By Hilary Turner
One of my favourite poems is the early, anonymous four-line poem “Western Wind.”
Here is a fellow who works on the land, probably herding sheep or planting crops, torn between two demands that life has placed on him. On the one hand, he has to make a living; on the other, he is in love, and wants to be with his love and (presumably) raise a family with her.
Well, this poem speaks to me because we are all torn. We need our loves, our families, our children and grandchildren. These people make us who we are. But on the other hand, we are tied into the rhythms of nature (latterly, the rhythms of commerce) and it is hard to deny or renounce our servitude. We want to be free–to love and be loved–but we reluctantly acknowledge our bondage to systems outside ourselves.
Because this poem is so old, I continually imagine the speaker trapped even to this day on some dreary hillside in the north of England waiting for that teasing western wind that will send him home.
Western wind, when wilt thou blow?
The small rain down can rain.
Christ that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.