A poem for a rainy day (and the kid in all of us)

train.png

I’m told it’s going to rain and be cold all weekend. Forecasts like that usually bring A.A. Milne’s poem “The Engineer” to mind.

I first came across this poem years ago while reading “Now We Are Six” to my kids and I remember being immediately struck by it. Most of the poems in the book are cute, but often dated, and need explanation. Sometimes it takes a few stanzas to get the meter right. But this poem was different. It was so cute, I read it again, immediately. Then again because what Milne was doing finally dawned on me. Then I read it again to give my kids the full effect. Then they asked me to stop reading it.

So, what’s so intriguing?

Its deceptive in its simplicity and it gave me a deeper appreciation of Milne’s craft.

First the dual meanings of “engineer” at play in the title.

Second, the meter, which, when read correctly, forces you into sounding like a train, taking off slowly, then gathering speed, then coming to an abrupt stop. It’s brilliant, really.

Then, there’s the spirit behind it. “Let it rain! Who cares?” that’s what we should all be like. But deeper than that is the excitement of the child who sees in a rainy day the opportunity to play with something old, yet new at the same time. And how many times I’ve listened to my kids explain their inventions or their skateboard or bike tricks that don’t even come close to working. And yet there is the great joy of genius in their explanations and their “hold on, that didn’t work, let me try it again.”

So I say celebrate the rain, make dunderheaded inventions, and get in touch with your inner child. You may not have much to show for it, but, as the poet says: Who cares?

The Engineer

Let it rain!
Who cares?
I’ve a train
Upstairs,
With a brake
Which I make
From a string
Sort of thing,
Which works
In jerks,
‘Cos it drops
In the spring,
Which stops
With the string,
And the wheels
All stick
So quick
that it feels
Like a thing
That you make
With a brake,
Not a string….

So that’s what I make,
When the day’s all wet.
It’s a good sort of brake
But it hasn’t worked yet.

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