Still Falls the Rain

by Edith Sitwell

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Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 459

“Still Falls the Rain” represents one of the first serious poems Sitwell wrote after she completed Gold Coast Customs (1929). Her decade of relative silence was broken by the encouragement of her brother Sacheverell Sitwell and by the arrival of World War II. Rather than rail at Germany and the other wartime enemies of Great Britain, Sitwell focuses on the larger issues of suffering and absolution as related to all humanity. She prays for Dives and Lazarus, the undeserving as well as the deserving. She acknowledges that Christ suffered for all people and that each year of life (rather than just the war years) is in some sense a cause for his death on the cross. The scene she paints of wartime England becomes a portrait of all history in which humanity is in continual need of redemption. The portrait of Christ at the end of the poem is one of unceasing love and sacrifice. The crimes and griefs of the world seem innumerable, yet the love of God exceeds them all. Thus, in spite of the war era being treated in this work, this poem is very positive in its confidence in God’s ability and willingness to act in a chaotic world.

Beginning with this poem and others of the World War II era, the reading public in England began to recognize that Sitwell was a poet of considerable depth and spiritual insight. This poem is dense with historical allusions and profound in its theological statements. Her readings also gained notoriety, especially one given in the fall of 1944. She and her two brothers, Osbert and Sacheverell, were giving a poetry reading at the Allied Forces’ Churchill Club in London that was heavily attended by numerous notable literary figures. Just as Sitwell began to read “Still Falls the Rain,” a warning sounded that a “doodle bug” or “buzz bomb” was heading toward London. Edith refused to halt her reading, even when many thought of heading for shelter. Her voice and demeanor kept them spellbound as she spoke against the impending doom. She finished her reading as the bomb exploded in the distance, and the audience burst into deafening applause.

Sitwell’s poetry reflects her heroic posture of facing the terrors of life with an unflinching conviction that faith and poetry will triumph in the end. In recognition of her valiant spirit and fine poetry, Sitwell was named Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1954. The endurance of “Still Falls the Rain” is proof that such honor was well deserved. Between 1940 and 1949, she wrote an impressive array of poems of striking intensity and beauty, including “Invocation,” “An Old Woman,” “Eurydice,” and “The Song of the Cold.” Among these poems, “Still Falls the Rain” stands as one of her finest works.

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