Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rain, Part One: "The Ghost Of Old Unhappiness That Cannot Rest"

If you live in this part of the world long enough, you begin to develop an appreciation for the varieties of rain:  fine, yet insistent, mist; day-long and night-long windless grey curtains; late-afternoon squalls of white sheets sweeping across Puget Sound.

In time, you realize that you have discarded your umbrellas in favor of hats and hooded rain-jackets.  And then, in the middle of the night, after many years, you discover that the sound of rain pattering on the window-panes has long been a source of reassurance.

Peter Graham, "A Spate in the Highlands" (1866)

The following poem is from a series that L. A. G. Strong wrote while living on the coast of western Scotland.


It is the ghost
Of old unhappiness
That cannot rest,
Though it has long forgotten
Why it sighs.

Lost joy, lost grief --
A tremor on the sea,
A thin, sad rain
Drifting unhappily
To whisper on the shore.

Too soft an air, too sad
For human hearts.
Too soft, too chill a sound
For human ears.

L. A. G. Strong, Northern Light (1930).

The poem is a bit melancholy, but there are times when the unremitting mists and showers -- especially in the short, dark days of winter -- can awaken the feelings he speaks of.

Peter Graham, "Wandering Shadows" (1878)


Andy McEwan said...

Mr Pentz,
Lovely poem, lovely picture. Living pretty much on the West coast of Scotland, I am familiar with rain in all of its manifestaions from what we call "smirr" to torrential downpour. I've even become fond of the rattle of raindrops hard-blown by driving wind against my night-time windows - being snug indoors never feels more comfortable or cosy. We have a saying here, "If you can see the other side of the loch, it's going to rain: if you can't see the other side, it's already raining."
Best regards.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr McEwan: "Smirr!" That's new to me -- and I like it very much. Sometimes we get a mist here that is like a fog (it will soak you quickly): "smirr" sounds apt!

And thank you as well for "If you can see . . .", which is very nice.

The night-time "rattle of raindrops" driven by wind that you describe is exactly what I had in mind.

Thank you for visiting again. I always look forward to hearing from you.