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Night Journey by Theodore Roethke

“Night Journey” was published in 1941 in Open House, Theodore Roethke’s first collection of poems. The poem sketches the experience of a passenger traveling on a train at night. The poet uses the motif of a long train journey to depict his journey of discovery of “the land” that he loves. It can also be compared to an inner journey of self-discovery. Beneath the train ride, the scenic beauty of nature, and the noise of rail squeal, Roethke in “Night Journey” buries the sad tale of war-torn America and the cry of grief-stricken Americans.

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Journeys in Roethke’s poems are inextricably tied to that of life. The poem is replete with nature imagery conjoined with the kinesthetic and auditory images of a moving train to describe the experience of a passenger sitting by a window seat of a train and gazing at the picturesque scenes of nature. Written in short lines with a clickety-clack iambic trimeter and somewhat regular rhyme scheme, this poem of twenty-seven lines gives readers the notion of a train hurtling through, making them experience the rhythmical swing of the mechanical wheels along with the speaker.

  • Read the full text of “Night Journey” below:
Night Journey
by Theodore Roethke

Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.

- from Theodore Roethke: Selected Poems (2005)
Analysis of Night Journey by Theodore Roethke


Summary

“Night Journey” is a poem about a speaker’s journey by train in the middle of the night. As the poem begins when the “train bears west,” the poet interweaves visual imagery of nature with the mechanical imagery of a moving train to narrate the journey to readers; his experience of gazing at the picturesque views of nature from a window seat of the train. During his journey, he sees “trees,” “mountain mist,” “a bleak wasted place,” “a lake,” a “beacon swing.” He stays up half the night to “rediscover” the land he loves.

The train’s motion is felt when its “rhythm rocks the earth,” making the speaker’s “muscle move with steel”; the wheels of Pullman “shake the roadbed stone” and the “pistons jerk and shove.” The experience of the train journey is so vividly depicted that the readers vicariously participate in the process along with the speaker. Besides, the beautiful view of nature, the musicality of a moving train, and the physical sensations felt due to locomotion are something that readers experience alongside him.

Meaning

In “Night Journey,” the speaker’s journey implicitly symbolizes the journey of American soldiers during World War II and how they were anticipating the return to their homeland when the war would be over. In the last line, “the land” that the poet loves is America, soldiers were fighting for. Apart from this, the journey is also a depiction of the inner churning of the poet, his feeling of loneliness, and his quest for meaning. By setting the poem amidst a moving Pullman coach, Roethke signifies the varied journeys of individual’s self-discovery; a perpetual search for nature’s solace in a technology-driven society, the American struggle in World War II, and a search for identity in a profoundly isolated world. Roethke’s perception of seeing the world from a moving train makes readers understand what is going on in the speaker’s mind and what his deep contemplations mean.

Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter

Form

The poem “Night Journey” is written in short six-syllable lines with clickety-clack iambs and a somewhat regular rhyme scheme. The speed of the poem seems to increase as one reads it further. Besides, the overall poem is written in the present tense. The poetic persona is a contemplative train passenger who narrates his experience of a train journey during the night. It is through his eyes, who looks out of the train window at midnight to observe the scenic beauty of nature, readers can see the “mountain pass,” a “beacon swing,” and see “the land” that he loves. Hence, the first-person point of view is used in this poem to narrate personal experiences and events. Readers do not just become listeners of the speaker’s personal reflections but also become co-passengers who travel along with him in his night journey.

Rhyme Scheme

The poem is a free verse comprising 27 lines. Even though there is no fixed rhyme pattern in this poem, there can be observed a different pattern of varying enclosed rhyme schemes. The rhyme scheme that could be noticed in the first six lines is that of a cinquain. It is ABBCA. The next six lines follow the rhyme pattern of DEFCDE; the following lines follow the pattern of a quatrain, that is, ABAB/ABBC. In comparison, the last four lines of the poem follow the pattern of ABCB.

It is also interesting to take note of the repeating sound “aight,” which is observed sporadically in words like “night,” “sight,” “bright,” and “light”. The differing rhyme schemes accentuate the rush of images crossing the poet’s “line of sight” and propel the continuous forward movement of the train.

