In ‘The Rainbow’ Walter de la Mare explores themes of the fleeting nature of beauty and nature itself. He marvels in these short lines over the power a rainbow can have over its surroundings and how it affects him personally. The poem’s mood is peaceful and wistful as the speaker reflects on the calmness of that moment and the quiet of the passing rain.
Explore The Rainbow
Summary of The Rainbow
‘The Rainbow’ by Walter de la Mare depicts a “lovely arch / Of rainbow” the speaker saw in the sky. He expresses his wonder at the sight of the colours in the sky. It arched over the sky in a magnificent and awe-inspiring way. He was drawn in to stare at it until it was no longer there. The poet also speaks of the other elements that surround the rainbow–the passing rain and the burning sun. The scene was perfect for its appearance in the sky.
The rainbow was a temporary beauty, there one minute and gone the next. He experiences its presence as a brief gift amongst the “solitude” of the wet foliage around him.
You can read the full poem here and more of Walter de la Mare’s poetry here.
Structure of The Rainbow
‘The Rainbow’ by Walter de la Mare is a two stanza poem that’s divided into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABCB, changing end sounds in the second stanza. The poet also chose to make each line similar in length. They appear visually similar but have varying numbers of syllables per line, ranging from five up to nine.
Poetic Techniques in The Rainbow
De La Mare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘The Rainbow’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, enjambment, and imagery. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “span the sky” in the second line of the first stanza and “showery” and “shone” in the second line of the second stanza. Both of these examples of alliteration are accompanied by other words beginning with the letter “s”. Together, they are an example of sibilance.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the transition between the third and fourth lines of the first stanza. A reader has to move down to the fourth line to conclude the sentence started in the third. The same can be said for the transition between the first and second lines of the second stanza.
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. This technique appears in every poem, but is in some more pronounced than others. In this case, with only a few words the poet is able to paint a sense-stimulating picture of the landscape.
Analysis of The Rainbow
I saw the lovely arch
As the rain swept by.
In the first lines of this poem, the speaker begins describing initially laying eyes on a rainbow. When he saw it, it struck him as “lovely”. Rather than directly address it as a rainbow in the first line he calls it a “lovely arch,” a very common phrase used to describe this natural occurrence. It spanned the sky, reaching grandly from one side to the other. The speaker describes it in sublime and wonderful terms. He speaks on the “gold sun burning” in the sky after the rain “swept by”. The rainbow is revealed as the reward for having made it through the storm.
In bright-ringed solitude
And the Bow was gone.
In the second stanza, the speaker emphasizes the temporary nature of the rainbow. It was there one moment and the next moment saw it disappear. This is a perfect example of how something is made more beautiful by its fleeting presence in the world. He speaks on the “solitude” in which the “showery foliage shone” under the bright sky. The use of the word “solitude” here takes the reader back to the speaker who is experiencing all of this. It alludes to his own emotional state or the state he believes one should be in when experiencing these sights.