There Will Come Soft Rains


There Will Come Soft Rains

"There Will Come Soft Rains" is a 12-line poem by Sara Teasdale written in 1920. The subject of the poem imagines nature reclaiming the earth after humanity has been wiped out by a war (line 7) The voice of the poem speaks definitely, the way in which the poet imagines how little the human race will be missed is an absolute certainty and not just a possibility. The poem reads:

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pool singing at night,And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not oneWill care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself when she woke at dawnWould scarcely know that we were gone.

The poem is comprised of six stanzas, each made up of a rhyming couplet. The rhythm of the poem is close to iambic pentameter but each line deviates from this slightly; the one line which maintains iambic pentameter is line 7 'And not one will know of the war, not one' notably the first two syllables of the next line have been included here, also suggesting that the poet has intentionally included them to complete the metre. It might be proposed that the rest of the poem has been written close to iambic meter reflects the world of the poem is one where the remains of human existence are dissipating; for example the robins are 'on a low fence-wire' suggesting it has either fallen over or begun to sink into the ground which no longer belongs to the human race.

The imagery in the poem is also dreamlike; for example the idiosyncratic use of the adjective 'shimmering' in the second line to describe sound rather than light, and the phrase 'wild plum trees in tremulous white' makes the image seem ambiguous and hard to imagine, as plum trees are not white and 'tremulous' suggests a kind of shaking movement which we would not normally associate with trees.

The use of metaphor in the poem to further illustrate the image of the robins wearing 'their feathery fire' implies the idea not just of the colour of the feathers but also how warm they keep the birds. The robins are also personified; their birdsong is described as 'whims', which contrasts them with the swallows whose appearance, despite the unusual way their sound is described, is far more naturalistic. This draws attention to them and perhaps suggests they are emblematic of something more than birds which have outlived humanity; they are perhaps a symbol of the leaders who have led humanity to its destruction. The poet also places them on a fence rather than a more organic perch, further connecting them with humans rather than the natural world.

In the last stanza there is a notion of a new life force emerging; 'Spring' is personified as a woman about to awaken; there is a suggestion of a previous connection with humanity by the use of the word 'scarcely' which suggests that she will notice, but perhaps not immediately. This seems to presuppose that previously the connection between humans and the natural world was bolder and more established but then fell into decline and now that they have perished it makes little difference as the relationship had ceased long before.

The poem is optimistic in on sense as it assumes (as might be expected from a poet writing in a pre-nuclear era) that nature will continue and life on earth will succeed after humanity's final war. Given that the time of the poem was written shortly after the first world war however it is also pessimistic and pre-empts more war to come and with it the end of the human race.


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