Meter

The meter of the poem resonates with the rapid movement and sound of a moving train, with its recurring regular beats. Each line contains six syllables divided into three iambs. It means there are three beats per line. For instance, “Now as the train bears west” contains six syllables, and the stress falls on the second syllable of each foot with occasional variations. Therefore, the overall poem is composed of the iambic trimeter. The scansion will give a better idea of the sound scheme. Let’s read a few metrically scanned lines from the poem:

Now as/ the train/ bears west,

Its rhy/-thm rocks/ the earth,

And from/ my Pull/-man berth

I stare/ in-to/ the night

While o/-thers take/ their rest.

Brid-ges/ of i/-ron lace,

A sud/-den-ness/ of trees,

A lap/ of moun/-tain mist

All cross/ my line/ of sight,

Then a/ bleak was/-ted place,

And/ a lake/ be-low/ my knees.


Poetic Devices & Figurative Language

Roethke makes use of the following poetic devices in his poem “Night Journey”:

Metaphor

Roethke uses the extended metaphor of the train journey to hint at the journey of self-exploration. Metaphor can also be observed in “Bridges of iron lace,” “suddenness of trees,” and “lap of mountain mist.” In the first example, two completely different things, “iron” and “lace,” are compared to signify the chains holding the bridge.

Personification

Personification can be noticed in the line, “Its rhythm rocks the earth,” where the “train” and “earth” are personified. Roethke also personifies the “trees” in the phrase “A suddenness of trees,” not to indicate the movement of “still” trees but rather to connote a figurative meaning of the swift motion of the train. It is also an example of a transferred epithet where the adjective “suddenness” rightly applies to the moving train rather than the apparently moving trees.

Alliteration

This device can be observed in a number of phrases, such as:

  • rhythm rocks”
  • mountain mist”
  • My muscles move”
  • blazing bright”
  • thunder through”
  • land I love”

Synecdoche

Synecdoche is used to refer to the part of something for the whole. In “Night Journey,” “steel” (“My muscles move with steel”) is a reference to the train, “iron lace” indicates the bridge chains, and the “double glass” stands for the train window.

Juxtaposition

Roethke makes use of this literary device to create ironic contrast between the world of technology and nature. The “Pullman berth” in which the speaker commutes is a symbol of advancing technology and comfort. It is juxtaposed with the imagery of nature such as the “earth,” “trees,” “mountain mist,” “lake,” “ravines,” and “land.”

When we read the line, “While others take their rest” and, after that, “A suddenness of trees” in a continuous flow, we can find an ironic juxtaposition as it is actually the trees that should be still and at rest and not the passengers (humankind) of the train.

Consonance & Assonance

Assonance occurs in “All cross my line of sight,” where the vowel sound of “ai” is repeatedly heard. Consonance occurs in “the train bears west,/ Its rhythm rocks the earth,” where the consonant sound of “r” is repeated.

Enjambment

Enjambment occurs when one line of a poem runs over to the other line without any break. It can be seen in the following lines:

Full on my neck I feel

The straining at a curve

I watch a beacon swing

From dark to blazing bright;

Beyond the mountain pass

Mist deepens on the pane;

We rush into a rain

That rattles double glass

Anaphora

The repetition of a word at the beginning of successive lines or anaphora can be found in lines 7-8 and lines 15-16:

A suddenness of trees,

A lap of mountain mist

I wake in every nerve.

I watch a beacon swing


Line-by-Line Analysis and Explanation

Lines 1-5

Now as the train bears west,

Its rhythm rocks the earth,

And from my Pullman berth

I stare into the night

While others take their rest.

The first five lines of “Night Journey” suggest the movement of the train when it turns towards the west. The aural imagery of the train’s thudding sound is used in the line “Its rhythm rocks the earth” to reflect the incessant motion of the wheels. It is when the speaker talks about the “Pullman berth” that the readers get a glimpse of the inner view of the train. Roethke describes the midnight period and narrates how everyone on the train is in deep slumber. The setting of an enclosed atmosphere is established.

Furthermore, Roethke uses the first-person point of view to provide a first-hand experience to readers; a speaker’s experience of a train journey where he is only awake and staring out of his comfortable berth. The divide between the inner (artificial/mechanical) and external world (nature) is tacitly established in the first few lines of the poem.

As the speaker contemplatively stares out of the window, he feels a sense of loneliness that is reflected in his voice. He says that everyone is asleep, whereas he alone sits silently to gaze into the night. The line “I stare into the night” can also be interpreted as the existential crisis of Roethke, who suffered from bipolar disorder and felt utterly dejected. With the early death of his father and difficult childhood, Roethke felt isolated and called himself “odious” and “unhappy.” Therefore, the speaker could be Roethke himself, who describes his lonely journey by a train at night detached from the co-passengers.

