This famous and beautiful poem begins by stating how beautiful rain is after a long, hot and dusty summer. The sound it makes and the impact it has is explored and evoked in the poem, for example in the following passage:
How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!
Note the way that the sound of the rain is created through the onomatopoeia of "clatter" and how the simile compares the sound to the "tramp of hoofs."
Then the poem goes on to describe the different reactions of many different types of people to this rain and how it helps and heals them. The sick man's fever is cooled, the boys find a natural source to express their joy and merriment in the rain, to the countryside the rain is incredibly welcome, the "patient oxen" offer more thanks than man is able to for the rain and lastly the farmer is also incredibly grateful for the "gain" that will come to him through the rain.
The poet, however is able to see all of these things and so much more, including "Things manifold / That have not yet been wholly told." Just like the rain, the poet is able to take a universal view and access places through his imagination that only water can seep into. Lastly, the seer is shown to reflect on the endless cycle of life and death and to be able to see:
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.
The poem thus begins by focusing on the particular, the rain falling in summer, and this thus develops into a meditation on the mystical workings of the entire universe.