Monday, February 24, 2014
The Rainy Literature of England
It's discussed in the Guardian.
From the piece...
The waters are out in Lincolnshire. And Somerset and Oxfordshire and Kent. The river Severn laps at the edges of Worcester. The Itchen makes inroads into Winchester across the meadows Keats walked in calmer days. There are wet books in the Thames Valley this weekend, books hastily piled in top-floor rooms, books heavy with damp that will dry on wrinkled pages, tide-marked by 2014.
Some of these books began their lives in water: English literature has for centuries courted the rain. The Canterbury Tales, the first great epic of English daily life, starts out with the sweet showers of April which bathe the dry land. This first shower is an alluringly sensual one, piercing the earth, finding its way into every bodily "veyne" of plants and people alike. If Mediterranean writers found their hot dry climate conducive to love songs, the English were not going to miss out on the competing erotic potential of rain. For Edmund Spenser, too, launching The Faerie Queene from a standing start as Una and the Redcrosse Knight go gently "pricking on the plain", rain is the beginning of narrative. Weather breaks into the stillness: "The day with clouds was sudden overcast, / And angry Jove a hideous storm of rain / Did pour." The change has been made; the action begun. Moving to shelter, the protagonists find themselves in Faerieland, with adventure springing up around them. These rainy beginnings loosen language and storytelling into life. Rain, being rained on, and finding shelter will become central subjects and structuring principles of British writing.