Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rain Poems

All fall it has seemed to rain here in Dallas. Usually October is the most glorious month of the year. The days are pleasant; the nights begin to be crisp; the trees turn golden; and it’s impossible to stay indoors. This fall in contrast has been muddy and wet and unpleasant. A better time to stay inside and think about the rain than confront it—especially if you’re in the final stages of a big construction project and need some sunny weather to finish the outside work.

So I thought I’d comfort myself, and those of you sharing the weather here in Seattle South (although actually the weather in Seattle when I was there in September was better than what we’ve had) with a few rain poems this weekend. I hope the weather turns bright and sunny so the rainy days are just a memory, but if not, here are a few poems to read.

First is a poem by the brilliant (but gloomy) English novelist Thomas Hardy. Hardy lived and wrote in the latter half of the nineteenth century and in the early part of the Twentieth Century. In his last years he turned to poetry, which is generally underappreciated.

The following poem turns the observation of English country life into a mediation on life’s meaning and ending, and reminds me of the fact that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

An Autumn Rain-Scene
by Thomas Hardy

There trudges one to a merry-making
With sturdy swing,
On whom the rain comes down.

To fetch the saving medicament
Is another bent,
On whom the rain comes down.

One slowly drives his herd to the stall
Ere ill befall,
On whom the rain comes down.

This bears his missives of life and death
With quickening breath,
On whom the rain comes down.

One watches for signals of wreck or war
From the hill afar,
On whom the rain comes down.

No care if he gain a shelter or none,
Unhired moves on,
On whom the rain comes down.

And another knows nought of its chilling fall
Upon him at all,
On whom the rain comes down.

Robert Louis Stevenson was born a decade after Thomas Hardy in 1850, but died at half of Hardy’s age—forty-four as opposed to eighty-eight. A novelist like Hardy best known for Treasure Island and Kidnapped, we usually think of him now as an author for children or young adults. That’s probably a disservice to his memory.

Stevenson’s poetry seems to come from an earlier century and is rarely read seriously now. The following poem ends much like Hardy’s, but at least in Stevenson’s work there is sun and joy after the rain and before death.

When The Sun Come After Rain
by Robert Louis Stevenson

WHEN the sun comes after rain
And the bird is in the blue,
The girls go down the lane
Two by two.

When the sun comes after shadow
And the singing of the showers,
The girls go up the meadow,
Fair as flowers.

When the eve comes dusky red
And the moon succeeds the sun,
The girls go home to bed
One by one.

And when life draws to its even
And the day of man is past,
They shall all go home to heaven,
Home at last.

That’s enough melancholy English poetry for one day. Tomorrow we’ll look at a couple of American poems on rain.

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