Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Quote of the Day (Somerset Maugham, on ‘Unmerciful’ Tropical Rain)

“Dr. Macphail watched the rain. It was beginning to get on his nerves. It was not like our soft English rain that drops gently on the earth; it was unmerciful and somehow terrible; you felt in it the malignancy of the primitive powers of nature. It did not pour, it flowed. It was like a deluge from heaven, and it rattled on the roof of corrugated iron with a steady persistence that was maddening. It seemed to have a fury of its own. And sometimes you felt that you must scream if it did not stop, and then suddenly you felt powerless, as though your bones had suddenly become soft; and you were miserable and hopeless.”—English man of letters W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), “Rain,” originally published in The Smart Set, April 1921, republished as part of Maugham’s short-story collection The Trembling of a Leaf: Little Stories of the South Sea Islands (1921)

These last several days, rain—the lack of it and the overabundance of it alike—has been at the heart of the drumbeat of the news, locally, nationally and internationally. In an age of climate change, the kind of soft, steady rain, falling consistently, that many of us recalled from younger days seems to be, more and more, a thing of the past.

The weather forecasters have taken increasingly to warning we’re in for flooding, particularly after a series of consecutive days of high temperatures coupled with humidity.

Still, no matter how much we brace ourselves, though, those of us in the Northeast are unlikely to be mentally prepared for rain as a “malignancy of the primitive powers of nature” that Maugham evoked in this classic tale of the South Seas.

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