The Voice of The Rain

 

About the Poet

 

Name:    Walt Whitman

Born:      31 May 1819, West Hills, New York, United States

Died:      26 March 1892, Camden, New Jersey, United States

Poems:   Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself, O Captain! My Captain!

Awards:  Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration

Central Idea of the Poem

The poem The Voice of the Rain’ by Walt Whitman signifies the eternal role that the rain plays in nurturing, quenching, and purifying the various elements of Earth. The rain returns the favour to its place of origin from where it rises unseen from the depths of the water and from the land. The rain itself is explaining to the reader about its origin, work, and its cyclic movement. A comparison has also been drawn between rain and music as both of them make the world livelier and return to their place of origin after fulfilling their purpose.

Summary

The Voice of the Rain is a poem that celebrates rain and its natural cycle for the benefit of earth and the life it supports.

The poem begins with the poet asking for the identity of the soft-falling rain shower. Much to the surprise of the poet, the rain replies to his question. And, the poet translates this ‘voice’ of the rain for his readers.

The rain identifies itself as the ‘Poem of Earth’. It says that it rises from the land and the deep sea, in the form of the intangible water vapours, and goes up to the immeasurable sky. It then takes the form of clouds with various shapes. Although it changes in its form and shape, its core existence remains the same.

It descends or falls on the surface of the earth to eliminate droughts, wash away the tiny particles and settle down the dust-layers. It reinvigorates the dry lands and gives life to the seeds that, otherwise, would have remained dormant and unborn. Thus, the rain drops rise in the form of vapours only to come back to its origin in the form of rain. During this cycle, it purifies and beautifies (by nourishing the unborn seeds) the planet.

The last two lines of the poem are the poet’s reflection upon the answer given by the rain. The poet observes that the life of rain is similar to that of a song. A song originates from the heart of the poet, travels to reach others and after fulfilling its purpose (whether acknowledged or not), it returns to the poet with all due love. Similarly, the rain rises from the land and oceans, wanders, fulfils its purpose of nourishing life and purifying the planet, and then returns to its birthplace.

 

Word meanings

Thou – you

Soft-falling – dropping gently

Shower – raindrops when they fall continuously on Earth

Eternal – everlasting

Impalpable – unable to be felt by touching

Bottomless – very deep

Upward – towards a higher level

Whence – from where

Vaguely – unclearly

Form’d- made into a specific shape or form

Descend – move of fall downwards

Lave – wash

Droughts – dry spells

Atomies – very tiny particles

Latent - dormant, inactive

Origin - source

Beautify - make beautiful

Issuing - originating/starting

Fulfilment - completing the cycle

Wandering - moving from one place to another

Reck’d - cared about

Unreck’d - uncared for

Duly - properly, rightly

Explanation

Stanza 1
 

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,

Word Meanings:
 

thou – you
soft-falling – dropping softly
shower – raindrops when they fall continuously on Earth

Explanation:

The poem begins with the poet asking for the identity of the soft-falling rain shower. Much to the surprise of the poet, the rain replies to his question which the poet translates for his readers. The rain in its own voice tells the poet that she is the poem of this Earth. The rain is trying to say that, as music or poetry gives pleasure to human beings, the rain gives happiness to Mother Earth.

 

Stanza 2
 

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,

Word Meanings:
 

eternal – everlasting
impalpable – unable to be felt by touching
bottomless – very deep
upward – towards a higher level
whence – from where
vaguely – unclearly
Form’d – made into a specific shape or form

 

Explanation:

The poet says that the rain is an eternal process, but it takes different forms at different times. It rises from the land and the deep sea in the form of intangible water vapour and goes up to the sky. There it takes an indistinct shape in the form of clouds.

Although it changes in its form or shape, its core matter remains the same. Since vapour and clouds contain water they can get transformed into the other. The words ‘impalpable’ and ‘eternal’ indicate that nature is not fully understood and some part of it always remains beyond our reach.

 

Stanza 3
 

I – descend to lave the droughts, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn.

