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The Wind -- Vikram Seth

Guest poem sent in by Tanmoy Saha
(Poem #1318) The Wind
 The bay is thick with flecks of white.
 The freezing air is honed and thined.
 The gulls sleep on the stones tonight,
 Wings locked against the prising wind.
 With no companion to my mood,
 Against the wind as it should be,
 I walk, but in my solitude
 Bow to the wind that buffets me.
-- Vikram Seth
 From: All You who Sleep Tonight

I was slightly surprised to find that this poem was not on the minstrels
collection. This is one of the best poems of Seth that I have come across...he
is at his best when he pens these small ones (Remember 'Sit'? - Poem #966)....

This poem needs absolutely no explanation at all....but do you ever wonder why
is he against the wind "as it should be" ?!

Some more of poems can be found at
[broken link] http://www.nth-dimension.co.uk/vl/author.asp?id=235

Tanmoy

P.S. Anybody know what Seth is working on next?

49 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Lucy Garrett said...

when i first read this poem this morning i thought "against the wind as it
should be" referred to the fact that he did not have a companion to walk
with him against the wind, as he should have. however, i think the comma at
the end of the first line is in the wrong place for that. next i thought
that perhaps he is saying that it is right that he should be walking against
the wind (fighting against fate rather than merely submitting to it) but
again the comma at the end of the second line seems to separate out the
ideas of "walking" and "as it should be." i suppose the other interpretation
is that the wind is as it should be which might be an extremely compressed
way of referring to the rightness and simplicity of nature as opposed to the
troubled confusion of man (the "i" of the poem seems to be battling at
something). or all three, of course. the nice thing about english lit is
that you don't have to choose.

Virani Salima said...

Hey,

I read this poem and something about it didn't seem right. Somehow it
felt incomplete. I went through my copy of 'All you who sleep tonight'
and found (rather smugly) that there is indeed more to this poem.

The complete version should read as follows:

The Wind

The bay is thick with flecks of white.
The freezing air is honed and thined.
The gulls sleep on the stones tonight,
Winds locked against the prising wind.
With no companion to my mood,
Against the wind as it should be,
I walk, but in my solitude
Bow to the wind that buffets me.

- Vikram Seth

Cheers,
Salima

[ed: poem at the time was just this fragment:
| With no companion to my mood,
| Against the wind as it should be,
| I walk, but in my solitude
| Bow to the wind that buffets me.
Thanks, Salima!]

Nakul Krishna said...

I too looked up my volume of All You Who Sleep Tonight
to check for a missing comma, but I find I've been
beaten to the task of posting the full version, but
the version posted above contains a couple of minor
typos. And the comma's still missing. Allow me:

The bay is thick with flecks of white.
The freezing air is honed and thinned.
The gulls sleep on the stones tonight,
Wings locked against the prising wind.
With no companion to my mood,
Against the wind, as it should be,
I walk, but in my solitude
Bow to the wind that buffets me.

I'd say it reads a lot better this way. Compare the
stillness of the images of first four lines -- flecks
of white, thin, freezing air, sleeping gulls -- with
the image that follows, that of the poet walking alone
against the wind. Consider the contrasts: thick/thin,
sleep/walk, lock/prise. The image is evocative enough
for me to resist any attempt to seek further meaning.

'Against the wind, as it should be,' -- note the comma
before the phrase 'as it should be'. I think the
meaning is clear enough: that the poet should have to
walk against the freezing wind is the only way things
should be. Read into the symbolism of the wind as you
please.

>>Anybody know what Seth is working on next?
From the Penguin website:

...Vikram Seth’s sensational new book, Two Lives ...
is a remarkable memoir about Seth’s great-uncle Shanti
and his German wife Henny. ... Henny and Shanti were
both born in 1908; Henny died in 1989, and Shanti in
1998. Many of the great currents and movements of the
century are reflected through the events of their
lives and those of their friends and family. On the
one hand, there are the days of the Raj, the Indian
freedom movement and post-independence India. On the
other hand there is the rise of the Third Reich, the
Second World War; the situation in post-War Germany,
including the division of Berlin and the blockade and
airlift; the emigration of Jews from Germany in the
1930s, ... the Holocaust; the formation of Israel and
Palestine, and British politics, economics and society
from the late 1930s until the present day.
...
Scheduled to be completed in mid-2004, Two Lives will
be ... published ... in early 2005. The advance for
the book is ... over a million rupees.

Nakul.

Ian Baillieu said...

I was about to post that it should be 'Wings' at the start
of the fourth line, then noticed that this typo had already
been picked up by Nakul, whose comments about images and
punctuation I agree with.

To enjoy this short, nicely polished poem it doesn't seem
necessary to strive for any deep interpretation of it. A
snapshot observation of a scene of turbulence, and of the
contrasting responses. The 'freezing ... prising' ...
buffeting wind may symbolise any external force that arises
to stress us. The flocked wild gulls are content to hunker
down, albeit on cold stones, and wait for it to pass. The
poet, without any companion, feels an obligation to take
steps against the wind, but to do so must lean forward with
lowered head, thus bowing to it. Save for this hint that
trying to beat stress by fighting it on your own is bound to
be frustrated, the poem avoids passing any judgment on the
different approaches described.

Anonymous said...

"as it should be" could also be read to mean "by chance", just to add to the possible interpretations.

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