Edith Sitwell: Still Falls the Rain

Edith Sitwell (1887 – 1964) converted to Catholicism in 1955, the year after she had been made a Dame of the British Empire. The figure of Christ however, had been a fixation for her for many years prior to this, and in 1940 she wrote the poem Still Falls the Rain (subtitled The Raids, 1940, Night and Dawn), which compares the steady fall of rain to the great suffering that had befallen the world during the Second World War and reflects upon the figure of Christ, the Man of Sorrows, hanging upon the Cross, bearing all the suffering of the world throughout the ages in His Sacred Heart.

The poem uses imagery that evokes not only the Crucifixion itself, but the sins and sufferings of man that contribute to and are involved in Christ’s own experience on Calvary. Lazarus and Dives are used to represent the righteous and the wicked, who nevertheless are both equally sodden with the steady fall of rain; also Judas and Cain here stand for the legacy of sin stretching from the very beginning until the Passion and the Cross (and therefore into our own time today). Amidst all this, absorbing the shadows and bearing the brunt of the falling rain, is Our Lord Himself, shedding blood, loving us, forgiving us, feeling our pain:

 

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.”

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