Rain - Edward Thomas

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Introduction/General Points

Central Theme: Thomas uses imagery in abundance in this poem such as the rain to evoke themes of soliude, depression and despair. Thomas finds an inspiration in nature that leads him via his memories, emotions and thoughts to a new understanding of the world around him. 

Structure: Written in blank verse - Iambic Pentameter without rhyme. It is a monologue, giving us entry into Thomas' thoughts in solitude, in which the reader is an implied listening, 'hearing' the immediate dears and thoughts of the poet.

Rhyme and Rhythm: Plays with rhythm and intensity of each line through different techniques to give a sense of the increasing and decreasing intensity of the rain, and the poet's response to this. To create this Thomas uses repetition, effective internal rhyming and the spondee.

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Line 1

  • The repetition of 'rain' in the first line and throughout the poem, conveys not only the insistent, unrelenting force of the rain outside, but also the heightened consciousness of the listener.
  • Further more, there is rhythmic variation present in this line and others, with the regularity of the iambic pentameter often challenged by the use of repeated stresses. Here, Thomas uses spondee, to slow down the pace of the line. Along with the pauses denoted by the commas, this gives the effect of quickeing and slowing of pace - the sort of rhythm expected when listening to sheets of rain against a window. Thomas connects this insistent and slow spondee rhytm to further conjure a sense of despair.
  • In lyric poetry the use of pathetic fallacy to suggest sadness and melancholy through the rain might be deemd cliched. However, Thomas conveys thoughts and sensations simplistically, the poem's tone in consequence is disarmingly open, even confessional, evoking his vulnerability, suggesting the imminence of death.
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Lines 2,3 and 4

  • 'On this bleak hut, and solitude..', further continuing with the melancholic, contemplative tone. Lexical choices suggests the introspective, lonely and rather depressed nature of Thomas' thoughts. The complicated elaboration on his thoughts and feelings in the first 6 lines and flow of the conscious mind is made prominent by the enjambement.
  • '...and me/Remembering again that I shall die', Thomas' solitude, with a heightened consciousness of his surroundings (universal) and himself (personal), renders essentially an epiphany - in this case, the rain evokes Thomas' recollection of his own mortality.
  • 'And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks...' here the oblivion of death is contrasted to the gift of life. Thomas' awareness of the falling rain leads to a heightened perception of the world beyond himself.
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Lines 5,6,7 and 8

  • 'For washing me cleaner than I have been/Since I was born into this solitude', This imagery suggests the rain is baptising him, an image of ritual cleansing, or abultions. The verse has musicality, conveying the impression that the poem is a kind of existential prayer. The rain being a Secular prayer using religious diction, comes as a blessing to Thomas, first awakening him to a consciousness of death, then providing consolation as a sign of life. 
  • 'Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:' This is an echo of The Sermon on the Mount, suggesting Thomas pursues the idea of rain being an abultion with the image of rain blessing the dead, and thus, purifying of sin. Furthermore, the spondee of 'rain rains', conveys the weight of the rain through the repetition, giving a sense of slowing of rhythm.
  • 'But here I pray that none whom once I loved', Thomas reverts to regular iambic pentameter, signifying the transition from the heightened consciousness of rain against the roof (outside of his control) to a more measured prayer, conveying Thomas' effort for self-control.
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Lines 9,10,11 and 12

  • 'Is dying tonight or lying still awake' the internal rhyme - 'dying' with 'lying', subtly suggests the rhythemic sheets of rain on the roof, while Thomas' mind is drawn to those caught outside the deluge - the soldiers serving abroad. The rain first led Thomas into isolated contemplation and thoughts of death: his spirit however rebelled, embracing the rain and living world beyond - he sees the beauty in nature.
  • It doesn't last long however, forced into sympathy with those like him, awake and conscious of death 'Solitary, listening to the rain,/Either in pain or thus in sympathy'. Thomas' isolation repeated for the 3rd time, drawing him into agonised kinship with soldiers he had 'once loved'. Again, the internal rhyme here, 'rain' and 'pain, create an echo of the sounding rhythm of rain, also signifying the growing linkage of the two ideas in Thomas' mind - rain+death.
  • 'Helpless among the living and the dead', Thomas' pity here, his reaching out to the exposed and the injured, containing a sense of self-consciousness to, of his own helplessness.
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Lines 13,14,15,16 and 17

  • 'Like a cold water among broken reeds... all still and stiff/Like me...' this is a significant similie, where Thomas pictures those exposed in the rain on the battlefield as being 'like a cold water'. The unusual syntax using the indefinite article 'a', further draws attention to solitariness of these people. They are imagine as water at rest, cold and without life, 'among broken reeds'. These countless broken reeds 'myriads' are themselves images of broken men. It is an imge of abjection, of having fallen to the lowest possible state of being cast down into suffering. Thomas' imagination encompasses both the dead and these dying men in the rain.The reeds cannot be revived, especially as the water would be stagnant, linking ot Thomas' feeling of being impure. He feels emphathy for the soldiers and the dying, but cannot help them.The alliteration and assonance 'all still and stuff', maintains this.
  • 'expect the love of death,/If love it be towards what is perfect...' Thomas seems to accept oblivion with a cold appreciation of his emotional circumstances. It is rather a wish for non-being, being out of the world - out of the rain.
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Line 18

  • 'Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint', the rainstorm, has brough Thomas a vision of the nature of both life and death - it has spoken to him 'tells me', and given a glimpse of death that is at once bleak (like 'cold water' it is inert and without life and energy) and yet consoling (because it has essentially dissolved conflict).
  • In the lines 'If love it be towards what is perfect and Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint' the use of the word tempest, which means a violent storm, moves the image of rain from a small scope on the hut or on the bodies of the dead to a huge storm all around. In these lines we see that rain has in a sense become his companion as we are alerted to a sort of dialogue with the rain as if the rain has been speaking to him.

  • These lines, like previous ones seem to show that the end of the rain symbolizes the onset of the speaker's death. According to the words 'cannot disappoint' the rain is telling the speaker that death is certain

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