Rain. The permanent marker of the good old British climate, the failsafe topic of idle conversation and the cause of vague annoyance for many of us. It seems like this month in particular has been marked by persistent rainfall and, if the not-too-distant future forecast is to be believed, there’s plenty more in store. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing – a long walk in the rain sheltered under a brolly can be quite soothing, and in the right circumstances even romantic – and after all, we should really be used to rainy day after endless rainy day. But after a while, our moods can start to be influenced by the weather; if the rain clouds linger much longer, spirits may be well and truly dampened (excuse the pun).
To lift our collective dispositions, here’s a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar which is perfect for the rain-lashed, windswept days we’re currently experiencing. Admittedly it doesn’t start too optimistically, although in the drowsiness and darkness of the day described, a range of sights, sounds and feelings quietly grow under the surface. What really strikes a chord with me is the sense of escapism that later emerges – how easy it is to find yourself surrendering to dreams, distant memories and utter distraction when all around seems cold and uninviting. Indeed, it makes us feel that rain doesn’t automatically equate to gloominess; it offers us the chance to take time out, reflect and put our work and worries to one side in order to indulge more frivolous and fanciful matters (of course, nobody at The Reader Organisation would advocate neglecting urgent workloads for too long…but five minutes can’t hurt, surely?).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to gaze at the rain hitting the pavements from my window and lose myself for a while…
A Drowsy Day
The air is dark, the sky is gray,
The misty shadows come and go,
And here within my dusky room
Each chair looks ghostly in the gloom.
Outside the rain falls cold and slow–
Half-stinging drops, half-blinding spray.
Each slightest sound is magnified,
For drowsy quiet holds her reign;
The burnt stick in the fireplace breaks,
The nodding cat with start awakes,
And then to sleep drops off again,
Unheeding Towser at her side.
I look far out across the lawn,
Where huddled stand the silly sheep;
My work lies idle at my hands,
My thoughts fly out like scattered strands
Of thread, and on the verge of sleep–
Stil! half awake–I dream and yawn.
What spirits rise before my eyes!
How various of kind and form!
Sweet memories of days long past,
The dreams of youth that could not last,
Each smiling calm, each raging storm,
That swept across my early skies.
Half seen, the bare, gaunt-fingered boughs
Before my window sweep and sway,
And chafe in tortures of unrest.
My chin sinks down upon my breast;
I cannot work on such a day,
But only sit and dream and drowse.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)