Monday, May 4, 2015

Rain - Edward Thomas

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 solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying tonight 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 stiff 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.

Our time upon the earth is short, and at times, it feels as though we are helpless to stop suffering or to live meaningfully.  Despite all of that, we still maintain hope, even if like in this poem, it's a bleak sort of hope.  Thomas' narrator experiences "nothing but the wild rain," "solitude, and me."  He feels totally isolated in this rain.  It makes him conscious that he too will die, and no longer be able to experience the rain, or to thank it for cleaning him, both physically and spiritually.

There's a shade of the Beatitudes about this poem as well.  "Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon" is the line which most evokes those.  Even saying that the dead are blessed, Thomas cannot wish death upon any whom he once loved.  Maybe they, like him, are having some sort of mental crisis, are experiencing pain, or too feel helpless.  Despite never once giving his poem the aspect of hope, by the narrator's reluctance to embrace death, to abdicate from suffering and helplessness, these inform a feeling of gratitude towards life, towards experience.  The dead upon whom the rain rains cannot experience anything.  Even though the narrator says they are blessed, probably for that very reason, he won't embrace that just yet.

The only thing the rain has not dissolved is his "love of death."  Death here is not defined as a mere cessation of life, but, as the tempest, the storm, informs him, of perfection.  Death is the perfected state in which no more suffering can occur.  Sounds an awful lot like heaven to me.  I know that I am reading quite a lot into that, but I cannot see the narrator here as anything but fundamentally hopeful, even in the face of bleakest midnight rain.

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