Roots of Bob

Tomorrow is a Long Time

I once wrote to r.m.d.:


In the entry for Tomorrow is a Long Time in the Rise Up Singing book is this comment:

Inspired by an ancient anonymous poem:

"O Western Wind, where wilt thou blow?
That the small rain down may rain
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again"

Anybody have more info on this poem? Perhaps there's some info in one of the Dylan books - haven't had a chance to look yet.


Maureen responded:


I find two references:

"O Western Wind" Anonymous - c1530 - according to Bartlett's, 1992

and "The Lover in Winter Plaineth for the Spring" Anonymous 16th century? - according to Oxford Book of English Verse, 1925

According to both, these four lines are the whole of it.


and Timoth J. Lundgren responded:

This is one of the most famous early English lyrics. It is usually dated as "early 16th century" although these things are notoriously difficult to date with much confidence. A more accurate transcription than the rather modernized (and slightly incorrect) version above follows below. This poem is widely anthologized, and it is not too surprising that Dylan ran across it. This now makes the second thread in the past few months that has had a medieval theme (along with the poet from the 13th century).

Usually the poem is titled "Western Wind" after the first half line.

"Westron winde, when will thou blow
The smalle raine downe can raine
Christ, if my love were in my armes
And I in my bed againe"

BTW, the "western wind" is thought to refer to Zephyrus, the spring wind.

According to R. T. Davies, this lyric is thought to have been a popular song and adds that "the tenor parts in the collection containing it were later incorporated into settings: for example, masses were written by three composers on this particular tune."

In case Craig wants to check out the manuscript copy here's the shelfmark: B.M. [British Museum - London] MS Royal Appendix 58, f.5a.

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