‘Rain’ by Edward Thomas was written in 1916 while Thomas was in the trenches, serving in World War I. The poem is made up of eighteen lines contained within one stanza of text. Thomas has chosen not to make use of a consistent pattern of rhyme but there is a metrical pattern and a great deal of repetition.
The lines mostly conform to iambic pentameter, the most popular of rhythmic schemes. This means the lines contains five sets of beats, the first of which is unstressed and the second stressed. His choice to use this pattern helps emphasize the sound of rain beating on the roof of the hut he is sheltering in. It gives the reader a greater sense of his own perspective.
In addition to the meter, a reader should take note of the utilization of the word “rain” throughout the eighteen lines, as it appears eight times. There is also repetition found at the endings of specific lines. Thomas used the words “death” and “dead” and “die,” creating a link to the main theme of this piece. There are also moments where individual lines rhyme with those not immediately preceding or following them. This is seen in the end words “sympathy” and “me.”
Summary of Rain
‘Rain’ by Edward Thomas describes a speaker’s relationship with death as he contemplates the future within the trenches of World War I.
The poem begins with the speaker stating that there is a constant stream of rain pounding down on the roof of his “bleak hut.” His conditions are not good. The speaker is alone, within a trench, somewhere on the fields of the first world war. While there he contemplates his own mortality and the nature of death itself.
He continues on to describe how the rain is not all bad. It has been able to wash him “cleaner” than he has been in a long time. By doing this it has revealed itself to be the one love he can depend on. The final lines see the speaker turning from anything “perfect” as it cannot be trusted. Death though, is a constant.
Analysis of 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.
In the first set of lines the speaker, who is widely considered to be Thomas himself, is contemplating the rain which seems as if it will never stop. The word “rain” is used three times in the first line, this, along with the metrical pattern and further repetitions, make sure the reader is never far from this image and its related sounds. At the moment described by the speaker, the rain is falling at midnight. It has been coming so constantly and strongly, he says it is “wild.” This stands in contrast with the “bleak hut” he is sheltering in and the feelings of “solitude” which surround him.
The rain is as a reminder that the speaker is going to “die.” This very dark line brings a reader immediately into his world. He is living through something that for most people is unimaginable. It is in ‘Rain’ that he hopes to convey what it was like to live with the constant presence of one’s own death. These moments, which are marked by loneliness, only serve to remind him once more of his fate.
The following lines paint the rain in a different light. While at first it was seen as foreboding, now the speaker is acknowledging its role in “washing [him] cleaner” than he has been since he entered into the war. This period is referred to as “solitude” itself.
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
In the next set of lines the speaker continues describing the nature of rain and how it impacts those like himself. He begins by referring to the “dead” who are in the path of the rains. Wherever they are, as long as they are touched by the rain, they are “Blessed.” It comes as a cleansing force, helping to wash away the stains of the war and the larger tragedy of death.
From where the speaker is sitting, within his hut, he “pray[s] that none those he once “loved” are living as he is now. He knows the solitude of his own situation and does not wish it upon anyone. The speaker hopes his friends and family are safe, not “dying to-night or lying still awake / Solitary.” This section concludes with his recognition that some of these people could be “in sympathy,” thinking about those they love in solitude. Either way, this is not something he wishes for his loved ones.
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.
The poem concludes with the speaker turning to the “Helpless” nature of those he loves. He imagines them stranded somewhere between the “living and the dead.” These friends and family members, or even just acquaintances, are trapped as a “cold water” would be “among broken reeds” in a river. This phrase is repeated in the next line with an added emphasis on the number reeds. There is a “Myriad,” all of which are “still and stiff.” These long grasses are hard to navigate through, almost impossible. They represent the struggle of living day-to-day.
In the final four lines the speaker returns to his own situation and imagines that others have “no love” that has not been “dissolved” by the rain. No love that is, aside from the “love of death.” This force has become all-consuming within the speaker’s mind. It is ever-present and becoming more important all the time. The love he feels for “death” seems rational to him in that it cannot disappoint. Rather than loving what is “perfect” and “Cannot” ever really exist, he loves something almost tangible but inescapable. Death can be depended on when nothing else can.