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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Voice of the Rain: Analysis



The Voice of the Rain
(Walt Whitman)

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,
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.)

.....
  
The poet Walt Whitman writes of a conversation he once had with the rain as it dropped gently from the heavens. 'Who are you?' the poet asked. Stragely, the raindrops replied and the poet translates its answer for the readers.

'I am the poem of the earth,' said the rain. The rain adds that it is born in the form of invisible and intangible vapours that rise eternally from the earth's land and deep water bodies. It then reaches heaven (the sky) and changes its appearance complete to form clouds of abstract, changeable shapes. Yet, at its core, it remains the same as it was at birth.

It then returns to earth as little droplets which wash away the dust and rejuvinate the drought-ridden, dry land. New plants find life which would have otherwise remained hidden and unborn inside the land as mere seeds. Thus, this perpetual cyclic lifestyle ensures that the rain retuns to its origin, the earth, giving it life, and making it pure and beautiful.

The poet realises that the rain's life is similar to that of any song. A song's birth place is the poet's heart. Once complete, it is passed on (wanders) from one person to another. It may change (reck'd) or remain the same (unreck'd) as it travels, but one day, it returns to the poet with all due love of the listeners.


IMPORTANT LINES:

 'Which strange to tell...'
Often, poets took on the role of the mediator between nature and humanity. The poet admits it was strange that he could understand the rain and now takes up the task of translating the answer for the readers.

'I am the poem of the earth'
There is an immediate metaphoric comparison between the rain and poetry. However, this significance only comes to light in the poet's reflection at the end of the poem.
 
'Eternal I rise...'
The sense of permanance is extremely strong throughout the poem.The cyclic lifestyle is endless and shall continue as long as the connect between the rain and earth persists. The words 'eternal', 'impalpable', 'bottomless' show that though we record the overt reality, the true scope of nature remains tantalizingly beyond our rational comprehension.

'Altogether changed, and yet the same'
The rain changes its appearance from intangible vapours to abstract clouds, yet, at its core, it remains the rain. This is the universal law that energy is never destroyed, only transferred from one form to another. Hence, ironically, in change, lies eternity.

'I give back life to my own origin'
The rain falls to bring life to the unborn seeds hidden in the earth, it's own birth-place.

'(For song... duly with love returns)'
These lines have been placed in parenthesis because they are not a part of the conversation between the poet and the rain, rather its aftermath where the poet reflects on the conversation. He realises that the rain's life is similar to that of any song. A song's birth place is the poet's heart. Once complete, it is passed on (wanders) from one person to another. It may change (reck'd) or remain the same (unreck'd) as it travels, but one day, it returns to the poet with all due love of the listeners.

Comment on the style of the poem
Walt Whitman broke several conventions of poetry when writing this poem. There is no rhyme scheme nor do the lines stay of the same length. Although each phrase is just enough to be read in one breath, we find ourselves breathless as the line runs on and eventually becomes a part of the whole. This kind of poetry was known as prosaic poetry, that is, poetry that is written like prose.



QUESTION BANK:

Short answer questions –

Q.1. Who are the speakers in this poem? Which lines give you this information?
Q.2  How do rain and song make the places of their birth more beautiful?
Q.3. Why  has the poet enclosed the last two lines in brackets?
Q.4. What does the voice of rain say in the poem of the same name? What does
         the  rain do to the earth?
Q.5. Describe the process of formaing and falling of rain.
Q.6. Read the lines given below and answer the following questions:-
         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,
         I descned to lave the draughts,atomies,dust-layers of
         the  globe.

(a)    Who is ‘I’?
(b)   What is described in lines 2 and 3?
(c)    What does’I’ do on descending?
(d)   Explain the contrast ‘altogether changed and yet the same’?

Q.7. Read the lines below and answer the following questions:-
         I descend to lave the draughts,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;
     
(a)    Who is ‘I’? What does ‘I’ do on descending?
(b)   How does ‘I’ affect those that have seeds in them?
(c)    Explain the meaning of the last line

Q.8.  Read the lines below and answer the following question:-
         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 fulfillment,
         wandering
         Reck’d or iunreck’d,duly with love returns.)

(a)    How does ‘I’ give life to its origin?
(b)   Explain the comparison with the song
(c)    Why are the last two lines in brackets?

Long answer questions -

Q.1. Imagine you are the rain. Write a diary entry based on your conversation with the poet OR write a poem from your point of view.
Q.2. The rain identifies itself as the poem of the earth. Come up with such one-line introductions for yourself and your friends.
Q.3. Describe the recurring life of the rain without using any scientific terms. Can you quote the lines from any other poem which discusses the rain's circle of life.
Q.4. Do you agree with the poet's reflection at the end of the poem? Why or why not? Cite an example to support your answer.
Q.5. In Indian mythology, there is more than one reference to the cyclic trait of life. Comment with examples.

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