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Summer Rain

Upon a more in-depth analyzation of Henry David Thoreau’s poem, “Summer Rain”,” it is revealing the ongoing fact that he is madly in love with nature. Throughout his writings, it shows he has a strong desire to remain in the abundance of the outdoors and wishes others would see to it as well. His willingness to further understand and admire the environment around him seems to have a strong influence on his subjects of poetry. In Henry David Thoreau’s poem “Summer Rain”,” he continues his deep appreciation of nature by using it to represent humanity, produce imagery, display situational opposition and express ignorance towards historical literature by showing a wayward outlook towards books because he would rather be connecting to the outside world instead of reading.

Henry David Thoreau was somewhat of a loner, never married or had children, yet was strong in his beliefs and prevalent with his writings. He was known as one of the founders of transcendentalism, as well as working as a land surveyor in between writing stints and exercising his civil rights. Thoreau even assisted with the Underground Railroad during a time when America was still very much involved in slavery. Although he was properly Harvard educated, the country was facing a depression upon his school completion and jobs then were hard to come by, so he always resorted to his poetry while in between occupations. Henry found solace in standing up for what he believed in and was once arrested and served jail time for unpaid taxes, yet he stated that he was opposing the outcomes of the Mexican-American war. His desire to write came to the attention of another famous American Poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, of which the two were briefly roommates while Thoreau tutored Emerson’s children in their home.

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This poem consists of 10 groups of quatrains, and while it is lengthy, this does not exactly make it a free verse poem. There is rhythm within each stanza in an ABAB form and it is of an iambic pentameter tone. It is lyrical in its rhyme scheme yet is very fitting of this poem as it enhances visualizations of his surroundings with emphasis on the minute details. It remains strong throughout its entirety with the consistency of the quatrains and the rhyme scheme is never once altered. The first and third line rhyme within each stanza, and the second and fourth line rhyme with each other as well. This rhyming pattern continues within each stanza but with each end rhyme not relative to the next stanza. The first five stanzas describe his outlook on the situation in the poem, and the remaining 5 stanzas delve into the specific details of his settings. One can imagine that Thoreau more than likely wrote this poem immediately after experiencing that exact moment in nature and would entice the reader to see from his point of view as well.

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The meaning of this poem is relative to most of Henry David Thoreau’s many writings about nature and its beauty (Brittanica). In this poem, Thoreau is explaining in depth that the past historical scholars and highly respected authors are not going to help him experience the nature that is right outside, the summer rain that is happening right then and there cannot be studied in books (Thoreau’s Life). The literal meaning of this poem is that you should experience the unpredictability of nature as it is happening, admire the meteorological event of the rain in the summer season. This poem is similar to most of his other poetry in the sense that a person should live life with disregard to societal reform. Thoreau wrote this poem to advise others to treasure the woods and streams surrounding them and that one does not always have to be reading a book to learn about the world that is a few feet away. When he wrote “A clover tuft is pillow for my head, And violets quite overtop my shoes”,” describes how abundant the foliage is in his setting for this moment in the summer rain and how it is literally enveloping his shoes while lying there in full admiration. This line is trying to explain the comforts that the outdoors can offer naturally by referring to the clover tuft as his pillow and how the violets cover his shoes, as if they were acting as a blanket of some sort. Within the beginning of this poem, he is stating the non-importance of reading books of past historical literature from famous authors like Homer and Shakespeare and inferring that they cannot possibly teach him what nature can teach him. With the quote “Tell Shakespeare to attend some leisure hour, For now I’ve business with this drop of dew”,” he is stating outright that Shakespeare needs to take a break, meaning put the book down, for Thoreau would rather be touching the dew outside rather than bother with history books.

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Upon further analyzation of Henry David Thoreau’s “Summer Rain”,” it is present that he is representing humanity, producing imagery, expressing ignorance and portraying a wayward outlook towards the content of his books. This is apparent with Thoreau’s comparison of riches in the boughs of the trees. He is expressing how the trees hold the water within their leaves and it is apparent that the rareness that he writes of is the water that is usually held within them, is distilled among the branches. This imagery aids in setting the tone of this poem. The mood of Thoreau’s poem is admiration. He sets this mood by heavily describing his surroundings when he walks outside during the rainstorm in the summer season. “For shame the sun will never show himself”,” means the sun has no shame in doing what it is destined to do, however, it is stepping aside for this storm to occur. This allows the reader to comprehend that in this poem, he is concentrating on the beauty that nature offers. “I am well drenched upon my bed of oats”,” is a good example of the imagery that he wrote within the poem. In the beginning, he expresses how much he would rather be outside than to read the works of Homer, Plutarch, and shows extensive blatant disregard for Greek mythology. “‘Twixt every page my thoughts go stray at large” is further showing his wayward outlook on the act of reading at that moment.

Within this writing of Thoreau’s, the reader can see that the theme is ignorance. The theme of ignorance is portrayed by the ongoing fact that Henry does not want to have anything to do with scholarly activities. He more than likely wrote this from his own personal account, since his poetry is almost always about nature and how others needs to see it from his point of view. The theme is obvious with his past actions of disregarding law and order. One of these examples is prevalent when he states “What care I for the Greeks or for Troy town, If juster battles are enacted now.” This quote shows situational opposition with the content of those books he wanted to put down, but it also reveals that there are more important civil issues going on at the same time during the period in which he wrote this poem. Within this quote, Henry seems to have knowledge on those subjects but would still rather be outside enveloped in fresh air. The reader can gather from this theme that Thoreau has a partial interest and knowledge in literary subjects but has a much higher interest in nature with the summer rain.

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“And now the cordial clouds have shut all in, And gently swells the wind to say all’s well.” This quote seems to be a good image to portray to the reader that the rain is about to begin, as Henry probably himself observed. This poem is descriptive, inspiring, and satisfying to whomever reads it with an open mind. The purpose of Thoreau’s poem is to hopefully motivate others to take after him and appreciate nature by temporarily disregarding education or quiet reading and to take the initiative to walk outside and enjoy the gifts that nature provides.

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