Lines 6-11

Bridges of iron lace,

A suddenness of trees,

A lap of mountain mist

All cross my line of sight,

Then a bleak wasted place,

And a lake below my knees.

In these lines, Roethke uses contrasting images to describe his experience of viewing the external world from the moving train. There are various kinesthetic and visual images in these lines which depict the train’s movement through mysteriously beautiful nature.

Roethke uses a metaphor in the line, “Bridges of iron lace,” to draw a figurative analogy between two completely different things, “iron” and “lace”. “Bridges of iron lace” signify the railway bridge of the train. In the next line, “A suddenness of trees,” trees are personified to convey the swift motion of the train, not the movement of trees. The forward motion of the train is immediately implied when the images of nature rush past the viewer’s “line of sight”.

Roethke also irresistibly engages in the kinesthetic experience of mobile, changing landscapes. He admires both the shades of nature, that is to say, the swift apparent motion of trees, misty mountains, a still lake, and also the “bleak wasted place.”

Lines 12-15

Full on my neck I feel

The straining at a curve;

My muscles move with steel,

I wake in every nerve.

In these lines, Roethke uses tactile images to illustrate the speaker’s physical experience of sitting on the moving train. The readers now realize that viewing the scenery from a moving train is not as pleasurable as it seemed in the initial lines of “Night Journey”. The pain in the speaker’s voice confesses how the sudden turns of the locomotive cause strain in his neck and how his “muscles” become integral with the “steel,” a symbolic reference to the train. In these lines, the speaker shares his physical sensations in the middle of the journey.

Through this line, “I wake in every nerve,” the speaker expresses his awakening for the first time in the poem. Since he is already awake, the awakening does not refer to the literal act but instead refers to becoming alert or conscious. The train’s movement brings the speaker to a state of mental alertness and spiritual awakening.

Lines 16-19

I watch a beacon swing

From dark to blazing bright;

We thunder through ravines

And gullies washed with light.

In this quatrain, readers need to observe a notable change. The shift from “I stare into the night” to “I watch a beacon swing” implies the speaker’s sensual involvement with the midnight landscape. It has now become more than just a lonely act of staring out of the window while other passengers are asleep. Rather than just looking at a dark night sky, the speaker takes an interest in the beautiful images of nature (or takes inspiration from them).

Since it is midnight, the lines “From dark to blazing bright” and “gullies washed with light” have an implicit meaning of the luminous lights of the train. The intensity of the train’s light in the night brightens the dark gullies when the train moves “through ravines”. Since the luminosity of “gullies” coincide with the rushing motion of the train, therefore, this scene can only be observed for a flash of a second.

Lines 20-23

Beyond the mountain pass

Mist deepens on the pane;

We rush into a rain

That rattles double glass.

In line 22, Roethke uses “we” instead of “I” to remind readers that he is not alone on this midnight journey. “We” refers to the speaker’s involvement with the train itself. He has become part of every steel molecule at the neural level. Besides, it could also mean that he has become part of everyone present in the train, including the passengers, the unseen driver, the crew, and the attendants.

When the visual images of “mountain” and “mist” are collaborated with the word “rush”, readers instantly realize the fast acceleration of the train. The “double glass” refers to the window of the Pullman berth, which acts as a line of demarcation that separates the open space of nature from the enclosed space of the berth. In the last lines of this quatrain, Roethke conjoins the kinesthetic (“rush”), visual (“rain” and “double glass”), and auditory (“rattles”; also an instance of onomatopoeia) images to portray his journey through the rain.

Lines 24-27

Wheels shake the roadbed stone,

The pistons jerk and shove,

I stay up half the night

To see the land I love.

In the ending lines, the verbs like “shake”, “jerk”, and “shove” imply the locomotive’s momentum. The poet describes the disturbance on the roadbed caused by the moving wheels and the associated jerking and shoving of pistons.

Thereafter, the speaker informs readers that he stays up “half the night” to see “the land” he loves. Critics call these last two lines an encapsulation of the whole poem. These lines, if read from the historical point of view, would show the painful struggle of American soldiers during World War II. The train journey in the night can be viewed as the doomed future of young American soldiers who were sent to the war. The pounding force of the “wheels” and “pistons” are metaphors of violence and horrors of war. Roethke’s “Night Journey” becomes the expedition of soldiers who were anticipating the return to their native land.

