Unexpected rain and Wordsworth (i)

I’ve shared this a couple of times before – the reason is, whenever there is unexpected rain or a great downpour, you know how it happens, as if a great dam of clouds broke and let the heavens flood out, whenever there’s sudden rain I think of this poem. The words come unbidden to my mind… I woke this morning, and half asleep stumbled out of bed; the windows were wide, wide open because of the lovely hot weather we’ve been having and I heard a splatter and splash of raindrops…

Resolution and Independence

There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the mtock-dove broods;
The jay makes answer as the magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.

All things that love the sun are out of doors;
The sky rejoices in the morning’s birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops;—on the moors
The hare is running races in her mirth;
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist, that, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.

This is my favourite poem by William Wordsworth, and perfectly describes hearing a torrent of rain in the night, then waking and hearing the birds singing. After the rain everything seems brighter, and the lovely image of the hare racing around sending up a sparkle of spray into the sunny air.

Wordsworth sets off over the moors, and despite the beauty and loveliness, a gloom settles on him, I tend to think it was a poetic gloom; Wordsworth was thirty-two when he wrote it, inspired by what he experienced and who he encountered on a walk in the Lake District near where he lived in Grassmere.

I was a traveller then upon the moor;
I saw the hare that raced about with joy;
I heard the woods and distant waters roar;
Or heard them not, as happy as a boy:
The pleasant season did my heart employ:
My old remembrances went from me wholly;
And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy.

But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joys in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low;
To me that morning did it happen so;
And fears and fancies thick upon me came;
Dim sadness—and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name.

I heard the sky-lark warbling in the sky;
And I bethought me of the playful hare:
Even such a happy child of earth am I;
Even as these blissful creatures do I fare;
Far from the world I walk, and from all care;
But there may come another day to me—
Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.

My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,
As if life’s business were a summer mood;
As if all needful things would come unsought
To genial faith, still rich in genial good;
But how can He expect that others should
Build for him, sow for him, and at his call
Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all?

I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy,
The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
Of Him who walked in glory and in joy
Following his plough, along the mountain-side:
By our own spirits are we deified:
We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness..

When you’re in that sort of mood – and it doesn’t have to have been caused or triggered by anything, and I tend to think it’s more likely to fall on the young and the poetic, sad thoughts come rushing in – like the rushing rain. Thomas Chatterton was a young genius of a poet who came from nothing, wrote brilliantly, and died by his own hand at the dreadfully young age of seventeen.

I’ll share more of my thoughts on this tomorrow… even if it isn’t raining!


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