What does the title of the poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" mean or symbolize?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sara Teasdale's poem is significant because it is selected, ironically, as a favorite of Mrs. McClellan's by the voice from the ceiling of the study. Now, after the destruction of the entire McClellan family, this poem is recited in the very meaningful manner that the last lines describe,

Not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

For the McClellans, the poem has become prophetic. Certainly, the burned figure on the wall of the house of a woman who has bent down to pick flowers increases the ironic significance of the poem. For this charred figure is all that is left of Mrs. McClellan. Then, in this one "titanic instant," the prophetic properties of Sara Teasdale's poem become significant. Almost as if to underscore the prophecy of this poem and the indifference of nature to the destruction of mankind, the automation of the house goes awry, and the house catches on fire, completing the destruction of all things human. And, finally, there is really no one to "care at last when it is done."

beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of Sara Teasdale’s poem “There Will Come Soft Rains” symbolizes the passage of time and renewal. It is a prediction of what is to come, and indicates the cycle of life. She identifies the poem as being set in war time. Despite the ravages of war, the seasons, nature, and life continue.

The spring will come again washing over the land, as life renews itself, without a care for whether mankind survives. Sara Teasdale writes of the swallows, robins, frogs, and flowers, which are all signs of the spring season. Despite the poem's melancholy tone, spring is symbolic of new life and hope. In this poem, however, the poet does not include human life in that hopefulness.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,

Would scarcely know that we were gone.

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There Will Come Soft Rains

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