The “Roadbed,” which typically means the base foundation of asphalt, can have a symbolic meaning of soldiers getting close to the road of their motherland. The last line, “To see the land I love,” is not just an affirmation of the speaker’s arrival to his destination through “ravines” and “gullies”. It is also an echo of patriotic sentiment. To rediscover their “land” of dreams is not only a soldier’s desire but also that of Roethke, who wanted to “see” America restored in love and peace.

Critical Reception of “To see the land I love”

Theodore Roethke’s “Night Journey” has been widely analyzed by critics. Peter Balakian, in his book, Theodore Roethke’s Far Fields: The Evolution of His Poetry (1999), writes,

Perhaps more than any other poem in Open House, “Night Journey,” which I consider the finest poem in the collection, points the way to what is to come. It joins Roethke’s epical sense of America as an unexplored territory with a visionary process of seeing which affirms that journeying is an experience of self-discovery. … Roethke no doubt made “Night Journey” the final poem in the collection not only because he considered it one of his best poems to date, but also because it summed up some of his largest concerns and fore-shadowed things to come.

Upon commenting on the last lines of the poem, William David Barillas, in his book, A Field Guide to the Poetry of Theodore Roethke (2020), describes how it is the last line that conveys the central message of the poem:

For a reader in 1940s, “the land I love” carried a political connotation, specifically alluding to Irving Berlin’s song “God Bless America” (1918).


Themes

Nature and Imagination

According to critics, Theodore Roethke is a poet of nature, and the images of nature can be vividly traced in his poems. Roethke’s poem “Night Journey” is replete with metaphors from nature. He uses this trope to accentuate his enduring love for mother nature. He spent most of his time in his father’s greenhouse during his childhood and was keenly drawn towards its soothing atmosphere. In his college essay, “Some Self-Analysis,” he writes, “A perception of nature—no matter how delicate, how subtle, how evanescent,—remains with me forever” and exclaims how natural objects profoundly influenced him. The nature imagery in “Night Journey,” compared to the enclosed environment of the train and its loud squealing, shows how he desires to rediscover the land he loves, how he wishes to go out of the train and breathe the refreshing air of nature.

Throughout the journey, the speaker looks out of the window and observes the scenic beauty of nature. His experience of contemplatively looking out of the train window throws light on the strong connection between Roethke and nature. Nature, as he writes in “Some Self-Analysis,” provided him with “a thousand vivid ideas and sweet visions” that flooded his “consciousness.” Observing the outside world from a moving Pullman car in the middle of the night activates his imaginative powers. The dark setting of night becomes necessary for his contemplation, and, in this way, his mind and nature become inseparable.

Enlightenment & Ignorance

“Night Journey” blends at once the visual, imaginative, and spiritual experiences of the poet. His “muscles move with steel” as the train moves, and his imagination intensifies. The deep seeing of his imagination is never disconnected from the moving train. Hence, the “beacon” swinging from “dark to blazing bright” can be understood as a symbol of the mind’s eye as well as the luminosity of the divine light in the darkness of ignorance. The journey has an inward direction and an inner meaning, which can be understood from the poet’s way of seeing things.

The land that he awaits to see is actually a territory of his own imagination; it is an undiscovered land that he envisions exploring. When analyzed from the historical point of view, the “land” that he loves and desires to see is the America of his imagination, the land of love, peace, and, most importantly, dreams.

Nature vs. Science

An underlying theme in “Night Journey” is that of contrasting images of nature and science. The “bridge of iron lace” indicates modern technological advancement, whereas the immediate mention of “bleak wasted place” implicitly points towards the harmful side of modernity. While narrating his experience of traveling in a Pullman berth, the speaker indirectly describes his separation from the tranquil fields of nature. The “double glass” acts as a divider between the inside and the outside world. The distant gaze from the train window puts the impetus on how the speaker could only see the beauteous landscapes of nature from a far distance. He could not go out of the train to experience it by touch.

The swift speed of the locomotive can be viewed as the pace at which science and technology were advancing during the 1940s. Alongside that, the pleasing images of nature such as “trees,” “mountain mist”, “lake,” and swinging “beacon” are disturbed by the acceleration of the train, the rattling sound of “wheels,” and the loud mechanical screeching of the engine. A sudden “straining” at the neck caused by the train’s turning, highlights although the speaker is in a Pullman car, yet being away from nature pains him.

