Summary of "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Sara Teasdale
Sara Teasdale, with her 12-line poem "There Will Come Soft Rains," joins Emerson, Thoreau and other transcendental Romantics who believe that mankind is a blemish on nature; the natural world, once humans are gone from the earth, will resume its merry and cyclical way. Teasdale's use of literary devices reinforces the idea of a world without people, orderly and unspoiled.
Future Natural Imagery
The poem, in future tense, predicts that soft rains, earthy musk and circling birds will arrive one season along with melodic toads and plum trees, shivering in "tremulous white" like new brides. Teasdale presents each image in pleasant euphonic diction, perfectly rhymed; all is well in this future world. Robins will appear fiery in their feathers, but that is the only fiery element, the "war" having long been over. Every natural image is "soft," and the only communication, the robin's whistle, will be whimsical. Teasdale's imagery invokes paradise without troublesome Adam and Eve.
Alliteration and Lack of It
Her poem breaks after line 6, telling of a human race that obliterated itself in the chaos of "the war," and predicting that the memory of man is also gone; "not one ... bird or tree" will mourn at man's grave. Significantly, the alliteration she accorded nature -- "shimmering sound," "feathery fire," "tremulous trees" -- is also gone, as if mankind inspires no poetry in her and deserves no figurative usages. Mankind is a literalism to Teasdale, a war-making race that "perished utterly," but did no significant harm to nature, which returns full force in the final lines.
Ecology and Pacifism
Teasdale's strongest ecological and pacifist arguments arrive at the poem's end when spring is personified as a sleeper who, waking, "would scarcely know that we were gone," as though mankind is the vague intimations of a forgotten nightmare, vanished with "dawn" and the return of sanity. The first, second and third couplets of Teasdale's poem are near equal in length, and this sixth one returns to that form, as if the malformations of man have been swept away and everything naturally lines up again. Her rhyme scheme is exemplary throughout; nature still holds up perfectly under man's warfare.
Summary Robs Teasdale of Art
Nature will arrive in all its simplicity; spring will not miss absent, war-destroyed mankind. This flat summary of Teasdale's poem omits most of her art; the Pulitzer-prize-winning poet who divorced a husband without telling him and prolonged an alcoholic love-hate with poet Vachel Lindsey cannot be emotionally pigeonholed. Suffice it to say that she seems, in "Soft Rains," to crave order where there is none and repudiates the chaotic human race in response.
- PoemHunter.com: There Will Come Soft Rains
- Virginia Commonwealth University: Emerson and Thoreau as American Prophets of Eco-Wisdom
- Sara Teasdale, Woman & Poet; William Drake
Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.