There Will Come Soft Rains

by Sara Teasdale

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Student Question

Which word in line 7 changes the subject of "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

Expert Answers

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In the poem "There Will Come Soft Rains," the one word in line 7 that changes the entire meaning of the poem is "war." In the first six lines, the poet creates a lovely picture of natural beauty. She writes of "the smell of the ground" after "soft rains," the sound of swallows flying in the air, the singing of frogs in pools, and the beauty of plum trees and of whistling robins with their "feathery fire."

However, in line 7, the tone of the poem changes from an idyllic, light, and ethereal feeling to one of somberness and dread, all because of that one word, "war." The narrator points out that the swallows, robins, frogs, trees, and other aspects of nature will continue to populate and beautify the Earth, and none of them are even aware that humankind is waging war or care about when the war is over. The poem goes on to say that the birds and the trees won't even notice "if mankind perished utterly." Spring would continue to herald the growth of new life as if humankind had never even existed at all.

"There Will Come Soft Rains" was first published in Harper's Monthly Magazine in July 1918, during a particularly violent phase of World War I. The war, of course, was at the forefront of everyone's mind in those days. The poem emphasizes nature's indifference to the wars of humankind. It offers the message that even if humankind destroyed itself through warfare, the natural beauty of the world would cover over the devastation as if it had never taken place.

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