Still Falls the Rain by Edith Sitwell

Magnificently written, “Still Falls the Rain” is an allegorical poem by Edith Sitwell. The poet compares the bloodshed of London to Christ. Since written during the time of London blitz, she deals it with an optimistic tone. Her writing of the poem reflects her courage and faith. She believes with perseverance that faith and poetry will win everything in the world at last. It speaks of man’s recurring failures from the creation, and of God’s everlasting kindness and love.


 

Summary of Still Falls the Rain

“Still Falls the Rain” is a meditation on the suffering of people in England during World War II. From there it turns out a number of events in the seven stanzas. It is a reference to suffering throughout the history of the world. The thirty-four lines of the poem are divided into seven stanzas, perhaps to symbolize the seven days of the week and thereby emphasize the comprehensiveness of the suffering Christ still endures. The title of the poem is repeated six times throughout the poem, the number six traditionally being associated with humankind, which was, according to Genesis 1, created on the sixth day of creation. She has used a number reference from the Bible to indicate where man failed and God’s love persisted.

 

Theme and Structure of Still Falls the Rain

The central theme of the poem revolves around the bombing of London during War World II. It narrates the week-long suffering of people. The poet presents the theme from the perspective of a Christian, highlighting on reconciling with God.

The structure or line divisions used in the poem create units of meaning. The poem’s thirty-five lines are divided into seven stanzas. The seven stanzas represent the seven days of a week. The poet has employed free verse at her convenience to compare the bloodshed of London to that of Christ on the cross.

 

Poetic/ Literary Devices used in Still Falls the Rain

Allusion

“Still Falls the Rain” stands as an example of Sitwell’s religious conviction, for a number of allusions are deliberately used. The phrases “Potter’s Field” in line 8 and “Field of Blood” in line 11, alludes the piece of land obtained with the thirty silver of Judas Iscariot. The Cain-Abel incident is used to define the impact of jealousy. Again, in line 15, she refers to a parable about the Dives and Lazarus, asking for mercy on, not just the victims but for those who cause it also.

 

Anaphora

The poem’s title “Still Falls the Rain” has repeatedly used five times in the poem, especially in the beginning to impart the emotions of the reader on the cruelty of the Bomb shed. Similarly, the other expression “the Starved Man”, repeated in lines 14 and 19, indicates the existence of the Messiah, the Savior. It emphasizes the fact that wars only bring about pain and sins, but amending with God could help resolve history.

 

Symbolism

The title of the poem itself is a symbolic representation of the War between German and London. Not to be misguided, the poet herself clarifies her view in the extended title as “Still Falls the Rain … (The Raids, 1940, Night and Dawn). Like the rain that falls without minding about the Day or Night, The German troop attacked London Day and Night. In line 3, Sitwell refers to the rain as follows: “Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails”. It can be a symbolic reference to the nails used upon Christ’s cross or the year of writing of this poem or the years elapsed from Christ’s birth.

The rain can also symbolize the bloodshed by Christ’s side, which is a symbol of redemption for all sinners. Sitwell confirms this fact in line 19: “Still falls the Blood from the Starved Man’s wounded Side”. Christ shed His blood for everybody in the same way people are unified in their communities during times of bombing. Sitwell conveys that we all have a God to believe in, who will always help us without making any distinction between social classes.“The wounds of the baited bear” in line 23, is symbolizing the suffering of all those people involved in the war. They look up to Christ to be saved. The same is present again when thinking about Jesus having been born in a stable among animals, as is explained in line 34.

 

Analysis of Still Falls the Rain

Stanza One

Still falls the Rain –

( . . . ) Upon the Cross

The first stanza of “Still Falls the Rain” illustrates how the bombs shed on London like falling rain. The comparison made through the phrases ‘Dark as the world of man’, ‘black as our loss’, ‘Blind as …..Upon the Cross’ represent the gloomy atmosphere created during the time of Blitz as well as the time Christ was crucified.  The adjectives ‘Dark’, ‘Black’ represents the pain and suffering of the people.

 

Stanza Two & Three

Still falls the Rain

( . . .)

Nurtures its greed, that worm with the brow of Cain.

The “Still Falls the Rain” is repeated in the third and fourth stanza too, symbolically referring to the bombs. Here, the poet compares the falling rain to the heartbeat which pulsates as the sound of hammer-beat increases. ‘Potter’s Field’ alludes to the land bought by Judas Iscariot where he killed himself out of guilt. It states that pain is a common thing to both the sufferer and the suffering. Hammer-beat also symbolically refers to Judas Iscariot’s thumping heart at the potter’s Field, when he realized his mistake. The ‘Field of Blood’ finds a way to the land where Cain killed his brother Abel out of Jealousy. Furthermore, it demonstrates how human greed always leads to bloodshed.

 

Stanza Four

Still falls the Rain

( . . .)

Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.

In the fourth stanza of “Still Falls the Rain”, the rain is falling at the feet of the ‘Starved Man’ symbolically referring to Christ upon the cross. Her use of ‘Christ that each day, each night, nails there has mercy on us’ is an outcome of her catholic belief of praying in front of the idol of wounded Christ on the cross. The plea for mercy on both the “Dives” and “Lazarus” refers to the parable about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Though the war is sinful, it is a complicated one to decide on which side is better. It is confusing to choose what side is better. So she seeks for mercy to fall on both the people.

 

Stanza Five

Still falls the Rain-

(…)

the tears of the hunted hare.

In the 5th stanza, the rain and the blood of Christ are used in parallel lines, emphasizing how he bears all the pain of human beings in his heart.  It also indicates how Christ agreed to die on the cross as an atonement for all the sins and suffering of people.

 

Stanza Six

Still falls the Rain –

( . . . )

As Caesar’s laurel crown.

The seventh stanza still continues to talk about the falling bombs. The second line of the sixth stanza refers to some of the final words of the self-condemned Faustus in Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus (1588). Like Faustus, some leaders during World War II bargained with their lives for the sake of worldly gain. Jesus was given a wreath made of thrones like the crown of Caesar who wore it to propagate his success. Here, the poet includes it on purpose to compare the crown of thorns as a symbol of victory over the sins of people.

 

Stanza Seven

Then sounds the voice of One who like the heart of man
( . . . ) my Blood for thee’.

In contrast to all the human failings, in the seventh stanza, the poet speaks about the words of Christ who is still willing to forgive the people. He bears a heart that is as innocent as a child’s. ‘a child who among beasts has lain’ another indication of how Christ was born in the place where the animals were kept. After all the things that happened, God is still loving and forgiving. She iterates on how the people can stop warring against each other and gain forgiveness.

 

Historical Background

The Raids 1940 mentioned in the title refers to the nighttime bombing raids against London and other British cities by Nazi Germany during World War II between September 1940 and May 1941. The raids followed the failure of the German Luftwaffe to defeat Britain’s Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain (July–September 1940). The war between the British and the Germans was a hard-fought battle and this poem was written about these times.

 

About Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell, born on September 7, 1887, emerged as a poet during World War II. Her poems chiefly dealt with the emotional depth and profundity of human concerns. Her collections of verse include The Wooden Pegasus (B. Blackwell, 1920), Five Variations on a Theme (Duckworth, 1933), and Green Song and Other Poems (Macmillan & Co., 1944). She died in London on December 9, 1964, as one of England’s dominating literary figures and an eminent poet.

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