Thursday, January 28, 2016

"I am the poem of earth said the voice of the rain" - Walt Whitman

I was thinking of rain while practicing Raag Megh Malhar, and thought to look up what one of my favorite poets had to say about rain and found this beautiful poem: 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, wander-
Reck'd or unreck'd. duly with love returns.)

A few observations on this poem: 
  1. Rain has never talked to the listener of the poem.  It doesn't talk to everyone apparently.   In this poem, Walt Whitman asks a question of the rain (Who are you?) and surprisingly, the rain responds.    It was a private discussion between Walt and the rain, so he kindly translates for us, the rain-deaf. 
  2. What a beautiful way to describe rain: it is the poem of the earth. Indeed, a poem is what gives life to the world as we know it.  A spiritual poem, a guru, gives life to its reciter, its student.  If there were no Guru, there would be no enlightenment and thereby no life.  Just like if there were no rain, there would be no fresh water, and there would be no life as we know it.  Rain gives earth life, literally. So it is indeed the poem of the earth.  
  3. Walt then describes the nature of water: unending, perhaps a poem that is repeated ad infinitum. Water rises from lands and oceans and goes into the sky, and then condenses in the form of rain. In the process it does three things: (1) it gives life back to itself (it can evaporate and condense again), (2) it purifies and cleans everything it touches, and (3) it beautifies it.