A Miltonic ode in five irregular stanzas. In a happy allegory on an unhappy subject, William Lisle Bowles consults the four winds, enquiring when the war with France will end, and peace with blooming spring arrive. While Spenser does not collect the four winds into a single passage, the alternating rhymes and alexandrines suggest that Bowles probably had Spenser in mind. The imagery is traditional however. "The Winds" may have been taken by the Gentleman's Magazine from Bowles' 1809 Poems.
William Jerdan: "To use a modern phrase, he was not a 'sensation' poet, outraging possibilities, and shocking common sense and reason. Yet had his poetry very considerable effect upon the period to which he belonged, before, and even after, Scott and Byron stormed the public and caused some, who will nevertheless go down to posterity, to be partially forgotten or neglected. True, Campbell had sung brave ballads; Moore chanted Irish melodies; Wordsworth floated some sweet flowers among his weeds on the lakes; Southey launched several terrible epics; and other authors were springing into life — and all borrowed a leaf out of Bowles's store. Coleridge, as far as I know, was the only one to acknowledge the obligation in verse, though the testimonials in prose were innumerable — 'My heart has thanked thee Bowles! for those soft strains, | Whose sadness soothes me, like the murmuring | Of wild bees in the sunny hours of Spring'" Men I have Known (1866) 23-24.
When pale October bade the flow'rs adieu,
And Autumn sung amid the seaman's shrouds,
Methought I saw four winged forms that flew
With garments streaming light amid the clouds;
From adverse regions of the sky
In dim succession they went by:
The first, as o'er the billowy deep he past,
Blew from his shadowy trump a war-denouncing blast.
Upon a beaked promontory high,
With streaming beard, and cloudy brow severe,
I mark'd the Father of the frowning year:
Dark vapours roll'd o'er the tempestuous sky.
When creeping Winter from his cave came forth—
"Stern Herald of the storm, what from the North!"
'Shouts and the noise of Battle!' and again
He blew from his dark trump a deadlier blast,
'Shouts, and the noise of Battle:' the long main
Seem'd with hoarse voice to answer as he past.
The moody South went by, and silence kept;
The cloudy rack oft hid his mournful mien,
And frequent fell the show'r, as if he wept
The eternal havock of this mortal scene;
As if he wish'd for ever thus to throw
His misty mantle o'er a world of woe.
But rousing him from his desponding trance
Cold Eurus blew his short and shrilling horn,
In his right hand he bore an icy lance,
That far off glitter'd in the frost of morn.
The Old Man knew the clarion from afar—
"What from the East!" he cry'd: 'Shouts and the noise of War!'
Who comes in soft and spicy vest
From the mild region of the West,
An azure veil bends waving o'er his head,
And show'rs of violets at his feet are spread?
'Tis Zephyr, with a look as young and fair
As when his lucid wings convey'd
That beautiful and gentle maid
Psyche, transported thro' the air
The blissful couch of Love's own god to share;
He brings again the morn of May;
The Lark amid the clear blue sky
Carols, but is not seen so high;
And all the howling winds fly far away.
I cried, "O Father of the world, whose might
The storm, the darkness, and the winds obey;
Oh when will thus the long tempestuous night
Of warfare and of woe be roll'd away?
O when will cease the uproar and the din,
And Peace breathe soft, 'Summer is coming in'?"