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From the French of
Emile Verhaeren
By Alma Strettell

Long as unending threads, the long-drawn rain
Interminably, with its nails of grey,
Athwart the dull grey day,
Rakes the green window-pane—
So infinitely, endlessly, the rain,
The long, long rain,
The rain.

Since yesternight it keeps unravelling
Down from the frayed and flaccid rags that cling
About the sullen sky,
The low black sky ;
Since yesternight, so slowly, patiently,
Unravelling its threads upon the roads,
Upon the roads and lanes, with even fall

Along the miles
That twixt the meadows and the suburbs lie,
By roads interminably bent, the files


                        224 Rain

Of waggons, with their awnings arched and tall,
Struggling in sweat and steam, toil slowly by
With outline vague as of a funeral.
Into the ruts, unbroken, regular,
Stretching out parallel so far
That when night comes they seem to join the sky,
For hours the water drips ;
And every tree and every dwelling weeps,
Drenched as they are with it,
With the long rain, tenaciously, with rain

The rivers, through each rotten dyke that yields,
Discharge their swollen wave upon the fields,
Where coils of drowned hay
Float far away ;
And the wild breeze
Buffets the alders and the walnut trees ;
Knee-deep in water great black oxen stand,
Lifting their bellowings sinister on high
To the distorted sky ;
As now the night creeps onward, all the land,
Thicket and plain,
Grows cumbered with her clinging shades immense,
And still there is the rain,
The long, long rain,
Like soot, so fine and dense.

The long, long rain,
Rain and its threads identical
And its nails systematical,


                        By Alma Strettell 225

Weaving the garment, mesh by mesh amain,
Of destitution for each house and wall,
And fences that enfold
The villages, neglected, grey, and old :
Chaplets of rags and linen shreds that fall
In frayed-out wisps from upright poles and tall,
Blue pigeon-houses glued against the thatch,
And windows with a patch
Of dingy paper on each lowering pane,
Houses with straight-set gutters, side by side,
Across the broad stone gambles crucified,
Mills, uniform, forlorn,
Each rising from its hillock like a horn,
Steeples afar and chapels round about,
The rain, the long, long rain,
Through all the winter wears and wears them out.

Rain, the long rain,
With wrinkles, and grey nails, and watery strands
Of hair that downward flow,
The long rain of these old, old lands,
Eternal, torpid, slow !

MLA citation:

Verhaeren, Emile. “Rain.” Translated by Alma Strettell. The Yellow Book, vol. 8, January 1896, pp. 223-225. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.