Who is speaking in the poem "There will come soft rains," by Sara Teasdale?
The exact identity of the speaker in Sara Teasdale’s poem “There will come soft rains” is never made precisely clear, but a close reading of the poem implies many specific traits of the speaker. The poem describes the continuing vitality of nature after humanity has destroyed itself during a war. The speaker’s description of this situation suggests a number of particular qualities of the speaker himself/herself. These include the following:
- Lines 1-2 imply that the speaker appreciates the sensual beauty of nature, including beauties of sight, sound, smell, and touch.
- These lines also imply the speaker’s optimism – or at least the speaker’s assumption that war will not destroy both nature and mankind. At least nature will survive.
- The reference to “frogs in the pool singing at night” implies that the speaker’s appreciation of nature is not wholly limited to stereotypically romantic, sentimental aspects of nature. The presence of the frogs gives the poem an earthy, realistic touch.
- The speaker’s tone is understated rather that passionate or propagandistic. The speaker merely states apparent facts rather than overtly commenting on them in any detail or making any kind of forceful political statement. The speaker thus seems to assume that the poem’s readers are intelligent and thoughtful enough to draw the appropriate conclusions from the facts presented.
- By praising the obvious beauty of nature and by briefly mentioning the implied ugliness of war, the speaker seems to align himself/herself with beauty, and indeed the poem itself can be read as an effort not only to create beauty but to encourage readers to appreciate the natural beauty the poem describes. The poem may thus also implicitly encourage readers to do whatever they can to oppose war.
- By not identifying herself/himself with any particular ideology, ethnic group, nationality, or even gender, the speaker suggests that s/he is a representative of all of humanity – or at least of all of the better impulses of human nature.
- By using the word “we” in the final line, the speaker identifies with the rest of humanity in a number of different ways. The word “we” implies that s/he will be killed in the war, along with everyone else, even though s/he obviously opposes war. The word “we” implies that s/he may even accept some responsibility for the war; in any case, s/he certainly doesn’t distance himself/herself from the war by saying “when you are gone” (emphasis added).
- The speaker’s tone is calm, even casual, as if s/he, too (like nature) will not care very much if humanity someday disappears.
- In the final two lines of the work, the speaker’s reference to (and personification of) “Spring” implies that the speaker is familiar with myths of the past and accepts the relevance of such mythology even in the present day:
And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.