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Vocabulary in There Will Come Soft Rains

Vocabulary Examples in There Will Come Soft Rains:

Text of the Poem

🔒 10

"we were gone...."   (Text of the Poem)

Teasdale shifts the language describing humanity from “mankind” —impersonal and singular—to “we.” The shift is startling because “we” implicates us, the readers. We are forced to identify again with our humanity after slowly becoming distanced from it over the course of the poem. The use of “we” is doubly startling because the line forces us to consider our own demise. We must suddenly imagine being “gone.”

"tremulous white;..."   (Text of the Poem)

The phrase “tremulous white” gives the plum trees a sense of both purity and also timidity. The newly blossoming plum flowers represent the beauty and purity of nature more broadly. The flowers’ “tremulous” quality acknowledges the scarred world they emerge into—the word suggests a trembling nervousness and sensitivity.

"scarcely..."   (Text of the Poem)

When the adverb “scarcely” is used for factual statements, it means something similar to “barely.” If it were used in this sense, then this line means that Spring would barely know that humans had perished. However, since Teasdale has changed the grammar in these last two couplets, the adverb is now used in a hypothetical statement that speculates on how Spring would perceive events. This subtly changes the meaning of “scarcely” to state that the narrator doubts whether or not Spring would even notice that humankind had perished.

"perished..."   (Text of the Poem)

The verb “to perish” generally refers to something dying. However, the inclusion of “utterly” (meaning “completely”) brings in a more specific understanding of the verb. When something perishes, it can die from artificial and natural causes, but even immaterial things or beliefs can also perish from a kind of spiritual death by being disregarded. Teasdale’s choice of “perished” then brings about the completeness of humankind’s passing.

"mind..."   (Text of the Poem)

The verb “to mind” in this instance means “to concern oneself with something.” Teasdale is saying, in effect, that the birds and the trees would not concern themselves with the passing of humankind from the world.

"it..."   (Text of the Poem)

The pronoun “it” here technically refers to “war” from the preceding line. However, looking forward to the last lines of the poem, “war” likely represents humankind in general. (After all, it is a human contrivance.) Teasdale sets up the main idea of the poem in this passage and then refines it in the last few couplet: Nature and those in the natural world will not know about war nor care about the end of it because it is a human aspect that will eventually fade away.

"not one..."   (Text of the Poem)

In this line, and others to come, “not one” refers to those in the natural world: robins, frogs, rains, and the earth. Humankind is only talked about in this poem and does not have its own agency, which further emphasizes the power and importance of Nature: it will outlast us.

"dawn..."   (Text of the Poem)

“Dawn” is associated with the start of a new day, a kind of “rebirth” in which possibilities are seemingly endless. Since a new day, or dawn, can also be extended to refer to ages, cycles, and eras, this word provides additional meanings. Thus, dawn here underscores the possibility of a world without humans. Note that the positive connotations associated with the word remind the reader that Teasdale’s newly awakened world is not a dismal one. The world without humans exists in a state of peace and goes on to thrive without us.

"shimmering..."   (Text of the Poem)

The adjective “shimmering” refers to a visible quality of an object that shines with a flickering light. However, here we have a sound that shimmers, which appears oxymoronic. Teasdale's use of such a phrase likely speaks to the image of the birds flying in the rain while the sun shines, creating a kind of blended tapestry of this idyllic scene.

"wild..."   (Text of the Poem)

The inclusion of the word “wild” in relation to the plum trees is important. The depiction of nature as free and “wild,” along with the inclusion of the resilient plum trees, thus emphasizes the inability of humans to “tame” nature. Nature will persist how it chooses to, and humans hold little power over its fate in the long run.

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