 

Word Meanings:
 

descend – move or fall downwards
lave – wash
droughts – dry spells
atomies – very tiny particles
globe – Earth
latent – dormant, inactive

Explanation:

The raindrops pour down from above to wash away droughts and dust layers enveloping Earth. It satisfies the thirst of the dry Earth and heals everything that is degrading and is lying lifeless. The showers remove the dust particles and make Earth clean and green.
The rain also helps in the germination of seeds which were lying dormant due to a dry spell.

 

Stanza 4
 

“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 birthplace, after fulfilment, wandering Reck’d or Unreck’d, duly with love returns.)

Word Meanings:
 

origin – source
beautify – make beautiful
issuing – originating/starting
fulfilment – completing the cycle
wandering – moving from one place to another
Reck’d – cared about
Unreck’d – uncared for
duly – properly, rightly

Explanation:

The rain is involved in a continued process of giving life on Earth by providing water to dormant seeds and making the Earth more beautiful and fuller of greenery. Rain helps in enhancing the beauty of Earth as, in the absence of water, everything turns dull or lifeless and dust accumulates everywhere.

The last two lines are the poet’s own words and his reflections upon the answers given by the rain. The poet observes that the life of rain is similar to that of a song. A song or poem is creativity at its best. It has the power to calm, heal, rejuvenate, transform, and thrill. In the same way, repeated evaporation and condensation purifies the rain. The entire environment gets drenched in the rain, dust particles settle down and there is greenery everywhere which makes the whole Earth beautiful to look at. The poet therefore draws a parallel between rain and music as both have rhythm and ability to thrill. Both of them rejuvenate and beautify life.

Poetic Devices

Personification: The rain has been personified as it has been given a voice in the poem.

Metaphor: “I am the Poem of the Earth”. The poet uses a metaphor to compare how the rain leaves the ground to come back to the ground, giving back to it much like a person who leaves its home, only to come back after fulfilling its journey.

Parallelism/Simile: In the last two lines, the poet has drawn a parallel between the rain and the song of a poet.

Hyperbole: ‘Bottomless sea’ is an example of hyperbole. The poet describes sea as bottomless which is an exaggerated statement to bring out the desired effect.

Imagery: In the first line of the poem, ‘Soft-falling shower’ gives the reader an image of gentle rain or drizzle. During the dialogue between the poet and the rain, it creates an image of showers or drops of water falling down from the heavens to Earth and infusing it with greenery, purity, and beauty.

Analysis:

Similar to most of Whitman's poems, "The Voice of the Rain" does not follow any specific form, rhyme scheme, or meter; it is written in free verse. It is made up of one stanza with nine distinct lines, but some of the lines are so long that they bleed into the next. The first two lines contain the speaker's question to the rain ("And who art thou?"). The rain's response makes up the remaining six lines. Whitman places the final line in parenthesis in order to separate the speaker's words from the rain's.

At the end of the poem, the speaker compares poetry to the rain - equating art with Earth's most essential element. Here, Whitman reveals the high level of importance he put on his poems (and poetry in general). Whitman treated his poems like his children. He put all of his emotional energy into his work and then released his poems into the world like water evaporating into the air. Each reader then has a different relationship with Whitman's words, which changes the effect of the poem while maintaining its spirit. Then, the readers rain praise, criticism, love, and hate back down onto Whitman. After that, the poem occupies a different role in the poet's life.

Whitman's comparison between poems and rain is demonstrative of his transcendental beliefs. Rather than associate his poetry with something modern and manmade, he instead chooses to associate it with the eternal cycles of the natural world. He did not write poetry for the purpose of making a splash. He wanted his work to be affecting, vital, and eternal - just like nature. He describes his audience as "drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe" as if reading Whitman's poetry is all they need to flourish and grow.

Textual Questions

I. Think it Out


Question 1. There are two voices in the poem. Who do they belong to? Which lines indicate this?
Answer: The poem, ‘The Voice of the Rain’, presents a dialogue between the poet and the rain itself. In this poem, the poet asks rain who it is. The poet gets an answer as the rain itself gives its introduction.

Hence, the two voices in the poem are those of rain and the poet. These are
(i) In the poet’s voice and who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower.
(ii) In the voice of the rain And I am the Poem of the Earth, said the voice of the rain.

