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Q: need reference to a quote (poem? Bible?) ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: need reference to a quote (poem? Bible?)
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: luluum-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 17 Feb 2005 13:02 PST
Expires: 19 Mar 2005 13:02 PST
Question ID: 476146
I am looking for the source of this quote: "The spirit from the body
doth slowly unwind, until we are nothing but spirit."  Any
information, even if the words are not precisely the same, would be
hugely appreicated!

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 17 Feb 2005 13:22 PST
I gave this a shot last month when you posted your earlier question,
and I still haven't found anything resembling your quote.

It might be helpful to know where (and approximately when) you
encountered this quote. Sometimes even a tiny clue can lead to an
answer; if you have any additional details, they would be welcome.

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 17 Feb 2005 13:35 PST
Here is something a bit similar. This is a comment in reference to a
poem  by Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Chambered Nautilus":

"Our human life is a journey from the acorn to the oak, from birth to
death, expanding ever outward into larger understandings of the world
and our place in it, until we no longer need our shells as our spirit
unwinds from the body into the unchambered ocean of reality."

Clarification of Question by luluum-ga on 17 Feb 2005 14:09 PST
Actually, the quote was recited by "President Bartlett" on The West
Wing--he was saying it as a quote, and his wife responded that it was
no time for poetry--leading me to believe it was from a poem rather
than the Bible.  I have e-mailed the TV show directly to see if they
can tell me, but no reply from them yet.  I beleive the episode was in
early Jan of this year, but can't recall for sure.

thanks for the passage you shared, it is also lovely--
Subject: Re: need reference to a quote (poem? Bible?)
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 17 Feb 2005 14:18 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello there, Leslie,

I had a distant memory of this poem (from the long-ago days when I
used to date a poet), and with a bit of rooting around in both my
memory and a few databases, I came up with's a 1963 poem
titled Infirmary, by Theodore Roethke.

The poem is copyright, of course, but the last line of the poem is:


You can find the full text in:
PAGE 327 

There is a reference to the poem's recitation in the episode of the
West Wing entitled "Faith Based Initiative", here:

In "Faith Based Initiative", Bartlet recites the following: "How body
from spirit does slowly unwind until we are pure spirit at the end."
What do we know about where that might have come from?

This was used in Al Gore's Memorial for Senator Albert Gore Senior
described as "in the words of the poet". But no poet was named.

We asked "Anyone know where he might have gotten it from or what the
original was?" and Celina Rodriguez-Mendieta emailed us that the poet
was Theodore Roethke and "The poem is 'Infirmity', published in 1964"
after Roethke's death in 1963. "Infirmity" is listed in The Table of
Contents of The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke

Hope that does the trick...let me know if you need any additional information.


search strategy:  Google search on: [ slowly unwind roethke ]
luluum-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
perfect--thanks so much!

Subject: Re: need reference to a quote (poem? Bible?)
From: pugwashjw-ga on 18 Feb 2005 02:56 PST
The word " unwind" does not appear in the Bible.
Subject: Re: need reference to a quote (poem? Bible?)
From: air2air2-ga on 26 Apr 2005 21:13 PDT
I concur - this poem actually appears on Al Gore's 2008 presidential
run site at

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