Wednesday, December 01, 2010

For the rain, it raineth every day

It occurred to me that we haven't spent a Wednesday with the Bard in a while. And I'd have to be a ninny not to have noticed the cold rain and wind lashing against the windows today in my little corner of New Jersey. I started to think about rough winds, but Shakespeare's most famous use of that term was in Sonnet 18, which begins "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" and the wind-related rhymes with it: "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May". Frankly, it seemed intemperate to use that selection on December 1st (pun intended). And "Blow, blow, thou winter wind" from As You Like It didn't convey the rain that well. And I wasn't in a Lear mood, so Lear's storm scene ("Blow winds, and crack your cheeks!") didn't appeal to me.

Which is how I came back to one of my favorite songs, "The Rain It Raineth Every Day", from Twelfth Night. I especially love the version sung by Sir Ben Kingsley at the end of the excellent movie version starring Imogen Stubbs as Viola/Cesario and Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia.

When that I was and a little tiny boy
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas, to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still 'had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world began,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.


Discussion: The song is written using rhymed couplets in iambic tetrameter (four iambs per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM) interspersed with "With hey, ho, the wind and the rain" and "For the rain it raineth every day", which is changed at the end to be a more finite conclusion.

Like other poems or soliloquies from the plays, this song tracks the "ages of man" from little boy through adulthood to old age. It is performed by Feste, the "fool" in Twelfth Night. I will remind you that during Twelfth Night festivities, it's a topsy-turvy world (reference to Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame would not be entirely amiss here) where the lowest man might be king - and the fool might in fact be the wise man.






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