‘In Time of Silver Rain’ was included in the 1947 collection of Langston Hughes’s poetry entitled Fields of Wonder. The word “wonder” in the title of this poetry collection is echoed in the last line of the first stanza of ‘In Time of Silver Rain’.
The poem itself does not have a definite rhyme scheme. However, multiple end rhymes can be found in the poem, such as “rain”. “again”, and “plain” in the first stanza, or “wings” and “sing” in the first stanza. These are, of course, in addition to the three “life”s that end each line of the second stanza (as explained in the summary).
There has been much debate regarding why the rain referred to in the title of this poem is ‘silver’. No single and unanimously agreed-upon answer has been found to this question. However, it doesn’t hurt to speculate. For example, it could be a reference to the popular proverb, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” The supporting evidence for such a speculation is that rain is generally thought to cause inconvenience to humans, but it is also the rain that provides earthly beings with life by functioning as a natural source of water. Moreover, springtime rain (as the specific seasonal variety of rain that Hughes has chosen to write about) signals the end of winter, and the coming of spring. Both of these assertions can be proven through Hughes’s depiction of the boys and girls in the poem, who are not upset that it is raining but are joyous instead to see the rain-kissed nature all around them.
The end of a barren and bleak winter is also signified by the appearance of the rainbow. Since a rainbow consists of multiple colours, it presents a contrast to the white that covers everything that our eyes alight upon in winter. The end of winter is also why we experience a sense of wonder (as Hughes says we do, in the first stanza) at the existence of life itself. Hughes’s use of an exclamation mark after the third “life” in the second stanza implies that during winter, in the absence of nature’s scenic beauty, we forget that natural life exists all around us, but with the coming of springtime showers, when all such natural life is rejuvenated, we are both surprised and pleased to rediscover nature.
One poetical device that Hughes often uses in his poetry is personification. ‘In Time of Silver Rain’ is no exception. In this poem, Hughes personifies the various elements of nature, that is, he gives them human qualities. As a result of this, the earth “puts forth” life, flowers “lift” their heads, and leaves “sing” in joy. None of these are actions that we can see the natural elements performing in reality, but by using the device of personification, Hughes is able to easily conjure up word-pictures in the mind of his readers. Another function of Hughes’s use of personification is to emphasize that with the coming of spring, all the natural elements have become active agents, performing various actions. Therefore, Hughes implicitly hints at the fact that the “silver rain” has activated all of nature, which had been lying passive all winter. This accords power to the rain, and proves its centrality within the space of the poem.
Lastly, by equating spring and life with the new, Hughes sends out a message of hope and resilience. He wishes to tell his readers that situations always do change, as the seasons do in a cycle throughout the year. Every long and fallow winter is followed by a bountiful spring, and every sorrowful experience is followed by joy. All that we must do is have patience, and faith.
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