This is the latest installment from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:
“We had another night so utterly still it seemed to me if I tuned my hearing a hair’s breadth higher, I could not only hear the secret, delicate burrowing of a mole among the roots of the trees but the infinitesimal sound of growing made by the roots themselves. Which is, of course, absured.
Nevertheless, I lay in the dark, quiet as the night itself, listening, listening – for what I wasn’t sure. It was not fear that kept me awake this time; it was something more elusive.
Then as I lay there in the silent dark there floated into my mind that anonymous little 16th century poem, one of the most poignant, passionate poems in all English literature:
O westron wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arm
And I in my bed again!
I’ve never been able to make up my mind whether it was written by a man or a woman. It is a cry that might have been wrenched from the throat of Abelard or torn from the anguished heart of Heloise. In fact, I used to let myself imagine the poem was originally written by one of them in Latin and was somehow found and translated into English centuries later.
I hadn’t thought of the poem for a long time and when the words went through my mind, a wave of sadness swept over me and a moment later I realized I was no longer listening for something beyond audible sound but longing for something beyond defining. I could not have said whether it was for a person, a place, or an experience I’d once had and lost forever or one I might have had but failed to find. It was rather like an unassuageable home-sickness for a country I’d never seen, which is a contradiction, of course.
Was it basically, I wondered, sexual desire manifesting itself directly? It seemed to me that if ‘my love were in my arms,’ the longing might have been eased temporarily, but I had the feeling something deeper or other, was involved – something possible like what the psalmist felt when his soul was ‘thirsting’ for God.
Is there in the core of every human being this longing, this essential loneliness, for something we cannot or will not or dare not specify, which is why we so often avoid silence and prefer noise to drown out our thoughts?
I hope the wind blows tonight so I can sleep.”