 

Question 2. What does the phrase ‘strange to tell’ mean?
Answer: The phrase expresses the poet’s surprise at the rain’s ability to reply and use words. The belief is that rain cannot speak like living beings. The poet believes that the readers will also find it surprising and weird. that the rain should speak and answer the poet’s question.

Question 3. There is a parallel drawn between rain and music. Which words indicate this? Explain the similarity between the two.
Answer: The last two lines of the poem (in brackets) indicate the parallel drawn between rain and music (here it is called ‘song’, as a song always has music associated with it). In these lines, the poet observes that the life cycle of rain and a song are alike. The song issues from the singer and travels to reach others. It wanders and, whether heard and enjoyed or not, eventually returns to its creator with all due love. Similarly, rain originates from Earth, and after fulfilling its role of spreading beauty and purity, returns to its origin.

Both are perpetual in nature. Moreover, the sound of the soft-falling rain is in itself a kind of music.

Question 4. How is the cyclic movement of rain brought out in the poem? Compare it with what you have learnt in science.
Answer: In the poem, water rises from the ‘land and the bottomless sea’ to reach the sky. There, it transforms itself into vague formations of clouds, different in their structure than the water from which they originated. After wandering, these clouds descend to Earth in the form of rain to provide relief to the drought-ridden areas and infuse life into unborn and latent seeds. The rain gives Earth beauty and purity.

In science, we learn the cyclical process of rain using terms like evaporation, condensation, precipitation, flowing rivers, ground water, ocean water etc, while in the poem the same process becomes interesting and unusual. The rain speaks itself to describe its course. Thus, both what is given in the poem and what we learn in science are similar.

Question 5. Why are the last two lines put within brackets?
Answer: The last two lines of the poem have been put within brackets as they do not form a part of the conversation between the poet and the rain. The lines in the brackets indicate the reflections, observations, and thoughts of the poet. He makes observations about the life course of a song and draws similarities between the life cycle of a song and the rain.

Question 6. List the pairs of opposites found in the poem.
Answer: The pairs of opposites are rise-descend; day-night; Reck’d Unreck’d

II. Notice the following sentence patterns
(a) And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower.
(b) I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain.
(c) Eternal I rise.
(d) For song duly with love returns.
Rewrite the above sentences in prose.

Answer:
(a) I enquired the soft-falling shower about its identity.
(b) The voice of the rain answered, saying that it was the Poem of Earth.
(c) The voice of the rain explained its upward movement towards the sky as eternal.
(d) The poet says that, similar to the rain, a song starts from the heart of the singer, travels to reach others and, after fulfilling its purpose (whether cared for or not) returns to the singer with all due love.

Extract based Questions and Answers

I. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.
 

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,

 

Question 1. Who is I in the first line?
(a) The poet
(b) The land
(c) The sea
(d) The raindrops

Answer: (a) The poet

Question 2. What does the rain call itself? Why?
(a) The poet of the Earth
(b) The poem of the Earth
(c) The poem of the Sea
(d) The poet of the Sea

Answer: The poem of the Earth

Question 3. The word ‘thou’ in the extract is a ………. .
(a) noun
(b) verb
(c) preposition
(d) pronoun

Answer: (d) pronoun

II. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.
 

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,

 

Question 1. What does the use of word ‘eternal’ indicate here?
(a) It indicates the continual process of rain
(b) It indicates the continual process of nature
(c) It indicates the discontinuous process of rain
(d) It indicates the discontinuous process of nature

Answer: (a) It indicates the continual process of rain

 

Question 2. From where does ‘I’ rise and where does it go?
(a) It rises in the form of droplets and goes to the sea
(b) It rises in the form of clouds and goes to the sky
(c) It rises in the form of water vapour and goes to the land
(d) It rises in the form of water vapour and goes to the sky
A
nswer: (d) It rises in the form of water vapour and goes to the sky

 

Question 3. Which word in the extract means the same as “in a way that is uncertain, indefinite or unclear”?
(a) Eternal
(b) Impalpable
(c) Vaguely
(d) Bottomless

Answer: (c) Vaguely

III. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.
 

