In "Pluie," Anne Hébert alternates vivid descriptions of rain with descriptions of intimacy with her beloved. The poem is originally written in French. It lacks rhyme but does have a solid rhythm, and it uses repetition throughout to emphasize the comparison and contrast between rain and the speaker's beloved.
The poem begins with a vivid, metaphoric description of rain that falls down in fountains, shaking the city and rolling through the streets and docks. It is powerful, like a running horse that shakes it mane and clatters its hoofs. In the next stanza, the speaker shifts to the beloved as they sleep together, dreaming, his arm encircling her like a belt.
The rain falls against the window, and now the speaker compares it to threads or "liquid needles" or a grand loom that trembles. She reflects on how the fates of her beloved and herself are woven together like cloth or joined like rivers flowing into one another, and she remembers how her beloved laughs and extends his love over her.
Continuing the alternation, the speaker then returns to the rain that falls among the "yellow brightness of trees," and she thinks about how wisdom ties all things together with a "thin secret wire." The speaker and her beloved seem to be an island in the midst of the rain, joined together. If the speaker leaves the beloved, he will pull her back to him by his love, both in his words and his silence.
The poet fills her poem with vivid sensory details and metaphors. The former provide ways for readers to enter into the poem, for they can picture the rain falling among the trees or in the midst of the "ferns with black trunks." Yet the metaphors are sometimes challenging and not clear upon a first read. Some of them are easier to unpack than others. The images of rain as "sewing threads" or "liquid needles," for instance, allow readers to discover the intensity of the rain by comparing it to things that are familiar. The "savage rosebush that lights in the night," however, is not so easy to understand, and readers must reflect carefully on it to draw out the meaning.
The alternation of the rain and the meditations on the speaker's beloved forms a metaphor in its own right as the rain calls to mind the complexities and depth of the relationship. Again, this requires much contemplation to understand, and perhaps some of it will remain a mystery, just like love itself.