‘The Voice of Rain’ was published in Outing, a periodical, in 1885. It was later included in Whitman’s best-known work, Leaves of Grass. Through the short twelve lines of the poem, Whitman explores themes of nature and writing. The poem also includes many of the characteristics that are common to his poetry. This poem is no outlier amongst Whitman’s larger oeuvre. He often turned to nature as a source of inspiration, information, and comfort in a world that was becoming increasingly industrialized.
Through the use of personification, extended metaphor, and a range of other literary techniques and devices, Whitman creates a discussion between rain and poetry. Rain compares itself to poetry and at the same time describes the nature of poetry. As the poem progresses it becomes clear that the two are one very similar, the rain itself becomes a metaphor for poetry.
Explore The Voice of the Rain
Summary of The Voice of the Rain
In the first lines of the poem, the rain declares itself to be “the Poem of the Earth”. It is cyclical, just as poetry is, and rises from the earth. The rain describes its life cycle, how it fills every part of the earth with water, and how necessary it is to the continuation of life. The last lines solidify the connection between rain and poetry.
Structure of The Voice of the Rain
‘The Voice of the Rain’ by Walt Whitman is a twelve-line poem that is contained within one stanza of text. The lines are written in free verse, meaning that they do not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. This style of writing is closely associated with Whitman. He is often referred to as the father of free verse poetry.
Although there are is no rhyme scheme, there are some examples of half-rhyme in ‘The Voice of the Rain’. For example “shower” and “answer” in lines one and two. It can appear at the ends of lines or mixed internally into the lines (internal rhyme).
Literary Device in The Voice of the Rain
Whitman makes use of several literary devices in ‘The Voice of the Rain’. These include but are not limited to apostrophe, enjambment, and caesura. The latter is seen quite frequently within the twelve lines of text. The seventh and twelfth lines are two good examples. An apostrophe is another important technique at play in ‘The Voice of the Rain’. It is obvious from the first lines when the speaker says that he is talking to “the soft-falling shower”.
Enjambment is a commonly used technique in poetry. There is one good example of the technique in ‘The Voice of the Rain’. A reader should take a look at the transition between lines nine and ten.
Analysis of The Voice of the Rain
And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form’d, altogether changed,
and yet the same,
In the first lines of ‘The Vice of the Rain,’ the speaker describes asking the rain who it is and what its basic nature is. This is a great example of an apostrophe. The next lines use personification, meaning that the rain is given the ability to speak as a human being would. It describes, through a translated answer, how it is the “poem of the Earth”. A reader should take note of the fact that the speaker says that the rain’s words were “translated”. What, one might inquire, was the original language? Perhaps something more conventional, such as the atmosphere of a rain shower, the sounds, and emotions associated with it.
The rain’s words come next. They state that the rain moves cyclically through the world. It comes out of the sea, the land, and rises “Upward to heaven”. There, it is transformed. But in the end, it remains the same. As these lines progress, readers should also consider how they apply to poetry.
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own
origin, and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck’d or unreck’d. duly with love returns.)
In the next few lines of ‘The Voice of the Rain,’ the rain-speaker describes its massive impact on the earth. It has the ability to change the world. The rain washes around the “drouths” or droughts and enriches the “dust-layers of the globe”. It is necessary for the continuance of life on earth. If the rain didn’t fall, the seeds would remain seeds, never to be born. These lines emphasize the crucial nature of rain, or if one taps into the extended metaphor that’s at the heart of this poem, the essential nature of poetry. It plays an important role in replenishing the human soul and heart.
The rain describes how, in a cycle, it is born and then gives back life to the place from which it was birthed. It “beautifies” the earth. It’s in the last lines, in parentheses, that the speaker brings the poem back around and connects rain to poetry. The eleventh and twelfth lines state that the song, or poem, emanates from one place and then wanders until the day of its return. It returns lovingly no matter if it was appreciated or heard. This finishes the cycle. Readers are inspired by the poetry they read and might take up a pen themselves, forging new poems and new cycles of appreciations and fulfillment.