Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Still falls the Rain.

Clive Branson 1907-1944
Blitz: Plane Flying 1940
Oil on canvas
support: 610 x 509 x 20 mm frame: 750 x 650 x 50 mm
Tate Britain, London

Edith Louisa Sitwell DBE (7 September 1887 – 9 December 1964) was a British poet and critic

She had two younger brothers, Osbert (1892-1969) and Sacheverell Sitwell (1897-1988) both distinguished authors, well-known literary figures in their own right, and long-term collaborators.

The poems she wrote during the war brought her back before a public. They include Street Songs (1942), The Song of the Cold (1945) and The Shadow of Cain (1947), all of which were much praised. Still Falls the Rain, about the London blitz, remains perhaps her best-known poem (it was set to music by Benjamin Britten as Canticle III: Still Falls the Rain).

In 1955, Sitwell converted to Roman Catholicism

Still Falls the Rain

The Raids, 1940. Night and Dawn.

Still falls the Rain---
Dark as the world of man, black as our loss---
Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails
Upon the Cross.

Still falls the Rain
With a sound like the pulse of the heart that is changed to the hammer-beat
In the Potter's Field, and the sound of the impious feet
On the Tomb:

Still falls the Rain

In the Field of Blood where the small hopes breed and the human brain
Nurtures its greed, that worm with the brow of Cain.

Still falls the Rain
At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross.
Christ that each day, each night, nails there, have mercy on us---
On Dives and on Lazarus:
Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.

Still falls the Rain---
Still falls the Blood from the Starved Man's wounded Side:
He bears in His Heart all wounds,---those of the light that died,
The last faint spark
In the self-murdered heart, the wounds of the sad uncomprehending dark,
The wounds of the baited bear---
The blind and weeping bear whom the keepers beat
On his helpless flesh... the tears of the hunted hare.

Still falls the Rain---
Then--- O Ile leape up to my God: who pulles me doune---
See, see where Christ's blood streames in the firmament:
It flows from the Brow we nailed upon the tree

Deep to the dying, to the thirsting heart
That holds the fires of the world,---dark-smirched with pain
As Caesar's laurel crown.

Then sounds the voice of One who like the heart of man
Was once a child who among beasts has lain---
"Still do I love, still shed my innocent light, my Blood, for thee."

One can hear an original recording of Dame Edith Sitwell reciting the poem at The Poetry Archive

The Blitz in London was the genesis of the poem. This is Sitwell`s powerful response to the events in 1940.

Sitwell described this poem in a letter to Benjamin Britten as one of the proudest achievements of her life.

The poem is dark, full of the disillusions of war. It speaks of the failure of man, and contrasts this with the unconditional love of God.