The enclosure separates him from experiencing the refreshing scene, and the “double glass,” where rain rattles, keeps him from experiencing a tactile involvement. This enclosure is the reason why the poet can only watch a “beacon swing” and not listen to its sound. The music of nature is shut by the loud noise of the wheels and pistons, depicting the negative impact of industrialization.

A Call from Motherland: Returning to the “Land I Love”

Events like The Great Depression (1929-1933) and World War II (1939-1945) had a significant impact on Roethke’s poetry. Being brought up without a father, he empathized with children who lost their fathers during World War II. He saw the pain of grief-stricken families of young soldiers and understood their struggle, who were battling only to return to their native land. “Night Journey” is a story of the painful journey of an American soldier during World War II who was anticipating the return to his motherland.

The midnight setting of the poem, which is deprived of light, is symbolic of the dark, gloomy period of war. Tactile sensations such as the “straining” on the speaker’s neck give a minuscule glimpse of the physical pain that the soldiers felt during the war. They could do nothing but yearn for their return. The last line, “To see the land I love,” echoes the deep emotion of a soldier who wants to come back and meet his family. It is the last two lines that convey the central patriotic message of the poem.

Imagery

Roethke uses the image of a passenger gazing out of the window of a fast-moving train to reflect how the countryside beauty swiftly rushes. He employs myriad countryside images, like “trees,” “mountain mist,” “lake,” “beacon,” and “ravines” to highlight how the comforting tranquillity of nature is unhindered by the loud noise of the train. Readers can also sense how its “Wheels shake the roadbed stone” and “pistons jerk and shove.” There are various kinesthetic, visual, and tactile images entwined with auditory images to implicate the idea of a moving train:

  • Kinesthetic Imagery: Lines that give a feeling of motion are “as the train bears west,” “A suddenness of trees,” “We rush into a rain,” “Wheels shake the roadbed stone,” and “The pistons jerk and shove.”
  • Auditory Imagery: Phrases in the poem that call for readers’ sense of sound are “Its rhythm rocks the earth,” “a rain/ That rattles double glass,” “Wheels shake the roadbed stone,” and “The pistons jerk and shove.”
  • Visual Imagery: The whole poem is filled with visual images of nature. Some of the visual images can be found in “I stare into the night,” “A suddenness of trees,” “A lap of mountain mist,” “All cross my line of sight,” “a bleak wasted place,” “a lake below my knees,” and “I watch a beacon swing.”
  • Tactile Imagery: Certain images in the poem which indicate the sensory experience of touch include “Full on my neck I feel/ The straining at a curve” and “My muscles move with steel,/ I wake in every nerve.”


Tone

In “Night Journey,” Roethke uses the first-person narrative technique to describe his traveling experience on a train at night. Throughout the poem, his tone is both contemplative and melancholic. The poetic narration starts when others in the train “take their rest,” while the speaker looks out of the “double glass.” He describes his experience of seeing the scenic beauty of the countryside landscapes from the train at midnight. The experience is narrated in such a way that readers become part of his journey, not remain just the listeners to his account.

The rhythm of the poem goes simultaneously with the images of nature and the sounds of the train. Readers also feel what the speaker experiences while sitting by the window seat and contemplating the scene. Phrases such as “rhythm rocks,” “thunder through ravines,” “rain/ That rattles double glass,” “Wheels shake the roadbed stone,” and “The pistons jerk and shove” help readers become his co-passengers, journeying along with him through the bleak darkness of the night. Through his eyes, they can see the “suddenness of trees,” “lap of mountain mist,” and “a beacon swing.”

The tone is also slightly melancholic as the movement of the train brings with it not just joy in capturing the beauty of nature but also the “straining” in the neck at each turn. It also signifies how the advancing technology separated humans from the comforting shades of nature as the speaker in this moving train can only see the landscape from a distance and not go out to embrace it.

Historical Background

Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) was a great American poet who published several volumes of critically admired collections of poetry. Having won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1954 for the collection The Waking (1953) and the National Book Award twice for Words for the Wind (1958) and The Far Field (1964), Roethke is acknowledged as one of the highly influential American poets of the 20th-century.

Roethke had a hard time growing as a child. While his father died of cancer when he was just 14, his uncle committed suicide, and therefore, Roethke was utterly filled with dejection. He called himself “odious” and “unhappy.” Critics consider Roethke’s difficult childhood, his bipolar disorder, and his skill of introspection as the reasons for the production of such deeply meaningful poems.

