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Personal Choice 4

O Western Wind

O Western wind, when wilt thou blow

That the small rain down can rain?

Christ, that my love were in my arms,

And I in my bed again!


Westron wynde when wyll thow blow

the smalle rayne downe can Rayne

Cryst yf my love were in my Armys

And I yn my bed Agayne.

The original medieval text

O Western Wind (1500) - An early (some scholars claim the first poem in English in the Western canon) song of unknown authorship dating from the late fifteenth century; significant in its demonstration of passion and intense emotion, qualities not present in lyrics of earlier periods. Some scholars further assert that this is merely a fragment of a much longer poem that has been lost.

The urgency of this surviving scrap of a medieval poem can hardly be exaggerated. The cluster of w-w-w’s, all immediate and beseeching. Then the humming n’s of line two and the employment of ‘rain’ as both noun and verb, the thing and the act, express a deep yearning for the seasons to change. Not to mention how fiercely most of the words argue for emphasis. What a cry from the human heart this poem represents! It could have been written yesterday! And possibly for me and you!


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