Meditation in Hydrotherapy

Roethke, Theodore

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Jan-30-1997
  • Last revised: Jan-20-2010


This short poem appears chronologically just before another poem entitled "Lines Upon Leaving a Sanitarium." The narrator describes a treatment he is undergoing for suicidal depression--soaking in a warm bath for hours each day. Rhyming couplets chillingly (in contrast to the water temperature) relate how the treatment is supposed to work to "refit" him for life. But the narrator is numb: "I do not laugh; I do not cry; / I'm sweating out the will to die."

He notes in ending, the paradox of mental illness: that recovery requires disposing of the past. But how can one dispose of that which is a part of the self? What does it mean to "be myself again"? Is it possible to be yourself if you lose your past? In another poem, In a Dark Time, Roethke asks, "Which I is I?" (see this database).


Roethke, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, suffered from manic depressive illness for which he was at times institutionalized.

Primary Source

The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke



Place Published

New York