Roethke spent most of his childhood in his father’s greenhouse and felt a close connection with nature. He reveals how he was “influenced too much … by natural objects” and how his poetic visions exalted, and his consciousness flooded with vivid ideas when he was “alone under an open sky.” His great love for the landscapes of Michigan could be noticed in “Night Journey,” where he employs varied nature imagery. However, within these fresh images, Roethke weaves hidden threads of the dark history of America.

The Great Depression and World War II immensely impacted the poet. Beneath the awe-inspiring “night journey,” Roethke hints at the sad tale of war-torn America. The poem is set during the nighttime to hint at the dark phase of America when young men were drawn into the war, and their families lived in fear and uncertainty. The long train journey symbolizes the struggle of soldiers, their families, and the whole of America. The “land” that the poet loves is America, which was broken into pieces due to war. It is the land that soldiers desperately awaited to see.

The innumerable killings that happened during World War left millions of people in sorrow and sadness. Therefore, melancholic strains can be felt in the short verses of “Night Journey,” where even being surrounded by his fellow passengers, the speaker feels lonely from within. The last line, “To see the land I love,” echoes the emotion of a patriot, a soldier, and Roethke himself.

Questions and Answers

What is “Night Journey” by Theodore Roethke about?

Theodore Roethke’s poem “Night Journey” describes a speaker’s long train journey. He shares the experience of traveling by train at night, observing the beautiful landscapes from the train window while waiting for his destination, which is the “land” he loves.

What is the main theme of the poem “Night Journey”? 

The central theme of “Night journey” is the journey and experience of self-discovery presented through the extended metaphor of a train journey. It also highlights the longing of soldiers to return to their homeland during World War.

Who is the speaker of “Night Journey”? 

The speaker of this poem is none other than poet Theodore Roethke himself, who takes on the form of a train passenger to narrate his experience of a night journey. He describes how he becomes part of the train and the surrounding nature during the journey and finally expresses his most profound love for America.

Why did the speaker stay up half the night?

The speaker could not help but admire the night scene from the train. While every other person on the train slept, he meditated upon shifting nature from the window and became part of the train like its soul. That’s why, at the end of the poem, the speaker remarks, “I stay up half the night.”

What does “A suddenness of trees” mean in “Night Journey”? 

“A suddenness of trees” is a figurative way of implicitly indicating the motion of the train and the apparent backward movement of the trees. While sitting on a moving train, it seems all the objects outside are moving in the opposite direction. The “suddenness” of the train makes the objects appear as moving. Therefore, through this phrase, the emphasis is laid upon the speed of the train. Roethke gives readers an idea of how the external world appeared from the train.

What is the meaning of “My muscles move with steel”?

Through this line, the speaker talks about his overall involvement with the train referred to as “steel” (material for the thing made). He became so engrossed with the process it felt as if his muscle was part of the steel frame of the locomotive. As it turned, his body followed.

What does “Bridges of iron lace” mean?

The intricate ironwork of the bridge the ingenious bonding of the chains that hold the bridge seem like laces to the poet. He metaphorically compares the bridge to a pattern of clothing.

What are the things that describe movement in the poem “Night Journey”?

In the very first line, Roethke describes a movement: “Now as the train bears west”. Then, he goes on to describe the “suddenness of trees,” and how the scenes cross his “line of sight.” Furthermore, he associates his own movement (due to the inertia of direction) along with the train in the line, “My muscles move with steel.”

Which of the reader’s senses are appealed to in the poem “Night Journey”?

This piece appeals to readers’ senses of seeing, hearing, and touch. Roethke also uses organic imagery to convey his feelings of thoughtfulness, loneliness, and admiration.


Similar Poems about Journeys

  • Journey to the Interior” by Margaret Atwood — This poem is about a speaker’s journey into her mind and how she finds it difficult to escape from there.
  • Across the Border” by Sophie Jewett — This poem captures a journey to a place called “fairyland,” where trees bear golden flowers and birds have feathers white as snow.
  • Crossing the Border” by Joy Harjo — It’s about some Native Americans who cross the Detroit-Windsor border to enter Canada at midnight.
  • Exile” by Julia Alvarez — It’s about the poet’s departure from her country (Dominican Republic) due to her father’s involvement in the plot against Rafael Trujillo.


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