Know the wind

For two days the wind has blown, slowing or perhaps bringing on its heels the approaching summer’s heat. It comes not as a whisper but as a sigh, a soft song rising and falling to some freshening rhythm I can’t catch. “If you would know yourself,” Rod McKuen wrote, “know the sea.” It seems it’s the wind I’d better know, the word – breath, wind – the writers of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures chose for the creating, animating, renewing Spirit of God. If you would know yourself, it tells me, know the wind. Find yourself in its currents, unaccused, unimpeded, “never stuck, angle-less air” as Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym put it. Today it tells me: know the wind.

“The Wind,” by Dafydd ap Gwilym (1320-1350)

Translated from the Welsh by Gwyneth Lewis

Skywind, skillful disorder,
Strong tumult walking over there,
Wondrous man, rowdy-sounding,
World hero, with neither foot nor wing.
Yeast in cloud loaves, you were thrown out
Of sky’s pantry, with not one foot,
How swiftly you run, and so well
This moment above the high hill.

Tell me, north wind of the cwm,
Your route, reliable hymn.
Over the lengths of the world you fly,
Tonight, hill weather, please stay high,
Ah man, go over Upper Aeron
Be lovely and cool, stay in clear tune.
Don’t hang about or let that maniac,
Litigious Little Bow, hold you back,
He’s poisonous. Society
And its goods are closed to me.

Thief of nests, though you winnow leaves
No one accuses you, nor impedes
You, no band of men, nor magistrate’s hand,
Nor blue blade, nor flood, nor rain.
Indeed, no son of man can kill you,
Fire won’t burn nor treason harm you.
You shall not drown, as you’re aware,
You’re never stuck, you’re angle-less air.
No need of swift horse to get about,
Nor bridge over water, nor any boat.
No officer or force will hand you over
To court for fingering treetop feathers.
Sight cannot see you, wide-open den,
But thousands hear you, nest of great rain.

You are God’s grace across the world,
The roar when breaking tops of oaks are hurled,
You hang clouds’ notes in heavens’ score
And dance athletically over moors
Dry-humored, clever creature,
Over clouds’ stepping-stones you travel far,
Archer on fields of snow up high,
Disperser of rubbish piles in loud cries.
Storm that’s stirring up the sea
Randy surfer where land meets sea.
Bold poet, rhyming snowdrifts you are,
Sower, scatterer of leaves you are,
Clown of peaks, you get off scot-free,
Hurler of mad-masted, foaming sea.

I was lost once I felt desire
For Morfudd of the golden hair.
A girl has caused my disgrace,
Run up to her father’s house,
Knock on the door, make him open
To my messenger before the dawn,
Find her if there’s any way,
Give song to the voice of my sigh.
You come from unsullied stars,
Tell my noble, generous her:
For as long as I’m alive
I will be her loyal slave.
My face without her’s a mess
If it’s true she’s not been faithless.

Go up high, see the one who’s white,
Go down below, sky’s favorite.
Go to Morfudd Llwyd the fair,
Come back safe, wealth of the air.

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