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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 324

Roethke's poem is rife with double meaning. On the surface, it seems to be about a graceful woman, "lovely in her bones," but on closer reader, the relationship Roethke describes is perhaps not as idyllic as one might think. The poem can also be read as a commentary on the nature of poetry itself, and its ability to capture the woman's "bright shapes."

The poem consists of four seven line stanzas with an ABABCCC regular rhyme scheme. This regularity of form is contrasted with an irregular meter, and lines are often interrupted in the middle with commas that function like ceasuras ("Love likes a gander, and adores a goose: / Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;"). This gives the poem a kind of halting, or swinging sound, suggesting both the studied appreciation of the woman, and her graceful movement ("Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one").

This back-and-forth quality also mimics the back-and-forth nature of the poet's attitude towards the woman: the poet is clearly infatuated by this woman, but also recognizes that she is the dominant partner in their relationship, intellectually and sexually. The poem leaves little doubt about the double meaning of the "prodigious mowing" the poet and the woman "made," and the entire third stanza can be read as an account of their lovemaking, in which, as the "sickle," she instructs the poet (as the "rake"), who is "a martyr" to the woman's "motion."

The woman's lessons in lovemaking can also be seen as a lessons in poetry, in that she teaches "Turn, Counter-turn, and Stand" another double meaning that could refer to sexual positions but also the rhetorical tricks Roethke is using in this very poem—a "counter turn," for instance, is a term referring to the repeating of words in inverse order, a figure Roethke uses himself in the poem to mimic the woman's undulating movements ("she moved in circles, and those circles moved").

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