RAINY DAY REFRAIN
inauspiciously enough, giving no hint it was to become one of those rare,
memorable days that stir the hidden founts
rains wept in slanting lines, steadily, relentlessly. Not
the "shower of commanded tears" Shakespeare teases about
in The Taming of the Shrew but rather Coates Kin-ney's
"subdued, subduing strain which is played upon the shingles
by the patter of the rain."
lay indolently, luxuriously in bed this sodden Sunday morning
and listened to the silvery symphony playing its soft
pleasant tune on the window panes. What is it Proverbs says?
"A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious
woman are alike." Well, there are no contentious women
in our house, so my rain-cadenced mind groped for more
the rain fell on the roof and the twilight darkened,"
I recalled reading from the pen of Stephen Vincent Benet.
Pretty, but the twilight was not darkening; it was mid-morning.
thought of Henry Timrod's "spring with her golden suns
and silver rain." Well, it was spring, early spring, but there
was no sun this day.
my mind turned to my favored passage from
my much-loved "Song of Songs of Solomon": "For, lo! the
winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and
the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."
glowed in ecstatic enjoyment of the beauty of the biblical
words, but reality compelled me to reject it as inappropriate.
Winter was over, true enough, but the rain definitely was
not; the blossoms hadn't yet emerged from their hibernation,
the birds were huddled silently in the shelter of tree trunks,
and the mournful coo of the dove still was stilled.
let's see. There was Portia's tender "the quality of mercy
is not strain'd, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."
come now, Corotis, let's not wander completely off the
beam. You can do better than that!
think it's easy? Old Lear saw "sunshine and rain at once,
her smiles and tears," but now there was no sun. Only rain,
only torrents of tears. Jonathan Swift, the epigrama-rian,
saw it "rain cats and dogs," but that's silly. Longfellow, of
course, gave sound if unimaginative advice in "The Birds of
Killingworth": "For after all, the best thing one can do when
it is raining, is to let it rain."
right, all right. Then how about Andrew Cherry's "the
rain a deluge showers"? Better, eh.
try this on for size: "Though it rain daggers with their
points downward." Too fanciful? Don't blame me; Robert
Burton wrote it. What of Paul Hamilton Hayne's "lines
of rain like glittering spears deprest"? Or Thomas Lovell
Beddoes' "silver chain of rain unravel'd from the tumbling
main"? Or William Rose Benet's "rain with a silver flail"?
Oh, you like them better. So do I. And best of all, Thomson's
"the clouds consign their treasures to the fields, and
softly shaking on the dimpled poor prelusive drops, let all
their moisture flow, in large effusion, o'er the freshened world."
that will give you an idea of my mood and the setting
for this rainy Sunday in early April that I'd like you to share
must remember it. It climaxed a four-day spell of spillage
that seemed "to rise eternal, impalpable out of the land and bottomless
sea," as Walt Whitman put it in "Voice of
the Rain," his Poem of the Earth.
I, like Hamlin Garland, don't fear "the slash of the rain,"
and I don't let it drive me to fanciful speculation like John
Lyly: "The soft droppes of rain perce the hard marble;
many strokes overthrow the tallest oaks." I agree with Margaret
Sangster that "folks should carry bright umbrellasin
the rain to smile into the sullen sky and make it glad again."
there is an inescapable feeling of melancholy that comes
with the fourth successive day of rainfall. The dashing dance of the
singing rain on the pane makes mournful music
for the mind, especially when the house is eerily quiet save
for the steady tick-tock of the cuckoo clock in Ross' room next door,
punctuated by the punctual silvery chord-ing
of quarterhour chimes from the august old grandfather's clock
below. The dominant note still is the pouring patter on
windows and eaves, and through the trees' nascent leaves.
I think, put it best in "The Day Is Done":
feeling of sadness and longing That
is not akin to pain,
sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain.
was that kind of day. The night before, Hazel, June and
I had gone to a dance—pardon me, a ball— and didn't get
in 'til quite late. The boys had attended the school fair, and
afterwards the movie house. A sleepy, rain-induced lethargy
seemed to grip the whole household. The stage was set for a lazy, leisurely
day, one of those occasional excursions into phantasmagoria that knits the
family closer together—a
moment when Home becomes deep imaged in the soul
Home, the sphere of harmony and peace. There is a
magic in that little word home; Southey saw it "a mystic circle
that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond
its hallowed limits"
was a day so pleasant, so serene, so intimate that tears
trembled in the heart. Before it ended, we were to know
what Cicero meant when he said "there is no place more
delightful than home." Lytton opined that " 'tis at sixty
men learn how to value home," but awakening comes earlier
on days such as this when home is indeed bright with a
calm delight, when it truly becomes Washington Irving's "paternal
hearth, that rallying place of the affections."
basement at 600 Chester is a perfect haven for a bluesy
day. In fact, it is suitably equipped to sit out a siege— or
more topically, a bombing.
