Magazine November 1, 2010, Issue

The Eternal Seasons

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As torrents in summer,
Half dried in their channels,
Suddenly rise, though the
Sky is still cloudless,
For rain has been falling
Far off at their fountains,

So hearts that are fainting
Grow full to o’erflowing,
And they that behold it
Marvel, and know not
That God at their fountains
Far off has been raining.

Edward Elgar set these lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in a choral arrangement that is popular with high-school choirs. Elgar and Longfellow — it doesn’t get any more upholstered than that, yet despite the too-obvious metaphor and the pat assurance of the last two lines, composer and poet somehow — rising and falling phrases? feminine endings? —

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