Signs of Rain

by Edward Jenner

The hollow winds begin to blow,
The clouds look black, the glass is low;
Thee soot falls down, the spaniels sleep,
The spiders from their cobwebs peep.
Last night the sun went pale to bed,
The moon in halos hid her head;
The boding shepherd heaves a sigh,
For see, a rainbow spans the sky!
The walls are damp, the ditches smell,
Closed is the pink-eyed pimpernel.
Hark how the chairs and tables crack!
Old Betty's nerves are on the rack;
Loud quacks the duck, the peacocks cry,
The distant hills are seeming nigh.
How restless are the snorting swine!
The busy flies disturb the kine;
Low o'er the grass the swallow wings,
The cricket, too, how sharp he sings!
Puss on the hearth, with velvet paws,
Sits wiping o'er her whiskered jaws;
Through the clear streams the fishes rise,
And nimbly catch the incautious flies.
The glowworms, numerous and light,
Illumed the dewy dell last night;
At dusk the squalid toad was seen,
Hopping and crawling o'er the green;
The whirling dust the wind obeys,
And in the rapid eddy plays;
The frog has changed his yellow vest,
And in a russet coat is dressed.
Though June, the air is cold and still,
The mellow blackbird's voice is shrill;
My dog, so altered in his taste,
Quits mutton bones on grass to feast;
And see yon rooks, how odd their flight!
They imitate the gliding kite,
And seem precipitate to fall,
As if they felt the piercing ball.
'Twill surely rain; I see with sorrow,
Our jaunt must be put off to-morrow.



el Greco


Signs of Rain


Jenner, Edward

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Things to Discuss:

What clues tell you that this poem was written long ago? Identify the signs of rain given in the poem as you understand them? Are they still believed to be signs today? Dr. Jenner once said: "as for fame, what is it? A gilded butt, forever pierced with the arrows of malignancy." Do you agree?

About the Poem:

Dr. Jenner's greatest contribution to humanity was the development of the smallpox vaccination. It was the medical breakthrough which saved the most lives before the discovery of antibiotics. Smallpox was a killer disease, the majority of its victims infants and young children. And, except for the skin lesions, there is nothing small about smallpox. In the seventtenth century it killed more than 60 million people in Europe alone, and in the twentieth century, before it was eradicated, it killed more than 300 million - three times the number of deaths from all the century's wars and battles combined. Smallpox was a major reason that the European population grew so slowly before 1800. Affecting all social groups, from the royalty to serfs. One of its surviving victims was Elizabeth I of England.