I descend to lave the droughts, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;

 

Question 1. With what purpose does the rain descend from the sky?
(a) To trouble the creatures of the Earth
(b) To give life to the drought affected areas and plants
(c) To wash the dust layers enveloping the Earth
(d) Both (b) and (c)

Answer: (d) Both (b) and (c)

 

Question 2. What will happen if T was not there?
(a) It would result in happiness on the Earth
(b) It would not matter to the residents of the Earth
(c) The seeds will remain as seeds and plants will not grow
(d) It would result in the rise of temperature on Earth

Answer: (c) The seeds will remain as seeds and plants will not grow

 

Question 3. ……….. is the opposite of ‘latent’.
(a) Inactive
(b) Manifest
(c) Dormant
(d) Resolute

Answer? (b) Manifest

IV. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.
 

And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
And make pure and beautify it;

 

Question 1. In what way does the rain help its place of origin?
(a) By causing floods
(b) By providing water to the drought stricken areas
(c) By washing away impurities from the Earth
(d) Both (b) and (c)

 Answer: (d) Both (b) and (c)

Question 2. What is the importance of the word ‘forever’?
(a) It points to the everlasting features of artificial elements
(b) It points to the everlasting features of natural elements
(c) It points to the temporary features of natural elements
(d) It points to the temporary features of artificial elements

Answer: (b) It points to the everlasting features of natural elements

Question 3. ……….. in the extract is the opposite of ‘ending’.
(a) By
(b) Back
(c) Origin
(d) Beginning

Answer: (c) Origin

V. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.
 

(For song, issuing from its birthplace, after fulfilment, wandering Reck’d or Unreck’d, duly with love returns.)
 

Question 1. What is the similarity between a song and the rain?
(a) They return to their place of origin
(b) They are never ending
(c) They do not have any origin
(d) They are liked by one and all

Answer: (a) They return to their place of origin

Question 2. How has the poet been able to put his own reflections?
(a) By using quotation marks
(b) By using parenthesis or brackets
(c) By making notes in his diary
(d) By telling his friends about his experiences

Answer: (b) By using parenthesis or brackets

Question 3. For what purpose has the phrase ‘Reck’d’ or ‘Unreck’d’ used in the passage?
(a) For highlighting the author’s comments
(b) To indicate that rain or a song keep completing their life-cycle
(c) To indicate that rain or a song do not complete their life-cycle
(d) For making the poem interesting

Answer: (b) To indicate that rain or a song keep completing their life-cycle

Short Questions and Answers

Question 1. Why does the poet get surprised when he gets an answer from the rain?
Answer: The poet gets surprised when he gets an answer from the rain, as it is inanimate and cannot speak. In this poem, to the poet’s and reader’s amazement, the rain gives a reply which has been translated by the poet for the readers.

Question 2. What answer does the rain give back to the poet?
Answer: The rain answers to the poet’s question by telling him that it is the Poem of Earth and is involved in a continuing process of going up and coming down.

Question 3. How does the rain justify its claim ‘I am the Poem of Earth’?
Answer: The rain calls itself the Poem of the Earth because the poem rendered by the poet has the task of bringing joy, happiness, life to its readers. Similarly, when the rain falls down over Earth, a rhythm or music is created. That’s why the rain calls itself the Poem of Earth.

Question 4. Describe the never-ending cycle of rain.
Answer: Water rises unperceived in the form of vapour from land and water bodies on the Earth. It goes up, takes the form of a cloud, changes its shape, and falls down on Earth in the form. of water drops to bathe the small dust particles, land, and sea. The water returns through rivers to oceans and seas after it rains on Earth.

Question 5. Why does the rain call itself ‘impalpable’?
Answer: Impalpable means something that cannot be felt by touching or seeing. When water takes the form of vapour, it is not visible to the human eye and nor can we feel its touch. The vapour rises to the sky, condenses, and forms clouds which cause rain. Though we are aware of its presence, the process remains invisible to us. Hence, the rain has rightly called itself ‘impalpable’.

Question 6. What happens when it rains after a long hot spell?
Answer: After a long hot spell, everything is dried up on Earth. When it rains, all the dust that has accumulated on Earth gets washed away, giving a new fresh look to nature.7

Moreover, the seeds which were lying latent till now, get germinated with the help of rain and new trees and plants start growing.

Question 7. Latent seeds get a life by rain. Explain.
Answer: The seeds lying on Earth require water to germinate and take shape. When it rains, the seeds start germinating and change into the form of saplings.

