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The Rain and the Wind -- William Ernest Henley

It's raining on and off here, making this cheerful little poem somewhat
(Poem #117) The Rain and the Wind
The rain and the wind, the wind and the rain --
    They are with us like a disease:
They worry the heart, they work the brain,
As they shoulder and clutch at the shrieking pane,
    And savage the helpless trees.

What does it profit a man to know
    These tattered and tumbling skies
A million stately stars will show,
And the ruining grace of the after-glow
   And the rush of the wild sunrise?

Ever the rain -- the rain and the wind!
    Come, hunch with me over the fire,
Dream of the dreams that leered and grinned,
Ere the blood of the Year got chilled and thinned,
    And the death came on desire!
-- William Ernest Henley
Henley's a somewhat recent discovery of mine, and while I don't always like
his verse, this is one of his better poems. He balances his themes nicely -
the savagery of the wind and rain, and the inadequacy of hopes and dreams,
the inability of past or future to alleviate a storm-ridden today. I also
love the rhythms of this poem, the mixture of long and short lines and the
predominantly triple metre (three syllables in a foot) giving it a tumbling,
sweeping effect that blends well with the imagery.



  b. Aug. 23, 1849, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, Eng. d. July 11, 1903,
  Woking, near London

  British poet, critic, and editor who in his journals introduced the early
  work of many of the great English writers of the 1890s.

  As a child Henley contracted a tubercular disease that later necessitated
  the amputation of one foot. His other leg was saved only through the skill
  and radical new methods of the surgeon Joseph Lister, whom he sought out
  in Edinburgh. Forced to stay in an infirmary in Edinburgh for 20 months
  (1873-75), he began writing free-verse impressionistic poems about
  hospital life that established his poetic reputation. These were included
  in A Book of Verses (1888). Dating from the same period is his most
  popular poem, "Invictus" (1875), which concludes with the lines "I am the
  master of my fate; / I am the captain of my soul." The rest of his
  best-known work is contained in London Voluntaries (1893) and In Hospital

  Henley's long, close friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson began in 1874
  when he was still a patient, and Stevenson based part of the character of
  Long John Silver in Treasure Island on his crippled, hearty friend. (See
  Stevenson, Robert Louis Balfour.)

  Restored to active life, Henley earned his living as an editor, the most
  brilliant of his journals being the Scots Observer of Edinburgh, of which
  he became editor in 1889. The journal was transferred to London in 1891
  and became the National Observer. Though conservative in its political
  outlook, it was liberal in its literary taste and published the early work
  of Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, James Barrie, and
  Rudyard Kipling. As an editor and critic, Henley was remembered by young
  writers as a benevolent bully, generous in his promotion and encouragement
  of unknown talents and fierce in his attacks on unmerited reputations.
  Henley also edited, with T.F. Henderson, the centenary edition (1896-97)
  of the poems of Robert Burns, which is still valuable. His biographical
  preface, in its reaction against the tendency of earlier biographers to
  idealize Burns, exaggerates the wild side of Burns's character. His later
  years were saddened by his estrangement from Stevenson (from 1888) and by
  the death of his daughter, an only child born after 10 years of marriage.
  He was severely criticized for a "debunking" article on Stevenson written
  after Stevenson's death.

        -- EB

42 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Meredith & Norma Lauer said...

I liked the poem. Do you like Hensley's "Invictus"?

Anonymous said...

Life can and often has its tragic affects on our lives, but The Jesus says in His Word, The Bible "You will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. Our trials can be overbearing sometimes and I wonder if Henley knew the Savior and Lord, Christ Jesus. I also heard that Henley committed suicide. Has anyone else heard or read that?


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