What is the message or meaning behind the poem "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Sara Teasdale's poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" was first published in 1920 in her collection Flame and Shadow. It was written during or just after World War I, the first modern war to use terrible modern weapons, including massive modern artillery and chemical weapons. For many people, the war, which was fought on many fronts and saw some 18 million casualties, was almost apocalyptic in nature. For Teasdale, herself prone to melancholy (she committed suicide at the age of 48), it raised a specter of the complete annihilation of the human race. 

The main theme of the poem is that the beauty of nature would persist undisturbed even if humanity perished utterly:

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,

If mankind perished utterly...

The contrast between the peace and beauty of the birds, frogs, and trees and the horror of human wars suggests that Teasdale thinks of soft rains washing away the evidence of human conflict and renewing the lands that were once battlefields as something positive. Thus a central message of the poem is the redeeming power of nature. 

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Sara Teasdale's poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" describes nature's transcendence over man's devastation. Despite the wars that man wages and the destruction that these wars cause, all signs of this damage will be covered by "soft rains," "swallows circling," "frogs in the pools singing at night," and "robins . . .whistlling their whims."  In fact, the speaker of the poem claims, nature will last much longer than human beings will and is quite impervious to man's suffering and death. 

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done. 

The conclusion can be drawn that war is futile and meaningless, making no lasting impression on the world except by causing a quicker end to mankind's presence.