In this way, the seeds which would have dried up or get wasted get a new lease of life by rain.

Question 8. Why is rain essential for Earth?
Answer: If it doesn’t rain then Earth will remain parched, droughts will follow, and the dust-layers will not be washed away. There will be nothing to quench the thirst of the plants and trees and their seeds will die.

Question 9. How does the rain become the voice of Earth?
Answer: In the poem, ‘The Voice of the Rain’, the poet describes how the rain falls on Earth. He also asks a question to the rain’ about it. He calls the showers of the rain as ‘Poem of Earth’ as the rain gives a new lease of life to ‘the scorched and parched Earth and falls on Earth in a rhythmic manner.

Actually, it is the voice of Earth as the slowly falling showers produce a very soft music and Earth finds its expression only through the showers falling on it.

Question 10. Why do you think the poet says the phrase ‘Reck’d or Unreck’d’?
Answer: The words have been poetically drafted. Reck’d and Unreck’d stand for reckoned and unreckoned. The words literally mean cared and uncared for, respectively. The poet says these words to emphasise the fact that when it falls on the Earth, we sometimes take notice of it or sometimes completely ignore it. But even if it is left uncared for, it completes its destiny and returns to absorbed where it started from.

Question 11. Justify the title ‘The Voice of the Rain’.
Answer: The whole poem is about the eternal process of rain and its benefits. Through the words of the rain, the poet has tried to bring out the importance of rain for Earth, for plants and for man. As the poet is translating what the rain is speaking through its own language (the sounds it makes when it falls), the whole poem is about the rain talking to the poet. Thus, the title is justified.

Question 12. The poem has a conversational tone throughout. Who are the two participants? Is there any advantage of this method?
Answer: The two participants are the poet and the voice of the rain which answers the poet’s questions. The advantage of this method is to maintain continuity of thoughts and ideas expressed by the poet and to bring about clarity in what he wants to express.

Long Questions and Answers

Question 1. The poem ‘The Voice of the Rain’ gives a hidden message that rain is essential for this Earth. Write an article in 120-150 words describing the importance of rain.
Answer:

Importance of Rain
by Dhruvil Chauhan

As we all know, the three essentials for survival are water, food, and air. The most important element of weather is water. We get water in different forms of precipitation, but rain is the most beneficial of all types of precipitation.

Rain helps in harvesting our crops that give us food to eat. Without rain, no crops would grow, and we would perish. Also, falling showers remove the dust in air, making our air clean, because we need clean air to breathe.

Rainwater plays a key role in creating the climate of certain areas. Its presence in the atmosphere provides replenishment of the moisture in cloud systems.

The most well-known and most important effect of rainwater is to provide us with water to drink. Without rain, there would be no life.

Question 2. Rain is an eternal process benefiting mankind. Contrast it with human life which is short lived on this Earth. Should we disturb these eternal elements of nature?
Answer: The poem ‘The Voice of the Rain’ beautifully shows the continued process of rain which sounds like music to human ears, as it fulfils our needs.

It is an ever-going process which sustains human life and provides us with food, pure air, and green cover. On the other hand, human lives are mortal.

We come on this Earth for a short period and then depart without leaving any mark on this planet.

Moreover, human beings, for their greed and selfish motives, indulge in destructive activities which may disturb these eternal processes of nature.

We must learn a lesson from nature. If we want peaceful co-existence, we need not disturb the balance of nature, otherwise the whole of humanity will be in danger.

We must learn a lesson from such eternal processes and do something good for humanity at large.

Question 3. Natural elements such as air and rain make no discrimination and bless everyone equally. Comment on class distinction and inequality, which is a totally human creation.
Answer: Man’s existence on this Earth is short-lived but even in this short span, he has been responsible for many wrong doings against other human beings. God has created everyone as equal. But it is very unfortunate that man has divided this society on the basis of class, caste, and other factors.

Man must learn from elements of nature which provide us fresh air, heat, or water, without making any distinction.

But in human society class distinctions and caste distinctions both exist, and inequalities prevail in large numbers.

It is high time that man must learn lessons from nature and adopt universal brotherhood for the betterment of our society.

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