The Rain It Raineth

This morning I went downstairs to find the  room glowing with a strange light. It was the sort of unreal glow that snow generates. Snow? Days of rain, hailstones, high winds – but SNOW?

I snatched back the curtains to find – sunshine – and blue sky. Yes, the strange light was – sunshine after so many days of rain, after skies more like the one in the photo above.

I work in a room at the top of the house. It has big windows that offer a panorama of sky. Yesterday evening that sky had an end-of-the-world foreboding about it. The sort of sky Noah must have looked at and ordered his wood and nails. The sort of sky that makes rivers rise until land and water merge.

It’s rained for days. Rain that seems unending, rain that drums on the roof, streams down windows, creates puddles for my tears to drown in. When the sky grows black and it rains like this, the same song forces itself to my lips over and over again.

At the end of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’, Feste the Fool sings a song of haunting melancholy: ‘The rain it raineth every day’. Sometimes directors decide to change  the melody, and I think not always to good effect. (For me this applies to this season’s RSC production of ‘Twelfth Night’, which I think fails on so many other counts also.)  The tune I like – perhaps because it was the one I heard first – can be found here

Although it’s the melody I like, this version hasn’t got the haunting quality that I love so much in the words, and which I find reflected in this one by counter tenor, Alfred Deller

I also love the painting by Norman Garstin of the promenade at Penzance – It hangs in the wonderful Penlee House Gallery in Penzance, and provides an evocative picture of the promenade on a wet day at the end of the 19th century. I love Penzance. George, a character in my novel The Piano Player’s Son, lives in Penzance, and when his sister, Grace, visits him at a time of great stress, she walks along the prom.

I seem to have moved a long way from waking up and seeing sunshine. Today’s blue sky is uplifting, and a relief after so much rain, but for dramatic power, I’d go for yesterday’s evening’s sky every time.

But with more rain forecast for tomorrow morning, the Avon and the Severn bursting their banks and 48 flood alerts, the last thing we need is more skies like last night’s!

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  1. No more rain – we have had enough – today was lovely, though still chilly – no more rain – please …

    Interesting post, Lindsay.

  2. Lindsay says:

    I know what you mean, Polly, and I’ve had enough of the rain. But it was so amazing yesterday, I had to reflect on it.

  3. Lynne Powell says:

    And we had a thunderstorm last night too! The light at the this time of year, especially when it’s stormy, is spectacular. Lovely piece, liked the links and actually (whisper it) like the rain and storms, although not, of course, the damage and misery they can cause. As we watch the local rivers rising and changing colour because of the run-off upstream, I am always reminded of T.S. Eliot’s description in the Four Quartets:
    “I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
    Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable.”

  4. Lindsay says:

    And still it rains! Love the quote, Lynne – I hadn’t remembered it.
    I now have a funny image – when it rains, you’re walking round reciting Eliot and I’m singing Feste’s song!

  5. Robin Heaney says:

    Talking of ordering wood – Stanley Holloway used to do a monologue about Noah going to a Yorkshire timber merchant called Sam Oswaldthwaite, to order wood for his Ark. It’s called ‘Three Ha’pence a Foot’ because try as he might Noah cannot get Sam to bring his price down. I used to know a bloke from Mansfield who knew every word of every Stanley Holloway monologue.

  6. Mo Hall says:

    Thanks for this Lindsay, especially for the links. As always, Shakespeare’s work comes to life when it’s performed. I’ve bookmarked this, so that I can come back to them again! But don’t let’s worry too much about the rain: the sun is still there – it’s just hiding!

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