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Still Falls the Rain -- Edith Sitwell

Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1595) Still Falls the Rain
   The Raids, 1940. Night and Dawn.

 Still falls the Rain---
 Dark as the world of man, black as our loss---
 Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails
 Upon the Cross.

 Still falls the Rain
 With a sound like the pulse of the heart that is changed to the hammer-beat
 In the Potter's Field, and the sound of the impious feet
 On the Tomb:

         Still falls the Rain

 In the Field of Blood where the small hopes breed and the human brain
 Nurtures its greed, that worm with the brow of Cain.

 Still falls the Rain
 At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross.
 Christ that each day, each night, nails there, have mercy on us---
 On Dives and on Lazarus:
 Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.

 Still falls the Rain---
 Still falls the Blood from the Starved Man's wounded Side:
 He bears in His Heart all wounds,---those of the light that died,
 The last faint spark
 In the self-murdered heart, the wounds of the sad uncomprehending dark,
 The wounds of the baited bear---
 The blind and weeping bear whom the keepers beat
 On his helpless flesh... the tears of the hunted hare.

 Still falls the Rain---
 Then--- O Ile leape up to my God: who pulles me doune---
 See, see where Christ's blood streames in the firmament:
 It flows from the Brow we nailed upon the tree

 Deep to the dying, to the thirsting heart
 That holds the fires of the world,---dark-smirched with pain
 As Caesar's laurel crown.

 Then sounds the voice of One who like the heart of man
 Was once a child who among beasts has lain---
 "Still do I love, still shed my innocent light, my Blood, for thee."
-- Edith Sitwell
Continuing the trend of poets I don't care for.

This was the first Sitwell poem I ever read, and it impressed the hell out
of me. Some of the lines in it are (IMHO) truly spectacular. The first
stanza is pure genius, for instance, and I love the image of the baited
bear. And I love how spectacularly visual the poem is - how vividly the
image of dark night turning to crimson dawn comes across. And I love the
sound of it - the repetition of the single line, the restless, switching
rhyme patterns, the ebb and flow of the stanzas that makes this a poem that
cries to be read aloud. But most of all, I love the sheer relentlessness of
it, the way that one repeated line is like a  great hammer striking deep
into the poem again and again, the sense of stopping in utter defeat and
then starting up again, despairing but not defeated. There's a tone to this
poem that both reminds me of Hopkins and seems, sometimes, to anticipate
Sexton and Plath.

Unfortunately nothing else that Sitwell ever wrote comes, in my opinion,
even close to this (after I read this poem I went out and bought the
selected works - I was bitterly disappointed). See for example the other
Sitwell entry on Minstrels (Poem # 849, Sir Beelzebub) - it's not that it's
a bad poem, exactly, but it's a poem that it's easy to be indifferent to -
one that is interesting to read (at least the first time) but packs no real
emotional punch. And Sir Beelzebub is one of her BETTER poems!


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Anonymous said...

It's funny how things steer you and because a rare book came up for sale, a 1st edition of her work I landed here. As it is Easter weekend this poem is even more powerful (even though I am Buddhist). And as a Buddhist I find the last line to be perfection.

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