Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Rainy Day Complaint, Perhaps in the Literary Sense As Well as the Meteorological

Rain today.

This is not weather I like. It reminds me of winter days in my California childhood when we came home from school chilled to the bone to stand in front of the space heater (no central heating of course) and shiver. Winter in Montreal is far better, I think: there is more sunshine, the houses are warmer, and snow brushes off while rain just soaks in.

That said I am always reminded on days like today of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem Rain. His Child’s Garden of Verses was one of the first books read to me and even though I do not like most poetry his rhymes remain in my head—and my heart:


The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

For someone growing up in a port town, who loved the idea of running away to sea, this poem was extremely evocative. Perhaps my life-long attempt to connect disparate parts of the world even began with the image of the universality of rain.

And for those who wonder about such things: in literary terms a complaint is a poem in which the speaker expresses sorrow about his or her condition.


patàmodeler said...

And do you have something about the wind? (it's 6:42PM, the rain is long gone, the sun is setting and the wind is hurling tree branches, recycling boxes and tiny dogs)

My mom grew up near the sea (well, near the St. Lawrence Gulf, but for me, it's the sea), and what scared her most as a child was the wind... The wind that enraged the sea and made her* shout her monstruous waves almost to the 132 just in front of my mom's house.

*(for me, the sea isn't neutral, and is feminine... la mer)

lagatta à montréal said...

I went to bed very early because of the horrible wind, snuggling under the duvet with my cat, who is also frightened of it. (As a result I woke up at 4 am, but have avoided drinking coffee and think I'll be able to get back to sleep for a bit). Patàmodeler, did you know that the sea is masculine in Italian, "il mare"? Most words have the same gender in different Latin languages, but that is among the notable exceptions.

Funny what bothers us though, as while I certainly don't like cold rain, I much prefer it to being buried in a sepulchre of snow. Even being in Amsterdam for two weeks - no tropical paradise - was a welcome break - so pleasant to be able to go for walks without trudging through the snow. I hate winter, and am relieved that the worst of it is over.

I'm thinking of "La complainte du phoque en Alaska", indeed a complaint, about love spurned and the vanity of the performer's life:

"Ça ne vaut pas la peine, de quitter ceux qu'on aime, pour aller faire tourner des ballons sur le nez..."

patàmodeler said...

Lagatta à Montréal, I didn't know the sea was masculine in Italian! It is so in Portuguese, "o mar". I wonder was gender it (she!) has in Romanian...

patàmodeler said...

Sorry: ...WHAT gender it has...

Mary Soderstrom said...

This reminds me of the unsettling feeling I had recently when starting to read a novel by Le Clezio. He begins by talking about a ship (navire), and then on the second reference he uses "il." Now, in English there are very few words which have gender, but ship is one of them. It is feminine: a ship is always a "she" for reasons which are unclear to me, although I've heard it comes from the wishful thinking of sailors.

What strange things languages are!