Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Spring Rain” is a poem about dynamism and the energy that is formed by unifying individuals. Pasternak uses the atmosphere of liberation in the spring immediately following the first 1917 revolution in Russia as a vehicle to illustrate the exhilarating effect that such a cataclysmic, monumental event has on the collective human spirit. Electrified air, exuberant crowds, nature dazzled with wetness—all point toward a positive release of pent-up grievances which is created from hope for the future and the unifying glory of national pride.

The lightning-rod revolution, in combination with a summer love affair (with a woman never specifically identified), inspired Pasternak to capture the everyday events in a poetic history which became the cycle of poems called Sestra moia zhizn’. Olga Andreyev Carlisle, in her prologue to the translation of this work, entitled My Sister, Life and Other Poems (1976), quotes Pasternak’s remarks about the period forty years later:During the remarkable summer of 1917, in the interlude between the two revolutions, it appeared as if not only the people participated in the discourse, but together with them also the roads, the trees and the stars, the air, free and unlimited, carried this ardent enthusiasm through thousands of versts and seemed to be a person with a name, possessing clear sight and a soul.

“Spring Rain” is but one of fifty poems in a narrative cycle which celebrates the romance of life. In its entirety, the cycle is a discourse between the poet as character and the poet as author. “Policeman’s Whistles,” the companion to “Spring Rain” in the cycle, directly opposes the enthusiastic applause for revolution of “Spring Rain” and tells instead of the suffering and vulnerability of the individual striving for identity in the revolution’s whirlwind of change.