The Rainy Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In ‘The Rainy Day’ Longfellow delves into themes of nature, emotion, and depression. While the tone and mood are gloomy throughout much of this poem, in the final stanza the atmosphere lightens somewhat and the speaker asserts that the darkness is not going to last forever. 

 

Summary of The Rainy Day 

‘The Rainy Day’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow compares a speaker’s inward emotional and mental state to rainy/stormy weather. 

In the first lines of the poem, he depicts his emotions and the storm occurring around him as dark and dreary. The weather/depression is inescapable. He expresses a longing for the past, his youth, and perhaps the dreams that occupied his mind during that period. 

In the final stanza, he addresses his heart telling it to relax and accept what’s going on. There are always going to be days when things feel darker, that’s just part of life. 

 

Structure of The Rainy Day

‘The Rainy Day’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of five lines, known as quintains. These quintains follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABBA, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. While there is not one metrical pattern that unites all five lines of each stanza, or the stanzas themselves, there are some moments of repetition. 

For example, the last line of each stanza is written in trochaic tetrameter. This means that each line contains four sets of two beats. The first of these is stressed and the second is stressed. Additionally, the first line of each stanza contains nine syllables, with varying stresses and emphasis. The majority of the rest of the lines also contain either nine syllables per line or stretch to ten. 

 

Poetic Techniques in The Rainy Day

Longfellow makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘The Rainy Day’. These include but are not limited to repetition and alliteration. There are several different kinds of repetition present in this poem. There is the general repetition of words such as “day” and “dreary” and “mouldering” then there is also the presence of techniques like anaphora, epistrophe, and refrain. The latter is the use of a phrase or set of phrases multiple times throughout one poem. In this case, “cold, and dark, and dreary” appears in the first two stanzas.  

Anaphora is the use of reuse of words at the binning of multiple lines while epistrophe is the opposite. The latter can be seen with the reuse of the words “dreary,” “weary,” and “fall”. 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example “dark, and dreary” in line one of the first stanza and “days are dark and dreary” in line five of the second stanza. 

 

Analysis of The Rainy Day

Stanza One 

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,

But at every gust the dead leaves fall,

And the day is dark and dreary.

In the first stanza of ‘The Rainy Day,’ the speaker begins by making use of a line that is repeated several times, at least in part. He speaks of the day as “cold, and dark, and dreary”. These words are later used to describe his life as if one is informing the other. The weather is nonstop. There is no light or warmth to improve the mood of the day, the “wind is never weary”. This is an interesting use of personification which through negation depicts the wind as resilient and strong. 

There is a slightly more hopeful image in the third line as he describes the vine that still “clings to the mouldering wall”. While not happy, there is some strength in nature. It is something that has not been destroyed by the elements. The clinging of the vine feels desperate and necessary as if this is all it knows and the only way it knows how to survive. 

 

Stanza Two

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,

And the days are dark and dreary.

While the speaker is outwardly talking about a storm or a day’s weather patterns, with the addition of the second stanza it becomes likely that he’s experiencing something more personal. In this stanza, he talks about himself and his thoughts. They “cling to the mouldering Past” and his hopes “fall thick in the blast” of the storm, or his mental perception of his life. There is some force, some kind of depression that is overcoming him as a cold, dark storm takes over a warm, sunny day. 

 

Stanza Three

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

In the third stanza of ‘The Rainy Day’ the speaker changes up the pattern that was evident in the first two stanzas. He uses a technique known as an apostrophe to address his heart. He asks it to be “still” and “cease repining” or mourning and missing the past. 

Despite what’s going on around him, this period of depression, he knows that there is still “sun” shining behind the clouds. It is inevitable that there are darker moments to life, these are just part of living. His heart must learn, he asserts, that some days are going to be “dark and dreary” so that others may be warm and rewarding. 

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