In literature the west wind is usually the wind of springtime, Zephyrus or Favonius. In spring, says Virgil, ‘‘warmed by breezes / Of Zephyrus the fields unloose their bosoms’’ (Georgics 2.330–31); the plants do not fear a southern gale or northern rainstorm; and in the springtime of the world there were no wintry blasts from the east (2.334–39). ‘‘Sharp winter thaws for spring and Favonius,’’ writes Horace (1.4.1); ‘‘frosts melt for Zephyrus’’ (4.7.9). Wind and breath were more than metaphorically linked, as the words pneuema, psyche, and spiritus all suggest (see Wind), and the west wind in particular was personified and given lungs. Virgil refers to the sound of Zephyrus breathing (spirare) (Aeneid 4.562). In Chaucer’s famous description of April, ‘‘Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth / Inspired hath in every holt and heeth / The tendre croppes’’ (CT Gen. Pro. 5–7), ‘‘inspired’’ probably meaning ‘‘breathed in/on.’’ Spenser has ‘‘sweete breathing Zephyrus’’ (Prothalamion 2); Milton considers ways to pass the winter ‘‘till Favonius re-inspire / The frozen earth’’ (Sonnet 20), and describes Zephyr as ‘‘The frolic Wind that breathes the Spring’’(‘‘L’Allegro’’ 18). This breath seems to echo the ‘‘breath of life’’ that God breathed into the nostrils of Adam (Gen. 2.7).The Greek word zephyros is related to zophos, ‘‘gloom’’ or ‘‘darkness,’’ hence the ‘‘dark region’’ or west. Latin favonius may be kin to faveo, ‘‘favor’’ or ‘‘be favorable to.’’ ‘‘Zephyr’’ in English is often in the plural: Pope has ‘‘the tepid Zephyrs of the spring’’ (Dunciad 4.422), in Shelley ‘‘vernal zephyrs breathe in evening’s ear’’ (Queen Mab 4.2).

The evocative Middle English lyric ‘‘Westron wind, when will thou blow?’’may be pleading for spring to come, when his love will be in his arms, but the speaker might be out at sea with no favorable wind toward land. The west wind also blows in the fall. ‘‘And nowe the Westerne wind bloweth sore,’’ Hobbinol tells us in ‘‘September’’ of Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender (49), while elsewhere Spenser calls the wind ‘‘wroth’’ (FQ 2.11.19). Shelley’s ‘‘Ode to the West Wind’’ addresses the ‘‘breath of Autumn’s being,’’ a wild and powerful spirit, as opposed to ‘‘Thine azure sister of the Spring’’ (1, 9); he asks it to lift him from his fallen state and give his words the power usually attributed to the spring wind, ‘‘to quicken a new birth’’ in‘‘unawakened earth’’ (64, 68).

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