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This report is taken from PN Review 259, Volume 47 Number 5, May - June 2021.

On Midsummer Rain Martin Caseley
Midsummer Rain

The rain it raineth all evening, with a sudden intensity and surprising violence, even after the prelude of a couple of days of heavy heat. At the end of Twelfth Night, after the dreamlike pastoral has evaporated, Touchstone’s survey of life passing endows the downpour with a tragic inevitability. It is a song redolent of Hardy’s grim churchyards with overflowing gargoyles: life’s weather, which must be endured. On this June evening, the storm can be heard building towards a solitary thunderclap and a sudden vein of lightning, but the following morning it has subsided, ebbed away towards the bathetic rather than the tragic.

‘Drizzle’ is the word for this kind of endless, mundane rain, irritating but not malevolent – just a sort of spiritless, continual process, without variation. The night before was different: that was more the dense cross-hatching George Herriman uses for rain in Krazy Kat, a pummelling, obliterating force wiping out the strange mesas of his Mexican cartoon world. For drizzle, it is enough for cartoonists just to show a few diagonal dashes across everything, hinting at the hours of ennui, but without a similar density.

As depicted in Hardy and Shakespeare, that ordinary event, rain, is like a deus ex machina, an external intervention bringing a different mood, sometimes in a fallacious, unearned manner. One of the most memorable rain poems is Louis MacNeice’s ‘London Rain’, written in the anxious September of 1939. The rain ‘pimples / the ebony street with white’, an image which could have come from a black-and-white Max Fleischer cartoon, but ...

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