About the Poet
Walt Whitman, one of America’s most influential poets was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, New York. He was the second of nine children and was immediately nicknamed “Walt” to distinguish him from his father. At 11, Walt Whitman was taken out of school by his father to help out with household income. He started to work as an office boy for a Brooklyn-based attorney team and eventually found employment in the printing business. In 1836, at the age of seventeen, he began his career as a teacher in the one-room school houses of Long Island. He continued to teach until 1841, when he turned to journalism as a full-time career.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman vowed to live a “cleansed” life. He worked as a freelance journalist and visited the wounded at New York City–area hospitals. He then traveled to Washington, D. C. in December 1862 to care for his brother who had been wounded in the war. Overcome by the suffering of the many wounded in Washington, Whitman decided to stay and work in the hospitals and stayed in the city for eleven years. Whitman struggled to support himself through most of his life. In Washington, he lived on a clerk’s salary and modest royalties.
But in 1873 his life took a dramatic turn for the worse. In January of that year he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. In May he traveled to Camden, New Jersey, to see his ailing mother, who died just three days after his arrival. Whitman found it impossible to continue with his job in Washington and relocated to Camden to live with his brother George and sister-in-law Lou.
On March 26, 1892, Walt Whitman passed away in Camden.
Poem: The Voice of the Rain
And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form’d, altogether changed, and
Yet the same,
I descend to lave the droughts, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
And make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck’d or unreck’d, duly with love returns.)
‘The Voice of the Rain’ is an imaginary dialogue between the poet and the rain. The poet casually asks the rain who it is. To his surprise, the rain answers the question and tells about its birth and end. The poet understands the tale of rain and translates it for the readers.
The poet once asked the soft falling rain who it is. Strangely, the raindrops replied and said that it is the music of the Earth which is its birth place. It is born out of the land and sea in the form of water vapours and rises up in the sky to form clouds. Yet, at its core, it remains the same as it was at birth. It then returns to earth as little droplets which wash away the layers of dust, waters the soil and helps the seeds sprout again. It gives back life to the earth. It purifies and makes it beautiful over and over again. This cycle goes on eternally.
The poet compares the rain to a song. A song rises from the heart of a poet. Once it is complete, it is passed on from one person to another. It doesn’t matter to him whether anyone listens to it or not. After the poet has sung his song, it settles back into his heart which is its birth place. The song keeps rising again and again from there. Thus it purifies the poet’s heart and make it beautiful.
1. Poem – an imaginary dialogue between the poet and the rain.
2. Poet asks who it is.
3. Surprisingly, rain answers and tells how it originates.
4. It rises unseen from land and sea.
5. It forms clouds in the sky.
6. It returns to earth in the form of rains.
7. It gives back life to the earth and make it beautiful.
8. This cycle goes on forever.