Rain by Robert Louis Stevenson

In ‘Rain’ Stevenson taps into themes of nature and universal human experiences. These two themes come together through the imagery and experiences of rain falling in a variety of environments. The mood is contemplative and straightforward, leaving room for the reader to determine whether the rain is positive or negative. 

 

Summary of Rain 

‘Rain’ by Robert Louis Stevenson is a simple poem that depicts the rain in four short lines as it falls “all around” impacting several different settings. 

The lines of ‘Rain’ describe very clearly the way that rain touches everything all around the speaker and perhaps all around the world. It falls into and onto fields and trees as well as onto umbrellas to ships at sea. There are various experiences of the rain but it is up to the reader to fill in any details as to who is experiencing it as where. 

 

Structure of Rain

Rain’ by Robert Louis Stevenson is a four-line poem that is contained within one stanza of text. The lines follow a simple and consistent rhyme scheme of ABCB. Additionally, Stevenson chose to use a specific metrical pattern in order to create additional rhythm in these lines. The first and third lines conform to the iambic tetrameter. This means that there are four sets of two beats in each line. The first of these is unstressed and the second is stressed. The same can be said about the second and fourth line except that there are only three sets of two beats, known as iambic trimeter. 

 

Poetic Techniques in Rain

Stevenson makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Rain’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, sibilance, repetition, and imagery. The first of these, alliteration,  occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “falling,” “falls,” and “field” in lines one and two as well as “all around” in line one. 

Sibilance is similar to alliteration but it is concerned with soft vowel sounds such as “s” and “th”. This kind of repetition usually results in a prolonged hissing or rushing sound. It is often used to mimic another sound, like water, wind, or any kind of fluid movement. For example, “ships” and “sea” in line four. 

Repetition is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. In this case, the poet chose to repeat single words like “rain” as well as allude to the repetition of the rain itself. It falls everywhere, he states. In each line he lists out one or more places that the rain touches. A reader can intuit that if the poem were to continue the list would grow. 

Imagery refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. Traditionally, the word “image” is related to visual sights, things that a reader can imagine seeing, but imagery is much more than that. It is something one can sense with their five senses. Each line of this poem contains a good, if simple, example of imagery. These images are straightforward and easy to imagine. Readers from a range of backgrounds and ages would be able to relate to and imagine them accurately.

 

Analysis of Rain

Lines 1-2 

The rain is falling all around,

It falls on field and tree,

In the first two lines of ‘Rain’, the speaker begins with a simple, straightforward statement. He notes that the rain is “falling all around”. This does not tell the reader much about the speaker’s location or how they feel about the rain but ti does open up one’s mind to the various possibilities that could follow. Does “all around” mean all-around a city? Or all around the world? 

When one spends some time considering this question the rain itself can take on meaning. Is it just rain? Or could it symbolize something else? An emotional state? A political or social climate? Rain is generally considered in two different ways. One, as a solemn symbol, something that brings with it a feeling of gloom and even depression. On the other hand, it is also often presented as a bringer of life. It is the savior of desperate landscapes and peoples. 

The second line of the poem adds a little more context but not enough to place this short poem anywhere specific. The speaker tells the reader that it “falls on field and tree”. This could be anywhere. There is a good example of alliteration in this like with “falls” and “field”. There is also an example of half-rhyme with the long “e” repeated in “field” and “tree”. 

 

Lines 3-4 

It rains on the umbrellas here,

And on the ships at sea.

In the next two lines of ‘Rain’, the speaker brings the poem around to “here”. This means that the speaker is considering himself as in one specific place, not just looking out all over the world (although this does not discount the possibility that he is in fact considering “all around” as the entire planet or a larger swath of land than just his general location). The umbrellas are present “here” in order to protect the speaker and whoever he is with from the water. 

Juxtaposition is used between the third and fourth lines to compare a world in which umbrellas are accessible and useful to one in which they are not and would do no good anyway. From what is likely a city or country setting, the poem takes the reader to “ships at sea”. This is a much more dangerous setting and one that is going to experience the rain quite differently than those who carry umbrellas as they go about their business. The fact that the speaker says “ships” and not “ship” alludes again to the possibility that the “all around” phrase from the first line is indeed in reference to the world and not to a specific location. 

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