recognizes that it is time for him to let go because memories are all he has left of his father. Theodore Roethke uses these varying tones throughout the poem in order to give us insight into both Theodore Roethke’s relationship with his father, as well as how Theodore Roethke feels about that relationship now.
Poem: My Papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke This poem consists of four stanzas. Each stanza contains three lines, all in iambic tetrameter. The meter is not strict, though. Theodore Roethke uses a lot of enjambment throughout this poem and also does not vary the rhythm (including internal pauses) very much, such as in the last line of each stanza: “Hold me close and hold me fast/ You’re lucky I’m past forty! ” Theodore Roethke purposely keeps it consistent to enforce his theme that memories are all he has left of his father.
There were many themes to Theodore Roethke’s poem about his deceased father and how being with him felt so safe and secure while holding his young son Theodore Roethke on his knee while pondering about the memories Theodore Roethke has of him. Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz,” tells a story about how Theodore Roethke lived a happy childhood with a safe and secure father, while still being able to have fun, until his father died while holding Theodore Roethke on his knee.
Theodore Roethke then goes on to talk about how he wishes this memory was the same as reality so that he wouldn’t have to deal with how life has been without him since losing his father. This theme is clear from the following excerpt from the poem: “Hold me close and hold me fast/ You’re lucky I’m past forty! ” This shows Theodore Roethke yearning for the innocence of childhood. Theodore Roethke is trying to recreate the feeling of safety and comfort that he once had, even if it isn’t real.
Theodore Roethke does this because Theodore Roethke’s father died while holding Theodore Roethke on his knee when Theodore Roethke was still a young child. Theodore Roethke then goes on to say that all he has now are memories while saying “I can’t be surer I guess/That I would rather have him back/Than anyone else instead. ” This shows how much Theodore Roethke misses his father by how much Theodore wants to recreate reality so that he could feel safe, secure, and protected again because the only other people who will ever love Theodore are gone too.
Theodore Roethke is in a state of longing which Theodore Roethke uses to create the tone Theodore Roethke does. Theodore Roethke also uses instruments such as enjambment and “alliteration” (in the poem Theodore Roethke says “I can’t be surer I guess”) along with other words such as “old friends,” (which metaphorically means that Theodore loves his memories because they are what remind him of his dad) to show how Theodore feels about memories he has of his father. Theodore Roethke’s poem My Papa’s Waltz shows how Theodore Roethke feels about losing his father at a young age, showing how life after it was difficult for Theodore.