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My Papa's Waltz

My Papa's Waltz


by Theodore Roethke

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 5-6

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;

  • This is not a quiet, stately waltz, but a romp! Quite the hoot! This pair is making so much commotion that the pans are falling off the shelf, probably providing quite a chaotic soundtrack.
  • These lines also give us a setting, in the kitchen. A lot of family life is spent in the kitchen – cooking, eating, and, as we can now see, waltzing.

Lines 7-8

My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

  • Now the mother enters the picture, and she's pretty unhappy that her husband and her son are "romping." Maybe because they're making a mess of the kitchen.
  • "Countenance" means face, or expression. Saying that her face couldn't unfrown itself is just another way to say that she couldn't stop frowning. It could also mean that her face is physically frowning, but inside she's smiling.
  • So, either she's just playing a role of disapproval when she really wants to chuckle, or she's actually upset about what's going on.
  • Some people think that she couldn't be really upset, because she doesn't speak up to stop the waltz. But this could mean something else: she might not speak up because she's too scared of her drunken husband. Speaking up might not help.

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