At first glance, the poem "I Knew a Woman," presents the reader an innocent view of a man reflecting back on a relationship with a woman. On the surface, the speaker portrays the woman as virtuous and pure. Upon closer examination, the opening stanza reveals what is to follow. The speaker's choice of words in the line "Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one" suggest that the words in the poem as well as the woman will move more ways than one. Sexual suggestions are implied with the use of cleverly crafted metaphors, double meaning, and word repetition. Throughout the poem, the witty use of language and his relationship with the woman bring the speaker a great deal of pleasure.
The speaker in the poem is the poet, Theodore Roethke. His subject is the woman in the poem and the time that they spent together.
The speaker presents the woman as possessing goddess like characteristics and she represents absolute goodness in every way. To describe her purity the speaker uses the line "I swear she cast a shadow white as stone." This woman is so pure that even her shadow is white. In line five, "Of her choice virtues only gods should speak" supports the speaker's view that this is indeed a virtuous woman and that a human could not express her virtue in words. The tone of the poem is playful and light.
The speaker is expressing the joy that this woman has brought to his life. With the lines "But who would count eternity in days?" and "I measure time by how a body sways," indicates that he cherishs each moment with her. The lines, "She the sickle; I, poor I, the rake," and again, "Coming behind her for pretty sake," indicate...