Tis a Bad Wind - 14th June 1947

'Tis a Bad Wind: Text Version

14th June 1947


To-night the west wind is blowing strongly, and, in truth, I am not very pleased at this state of affairs, for, in the morning -– if the gale lasts so long -– I shall have to urge a bicycle against it to catch an early 'bus, that will be earlier than ever to-morrow on account of a new time-table. However, I cannot go on running down the west wind like this: no one has done it before. Indeed, it seems to have been the favourite of the poets. They often spoke of the gently zephyr, and sang of every wind that blew from western places. Favonius was a pet. Shelley was an infatuated admirer, who wrote a great ode, commencing:

"O wild West Wend, thou breath of Autumn's being,

Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing."


You may remember the story of Ulysses and the West Wind. When the Greek hero, after many years of wandering on his journey home from broad-wayed Troy, was leaving the Aolian shore, Aeolus, the keeper of the twelve winds, gave him a bag made of ox skin, containing eleven of the winds. He set the West Wind free to waft Ulysses home to his dear paternal land. The ship sped swiftly over the waves before the favourable gale; and, at last, on the 10th day, the coast of Ithaca appeared, and the sailors could see people kindling fires on their native shore. Ulysses was greatly fatigued after his many toils, and sweet sleep came to him. But as he slept, his companions, thinking that some great treasure was stored away in the bag Aeolus had given him, opened it. Immediately they did so, out rushed the captive winds with a mighty clamour. A storm arose, and the speeding ship was blown off its course, and, again the shores of Ithaca faded before the eyes of hapless Ulysses. One feels inclined to remark that, but for the sailors, everything was in the bag.


The West Wind has been a theme with our Irish poets. Many of us remember reading Ella Young's well-known lines:-

"Blow high, blow low,

O wind from the west:

You come from the country

I love the best.

O say have the lilies

Yet lifted their heads

Above the lake-water

That ripples and spreads?"

I trust you all have read "With the Wild Geese," by Emily Lawless. If you have done so you will remember the poem entitled "Fontenoy," which tells how the West Wind reminded the men of Corca Baiscinn, of their home in far-off Clare, when it whistled round their camp fires in the lonely watches of the night that preceded the dawn of battle:

"The wind is wild to-night, there's battle in the air;

The wind is from the west, and it seems to blow from Clare."

Hark! Yonder through the darkness one distant rat-tat-tat!

The old foe stirs out there, God bless his soul for that!

The old foe musters strongly, he's coming on at last,

And Clare's Brigade may claim its own wherever blows fall fast.

Send us, ye western breezes, our full, our rightful share,

For Faith, and Fame, and Honour, and the ruined hearths of Clare."


In Irish the same regard for the West Wind is noticeable. Gaelic poets said:

"An ghaoth niar bionn si fial

Is cuirean si iasc i liontaibh"

- the West Wind is generous, and it fills the nets with fish. In a lovely poem, called "An t-Oglach," we find the West Wind praised, and the East Wind severely censured.

"An ghaoth aniar bionn aobh is fial,

An ghaoth anoir mo ghrain i,

An chead oll-phiast d'fhag Eire ag iacht

'Si sheid i Leith thar sail i."

"Don tarna brucht do chaith si chughainn

An cuirptheach imirceach Sean Buidhe;

Do chreach se uird, do bhreach se clu,

'S is fios don cruinne an tasg san."

In these lines the poet praises the West Wind, which, he says, is generous and cheerful; for the East Wind he reserves his hate, since, he tells us, it blew to our shores the first monster that left Eire weeping -– (the Danes who came "from the sunrise and the sea"). At is second belch it threw on our shores the Saxon invader to oppress our altars and malign our name.

So much for the West Wind, which came to my aid at a time when I was hard pressed for a subject for this column. Many people may have abused it, may be still abusing it, but I find myself saying as I write finis to this week's notes:-

"Is olc an ghaoth na seideann maith do dhuine eigin" – "'Tis a bad wind that blows nobody good."

previousPrevious - Making The Rick - 20th Aug. 1949
Next - Gold On Our Hillsides - 11th May 1946next