From Rev. Barbara’s Desk

By the Rev. Barbara Threet

Poet Langston Hughes wrote:

In time of silver rain
The earth puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads

Of Life, Of Life, Of life!

In time of silver rain
The butterflies lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth new leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,

In time of silver rain
When spring And life Are new.

This may well be the only poem that appears twice in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal: once as a song (#60) and once as a reading (#545). Neither includes every word of the poem, but both are beautiful. I rarely use either in a service though. In the song, the words are set to music by jazz musician George Walker, and the music is atonal and unfamiliar – truly beautiful when sung well, but too much of a challenge for most any congregation on a Sunday morning. If you look for the song on YouTube, you’ll find several recordings of the poem as set to music by Audrey Snyder, which is much more common, and that song is beautiful too. The hymnal commission, though, chose Walker’s music – quite possibly because both Langston Hughes and George Walker were black American men whose work was often overlooked, a jazz poet and a jazz musician. It’s worth seeking out a YouTube of the song using Walker’s tune – it is lovely, and you’ll also quickly realize how challenging it would be as a congregational hymn. But then, our hymnal is a repository for music and words that carry our values, remember our history, or broaden our awareness, as well as a collection of resources for worship.

I rarely choose the poem for a different reason. It seems that the times when I’ve included it as I create an Order of Service on Monday or Tuesday, Sunday morning will dawn bright and sunny, or with a torrential downpour that doesn’t feel at all like ‘silver rain’, or with a cold drizzle that promises more of mud and misery than green grasses and butterflies. And then, it just doesn’t fit.

Still, I love the poem, sung or spoken, especially at this time of year when spring can seem far away. It reminds me that those almost-magically quiet, hopeful days and nights will come – and it reminds me to notice them when they do. ‘Silver rain’ feels ephemeral to me, and often those moments which promise such beauty and joy have that feeling. I know Hughes’ life was not easy, nor Walker’s, but still they wrote those words and that music. They recognized those moments of silver rain, when earth puts forth new life again and butterflies catch rainbow cries, when spring, and life, were new. May each of us be so blessed in coming months.

Shalom and Salaam,
Rev. Barbara

One Response to “From Rev. Barbara’s Desk

Comments are closed.