Rain by William Maddux Tanner

Rain by William Maddux Tanner


Is there any other force in nature that has so varied and changing a beauty as rain? Anywhere in town or country one can take sheer delight in watching those drifting, swaying threads of liquid which make all sorts of fantastic angles. Sometimes the heavy rains come down with perpendicular directness, falling insistently in exact parallels; sometimes the lines are slanting and follow the direction of the wind with singularly plastic movement, veering and shifting until they are almost vertical; sometimes all uniformity of movement vanishes, and the rain is blown in sharp gusts until its delicate filaments become entangled in intricate, bewildering complexities of moisture.

Bain keeps to the straight line and to the angle when in action; it seldom, if ever, yields to the curve. It is only when rain ceases and becomes mere drops that linger on the eaves, or fall with inconceivable slowness from the edge of glistening green leaves, that we see gracious and trembling curves. The size of a raindrop may vary from a tiny bead of light to the more palpable globes in which one could easily study liquid geometry. I have seen, on icy days, raindrops clinging to bare bushes, making them in the distance look like pussy-willows.

Rain has color. The Quaker gray of a hard rain has a soft vanishing quality far less durable and tangible than the filmy cobweb. Sometimes almost white, often blue, most frequently rain responds with unusual sensitiveness to its environment, and shadows back the green of apple-tree leaves or the sombre brown of a dusty highway. Most beautiful is the silvery sheen of rain on warm summer days when the descent is intermittent and one has the pleasure of speculating on the quality of the rain to be. The poets have a great deal'to say about golden rain, but that falls only in the Golden Age; we see only that clear crystalline rainfall against a glowing golden sunset in April.

All the world knows the poignant smell accompanying a summer shower, when dust is moistened, when parched grass yields a certain acrid scent under the stress of storm. The fresh vigor and brilliancy of roses and of yellow lilies, after rain, is proverbial; but for exquisite beauty of fragrance I know nothing that compares with the aromatic, mystical influence of a blossoming balm-of-gilead, rain-swept.

The soft thud and patter of rain upon the roof are as musical to the imaginative listener as is any symphony. Monotonous dripping on thick-leaved trees soothes one's weariness, and makes the importunities of life seem easily resisted. One can be lulled to fair visions during a transient spring shower, and gain a sense of sharing the destiny of nature. But, sometimes, the storm brings moods far from serene when it sweeps along with a kind of fury. Heavy clouds make noon as dark as night, the air is thick and ominous, rain pours in sheets of gray that gusts of wind shake into fine mist. Trees bow to the ground under the rush of the whirlwind, and thunder reverberates continually, while often a sharp flash of lightning gives a sudden golden tint to the heavy rain and shows the blackness of the sky. There is something startling and fearful in the tumult of the storm; it is as if the laws of nature had broken loose and left the titanic elements to have full swing. Still it is beautiful, a picture in chiaroscuro, illuminated by the unearthly flame of lightning. There is a wild and awful sublimity in the tremendous power which has wrought such darkness and floods of water, such breathless silence and responding crash and whirl.