|Home||Literary Elements||Interactive Readings||ImageryRoot Cellar|
Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch,Throughout this poem, consider the way Roethke uses sensory data to present images and feelings.
Bulbs broke out of boxesFlower bulbs, such as tulips, and lilies, are often stored in the dark during the winter months, and replanted in the early spring. The bulbs have exceeded this dormant period and have burst from their boxes, looking for the sun. hunting for chinks in the dark,
Shoots dangled and drooped,Consider the way shoots, which symbolize new life, are presented as dangling and drooping. How might this be interpreted?
Lolling obscenelyThis is an interesting way to describe the way plant shoots seem to wilt in the darkness. What visual impressions does it give you? from mildewed crates,
Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes.Consider the visual imagery Roethke uses in this poem. What do you see?
And what a congress of stinks! --Here, Roethke uses tactile imagery -- smell -- to impress upon the reader a sensory experience.
Roots ripe as old bait,Consider the multiple levels upon which this imagery operates -- what does old bait feel like? How does it smell? What does it look like?
Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,
Leaf mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.
Nothing would give up life:
Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.Roethke animates the dirt. What image does this give you of the world of the root cellar? What is the effect of this last line of the poem?