pine walls and ceiling provide a satiny-rough, carefree
motif. The asphalt tile flooring is gaily designed. Inset
musical notes mark June's recessed victrola stall and the
television-radio-record player which dominates the front part
of the room. A smart top-hat-white-gloves-cane inset ushers
in the bar at the far end. Similarly sophisticated prints and
figurines—some more so—adorn that department which, of
course, was out of bounds on this memorable day.
shelves hold some of our most cherished books and
volumes of art reproductions. Our own personal library of
movie film is there, with projector and screen—miles and miles of tightly
coiled impressions in color of cherished moments
in our family life.
of matches, menus and other memory-stir-ing
mementos of hotels, restaurants and night spots visited around the country
add a cosmopolitan flavor that guests often
and gaily colored furniture abounds—deep-seated
chairs, straight and curved divans, hassocks and the like.
In an adjoining room is an electric refrigerator, well-stocked
with soft stuff and brew, and a tempting supply of nibblings: cans of
pretzels, potato chips, peanuts, a wide variety
of crackers and cookies.
another room is the ping-pong table and the tables for cards;
in still another a punching bag, the toolshop, toy storage.
to one side is a door with the allegedly whimsical sign: gentlemen
without ladies not admitted here. Behind
that door are the remaining facilities requisite for a self-contained living
you can do most anything down in our basement on a
started the trek downstairs while the
rest of us lingered
over our sausages and wheatcakes in the breakfast nook.
Soon lovely FM music was flooding the place like a softly
glowing sunset. Bruce and Ross went down and introduced
a competitive note via TV.
June switched to the phonograph, one wonderful old
tune after another, Hazel and I no longer could resist.. Certainly
there was work to be done, but it just would have to
wait. It was that kind of day. It was glorious.
played records and piano, danced and sang; we watched
television and movies, we listened to the radio, we played table tennis and
rummy. And occasionally we just sat and
beamed in meditative silence, like parties to a sly, secretive
conspiracy, to the accompaniment of the caressing strains
of the rains. Just the five of us.
is good at such blessed moments. What more could a
man want than thus to have his family around him in soft content?
I've always subscribed to Swinburne's philosophy in Erechtheus:
"Many loves of many a
mood and many a kind fill the life
of man, and mold the secret mind," but truly love's
heart is home. "Love comforteth like sunshine after rain,"
Adonis tells Venus in one of Shakespeare's loveliest sonnets,
and where we love is home—"the sweetest type of heaven,"
in Holland's words.
sang Charles Swain, "is where Affection calls, filled
with shrines the Heart hath builded," and Byron added:
"Without hearts there is no home."
we who inherit the primal curse and labor for our bread,"
Joyce Kilmer wrote, "have yet, thank God, the gift of
Home, though Eden's gate is barred."
this is the true nature of home, this day of domiciliary,
domestic joy, heightened by the contrasting desolation of the elements
without. What was it Hare wrote? "To Adam
paradise was home—to the good among his descendants,
home is paradise." And Young: "The first sure symptom
of a mind in health, is rest of heart, and pleasures felt at home."
each life some rain must fall, some days must be
dark and dreary,"
penned Longfellow. Well, must they? Taking
H. W. literally, must they? I'd rather say with Christina
Rossetti: "I shall not see the shadows, I shall not feel
disagree, too, with Thomas Stearns Eliot when he says ^'April is the crudest month, breeding lilacs out of dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain."
need not be so. No, it need not indeed. Nor must we •echo
Stephen Benet's cynicism: "Now grimy April comes again ....
maketh silvers in the rain."
April in the rain can be beautiful. "Hark how the rain
is pouring," but that's outside. Inside is home, a
cheery, paneled basement, and Ross, still
in red pajamas, squealing delightedly as
he relives anew the pleasures given him by long-discarded toys. And
June, supervising the nostalgic parade
of old favorites—Ruth Etting and Gene Austin and Frank Crumit, Caruso and Galli-Curci and McCormack. And
Hazel, perusing books on home decorating—she loves to identify
our furniture by period and mode: Regency, Chippendale,
Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Queen Anne, Duncan Phyfe, French provincial, and we have some of each. But no Victorian—absolutely
finally, Bruce, the champ, disposing of my table tennis
challenge fairly handily, now trying to do as well by himself
at solitaire. And I doing some long-delayed splicing of
Kodachrome with one eye on my much-loved family, an ear
to their chatter and to the music, a thought to my good fortune,
a silent prayer of gratitude suffusing my soul.
is the happiest," said Goethe, "be he king or peasant,
who finds peace in his home." Happy then am I. And joyous
by Pestalozzi's definition: "Our home joys are the most
delightful earth affords, and the joy of parents in their children
is the most holy joy of humanity."
it was raining. Outside the day was dark and dreary, cheerlessly
inside there was light and music, laughter and love. Remember
Robert Loveman's "April Rain":
is not raining rain to me,
It's raining daffodils;
In every dimpled
drop I see
flowers on the hills.
health onto the happy!
A fig for him who frets!
It is not raining
rain to me,
It's raining violets.