On Saturday morning, March 28, 2020, I went out to get the mail (for the first time in several days) and saw large puddles everywhere. I had not heard the hard rain in the night, and now it was a very soft rain. I also noticed that mourning doves and song birds and cardinals and blue jays and crows were out in full chorus. It was as if spring had awakened, but I had not noticed until then. The calling birds and the soft rain immediately brought to mind Sara Teasdale's poem from 1918, "There Will Come Soft Rains." This video was also used to "kick start" Poetry Month (April) and a poetry unit in some of our literature classes. On the day it was posted, the on-line lesson plan in British Lit included Robert Burn's "To a Mouse," alluded to in the second half.
Teasdale's poem later inspired Ray Bradbury's classic sci-fi short story by the same name (1950), Both works serve as warnings that man's own actions will lead to his end, while non-human life will go one. (It's a premise for other fiction such as the Planet of the Apes franchise.) I contend, however, that whether by war or by virus, if the world as we know it is no longer inhabited by man, it will not be left to animals. God's plan for a new earth will not be altered from the metanarrative outlined in the Bible (creation, fall, redemption, restoration).
In Act III of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town, Emily comes out of her "flashback" and asks the Stage Manager this question: “EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?" STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.” Teasdale was a gifted poet, but her beautifully written lines reflect underscore a juxtaposition between "saints and poets" (maybe). That is to say, Teasdale's warning to her fellow man during the First World War makes the Darwinian assumption of "Nature's" protection of "fittest animals" while scripture tells "saints" quite the opposite about their Creator's attention and affection for man "made in His image. In Luke 12:6 and Matthew 6: 28, Jesus tells us clearly that while our Heavenly Father indeed takes care of birds who neither sow nor reap nor build barns, etc. that care is nothing compared to how He will take care of his children. These are the passages that inspired the old gospel song: "His Eye Is On the Sparrow." In the video, I also allude to Robert Burn's poem "To a Mouse" (1785) which reflects an understanding of of the Genisis mandate establishing man's dominion (Genisis 1:26 and 28) over the very creatures and trees that Teasdale imagines surviving after man is gone. It is the responsibility of that "dominion" that distinguishes the difference between the kind of cares that man has compared to the animal kingdom. Instinctive nesting, breeding, feeding, migration, etc. in the "Circle of Life" as the song says, is a marvel indeed, but it is quite different from the burdens of civilizations and the complexity of human coexistance. Man is prone to cares from our past and dread of future unknowns--especially when "the best laid plans of mice and men" do not pan out. (Or when viruses spread or travel plans halt or stock markets tumble or lay-offs loom large.)
It is for this reason that Christians take comfort in being able to "cast all our cares on Him" and songs like "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," which comes from Luke 12:6 and Matthew 6: 28. Keep that in mind as you watch the following:
Don't you love the freeze-frames that YouTube selects. So flattering...
The song "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" comes from Luke 12:6 and Matthew 6: 28. That well-known gospel song was written by Civillia D. Martin in 1905, thirteen years BEFORE Teasdale wrote her poem, and provides an encouraging contrast to "There Will Come Soft Rains."