The Poem

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 460

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“It weeps in my heart” is actually the first line of an untitled work in the group of poems called “Ariettes oubliées” (“Forgotten Melodies”). This sixteen-line poem, composed of hexasyllabic quatrains in the original French, contains a very musical rhyme scheme known as rimes croisées, or what might be noted as the following pattern: abaa, cdcc, eaee, fdff. The epigraph, “It rains gently on the town,” attributed to Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine’s companion and literary confrere, is not found among Rimbaud’s known body of work, and the tribute’s origin, therefore, remains a mystery. Many critics have made suppositions as to its source, but nothing has been verified positively.

Many of Verlaine’s poems have musical titles, as his artistic credo (from his poem “Art poétique”) was “De la musique avant toute chose” (“Music first and foremost”), and his emphasis on the musicality of the poem is evident throughout his career. The title of this collection, “Romances,” connotes sentimentality, and the echoes of such sounds as “heart” and “rain” (in French, coeur and pluie) are reminiscent of the simple medieval ballads and troubadour songs.

The poem is written in the first person and is a lyric poem in the classical tradition that expresses the intensely personal feelings of the narrator. The first quatrain sets the mood, explaining that the poet’s weeping heart is mirrored by the exterior world as it rains on the town. He asks, “What languorous hurt/ thus pierces my heart?” He cannot locate the source of his suffering.

The second stanza demonstrates how the falling rain provides music: “a sweet sound,” “the song of the rain,” but his heart remains “dulled with pain.” Both sentences that compose the quatrain are exclamatory, demonstrating the relief that the poet hopes the rain will bring to his aching heart. He cries out to the rain that he hears, grateful that its music offers him diversion.

The third quatrain reveals the poet’s agony: Although he is longing to find the cause for his suffering, the heart will not betray itself to him. He seeks a rational answer to an emotional problem that is not forthcoming. This causes greater agitation.

The fourth quatrain confirms the poet’s anxiety that the worst pain “is not to know why.” He suffers neither from “love” nor “disdain.” The exterior world may possess music, but his “heart has such pain.” The mood at the end of the poem is consistent with the state of being that was expressed at the beginning. There is no relief provided by outside forces nor is the poet’s own understanding of his situation ameliorated. The ache is overpowering and lingers. His song is a lonely, single melody, a lament that bemoans unhappy solitude.

Forms and Devices

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 451

In its original French, the poem’s rhyme scheme ends in mostly soft feminine vowel sounds. The tonality is a light one; the poet tries to emulate the sound of softly falling rain. Such consonants as pl and t that echo throughout the original French poem are also reminiscent of the “song” of the rain that drops onto the roofs and the groundtois and terre.

Verlaine uses metonymy: The heart is given the function of representing the whole human being filled with pain. Although the exterior rain falls gently, the weeping in his heart is certainly not as pleasant; therefore, his use of the simile comparing the tears of the heart with the rain on the town really serves to show a dissimilarity rather than an equation. The alliterative devices of the “sweet sound” contrast with his pervasive unhappiness.

The poem’s only resolution is the declarative statement that “It’s far the worst pain/ not to know why.” The poet expresses no newfound knowledge during the poem. He continually questions: What is the cause of my pain? There is no answer. The questions merely echo the pain and his ponderings provide no relief. This device of using rhetorical questions shows the poet’s attempt at blending rationality with emotion. Because there is no transformation, it is clear that the poet is stating that logical answers cannot be applied to unnameable feelings. His “grief’s without reason.”

In his quest to examine the possible reasons behind his state of sadness, the poet tries to distance himself from the emotions and expresses this through his poetic imagery. “It weeps” is as impersonal as “it rains,” displaying an analytic posturing on the part of the narrator. The oxymoron “disheartened heart” and the use of “love or disdain” as a paradox to explain the extremes of sensation by the heart further demonstrate a scientific stance by the poet, who is trying to study the source of his pain. As his experiment is failing, so too his metaphors reveal an evaporation through words such as pénètre (the translated word “pierce” is deceptive—pénètre means to penetrate, not to prick); a heart qui s’ennuie (the translated world “dulled” is also inappropriate, because s’ennuie means to lapse into boredom, which clearly demonstrates the passivity of this person); and, again, the coeur qui s’écoeure (the heart that simply languishes).

The poem’s sensorial imagery reveals how sight (“weeps in my heart/ as it rains on the town”), touch (“pierces my heart”), hearing (“song of the rain”), taste, and smell paralyze the poet from actively and methodically tempering these strong perceptions that conquer his mind and taunt him by flaunting their power.