Growing up, my Mother used to read me a short story about an automated house that continued to operate after the occupants (and I believe everyone) had died. I think it was a Ray Bradbury short story, but can't seem to find it in any of the summaries I can find. Either I haven't looked hard enough, or it's not written by Ray Bradbury. Does this ring a bell with anyone, and if so, could you point me in the right direction? Thanks!
It sounds like "There Will Come Soft Rains". The house continues to function automatically, even though there are no living human occupants. The last biological occupant (other than the mice) is a dog who dies and is "cleaned up" by the house when the house senses its decay.
The writing style is great. It one of his stories that reads like poetry.
My favorite line is:
"The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly."
The humans, as creators of houses that serve/worship them, are like the gods who created people to serve them. When the God is gone, the religious ritual is senseless and useless -- just like the houses' ministrations accomplish nothing in the absence of the humans who they were designed to serve.
I have always felt there was a religious undertone to much of Bradbury's writing (so has everyone else, I suppose!), but have never been able to pinpoint what "religion" his perspective represents. In his recent book, "A Chapbook for Burnt-Out Priests, Rabbis and Ministers," he has several poems that deal with the topic of religion. The poem, "The Supper after the Last Supper" seems to propound a Christian sensitivity; but the poem, "Eccentrics Must Truly Have Loved God. They Made So Many Of Him" seems to recognize the religious legitimacy of all major world religions:
ECCENTRICS MUST TRULY HAVE LOVED GOD. THEY MADE SO MANY OF HIM
"The Muslims started counting
The Buddhist counted, too.
The Baptists summed a total,
With just one God in view.
But each did name a naming
For some Jehovah 'twas,
For some Yahweh or Allah,
All from one primal Cause.
No matter how the Calling
One tapestry was spread.
And from its fabric woven
Pure light from common thread.
Such thunder-shuttled weavings
Shunt life from what was dead,
And from the spindle-whispers
Each cult and sect call names.
Mohamet, Christ, or Buddha,
Ra/Mithra born from flames
Nine billion burning labels
For what, miraculous,
In pomegranate burstings,
Erupted, birthed Plain Us.
And in our plainblood beating,
Each beat a shout, a call,
We hear His name repeated,
One God who is The All."
Anyway, I Think this is the story you're remembering. It is haunting in language. It is easy to see why it has stuck with you.
P.S. I think it is okay to quote Bradbury on the Bradbury page. If this is a copyright violation, please let me know and I will go back in and edit out the poem.
P.P.S. What a smart Mom!
[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 07-08-2002).]
Thank you so much Mr. Dark, this is exactly what I was thinking of. It came back to me at a recent trip to a children's science museum while looking at their robotic house exhibit with my son. He may be a little young still, but I think I'll probably still read it to him. It does read like poetry, and I had originally thought that it was a poem, until my Mother said it was a short story, but unfortunately couldn't remember the name.
Yes, she is a very smart Mom. Thanks again for your help, and for the inclusion of the poem (which I quite enjoyed), I'll check out the book.
I'm a little late with this, but the afore mentioned story, 'There Will Come Soft Rains,' is (sort of), as mhall thought, a poem. The poem was written in the early twenties? by Sarah Teasdale. And the house in Bradbury's story reads the poem. In addition, 'There Will Come Soft Rains' is a chapter in Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, which, I believe, has a slightly different end than the short story.
THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS- Sarah Teasdale
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
I would love to hear the story 'recited' to the accompaniment of some sad piano music, similar to the music in Bette Midler's THE ROSE.
Never got a hold of a copy of "...Burnt-out Priests...". But with that single poem you supplied upstairs, Ray's Unitarian experience clearly shows thru... How sad.
I sure would like to learn more about his upbringing, which supposedly introduced him to some Christianity. Who was it that brought him to Church? What sort of Church was it...and what were the circumstances?? What did he make of it all way back then to cause him anchor drift and wind up with such magnetic rift?
I don't get it. Why are Bradbury's Unitarian leanings sad? One of the beauties of his work is that he often acknowledges an absolute spirituality without defining it for his readers. When people start to define God is exactly the moment when they start to lose their connection to that same spirituality.
As I understand, Ray attended a Baptist Sunday School and church every Sunday up to the age of 13. When I visited Waukegan in 1984, the congregation was still active, in a different, new building. I believe you said the old "German Baptist Church" was standing until recently, but I don't know if that's the one Ray attended or was simply the one closest to his home? I assume his parents or grandparents took him. I have no idea whether Ray was ever baptized or saved, or simply went because the family did.
As for Sara Teasdale's poem, The Three Ds did a most truly excellent musical version of it on their record "Folk Songs for a New Era." A friend of mine taped the song for Ray Bradbury and he just loved it. Unfortunately I don't believe any of the Three Ds' work is available on CD--just have to dust off those old vinyl LPs!
Yikes! I'm re-reading Dandelion Wine at the moment, and have just read the section where the German church near the ravine is referred to. I didn't realise there was a REAL German church in Waukegan. Is it really next to the ravine?
Phil, your post made me think of this image: Any irony here?
"Now they had walked another block and were standing by the holy black silhouette of the German Baptist Church...
He should have felt encouraged by the nearness of the German Baptist Church but he was not because the building was not illumined, was cold and useless as the pile of ruins on the ravine edge."
[This message has been edited by fjpalumbo (edited 09-16-2004).]
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