Week 533: Rain, by Edward Thomas

A lot of wet weather lately – one of our local ponds that was bone-dry in October is now brimming over and home once again to a family of mallards. For me the poet of rain has to be Edward Thomas, especially in this piece, written in early 1916 while Thomas was undergoing military training in a camp near Romford. This is actually one of the poems where I part company with Thomas spiritually, since I have always rather liked the sound of rain at night. I remember lying awake one night in the Ogwen Valley in North Wales, listening to a torrential downpour on the roof above my bunk, thinking how it would be falling all over the dark countryside, turning the already wet soil to a black peaty sponge, and thinking how it would overflow, because the country could take no more: the trees had taken up great draughts, and the mosses could drink no more, and the rocks would have nothing to do with it, being no obedient chalks and limestones but hard grits and slates. So droplet would turn to drip, and drip to puddle, and puddle to rill, and rill to rivulet, until the hillsides would be alive with moving water… for some reason I found an exquisite pleasure in the thought of that soft wearing, that sleeking and slicking, gentler than ice but just as powerful in the end, and certainly the rain seemed part of an immense aliveness rather than anything to inspire thoughts of death.

But now for Thomas’s very different take on the matter…

Rain

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying to-night or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be towards what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

Edward Thomas

5 thoughts on “Week 533: Rain, by Edward Thomas

    • Yep, they do proper rain in Wales. ‘Rain like the fall of ruined seas from secret worlds above’, to quote a slightly daft or at least very unfashionable Chesterton poem.

      • It’s from a poem called ‘The Last Hero’, written in 1901. Still very popular: you’ll find it in lots of places online. A very spirited piece of verse, but, regretfully, I feel it won’t quite do. I like to think that I’m the last person to try to impose the values of the present on the literature of the past, but this unabashed romanticisation of abduction, rape and beating people over the head with swords goes a bit far for me. You may recall George Orwell’s comment on ‘The Napoleon of Notting Hill’ with its curious depiction of a future world that has returned to mediaeval ways of making war: how it could only have been written by someone very innocent of real violence. Still, see what you think.

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