Allen Ginsberg continues his discussion of early English lyrics
AG: “Westron Wynde” – Does anybody know that? – “Westron wynde, when wilt thou blow?” – Huh? – Before we get there – wait a minute- yeah, “Westron Wynde” (page sixty-nine). How many people… how many have heard of that before? – Raise your hand if you have [a scattering in the class raise their hands] – You mean there are (only) five people in this class that have ever heard of that? . Okay. This is maybe the greatest poem in the English language. Really! – Like, the archetype poem of the entire English.. history of English poesie!
“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 will thou blow,/The smalle raine downe can raine./Crist, if my love were in my armas/And I in my bedde agine!”
Student: (Do you know if it’s a soldier on the battlefield because it seems to me like a sailor?)
AG; Maybe, maybe.
Student: (Because he needs the wind..)
AG: Maybe, yes.. Well, let’s see.. Oh, listen, here’s how it is in the original – “Westron wynde – (W-E-S-T-R-O-N) – Westron wynde, when will thou blow” (same) – “The smalle raine downe can raine” – (and there’s an “e” after”small”, “rain” and down” ) – “the smalle – (S-M-A-L-L-E, R-A-I-N-E. D-O-W-N-E), “Crist..” (C-R-I-S-T) – C-R-I-S-T not C-H-R-I-S-T, that’s what I’ve got – (because I used that spelling of Christ in a poem called “Laughing Gas“, or, “Aether“, and everybody accused me of being unscholarly, because I misspelt the word “Christ”, but I said “C-R-I-S-T” too).
“Crist, if my love were (W-E-R) in my armes” (A-R-M-E-S)/ And I in my bedde (A-G-I-N-E)”- Westron wynde, when will thou blow//The smalle raine downe can raine./Crist, if my love were in my armes – Crist, if my love were in my armes – /And I in my bedde agine” –
Well, I guess he might be a sailor, might be a sailor, but he’s somewhere far from home. It’s like the “All Along the Water Towers” [sic]
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-five-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-and-a-quarter minutes in]