Why the Wind Blows Round St. Paul's

by Joyce Jocund

Whoever has walked round St. Paul's church-yard must have had good evidence of the wind being always boisterous there, on the most balmy day of spring, in summer's more sultry hour, in autumn's bracing time, or in winter's chilling air; all tides and every season bear strong testimony that the wind is ever blowing there, not in those gentle gales that love to play and wanton round other edifices, but in such rude, boisterous burstings, that the traveller is fain to look to his footing, and put up with a blow which is neither to be parried nor returned. I cannot fix the precise date, but it was during the last century, that a bit of a breeze was kicked up in the higher circles among the Winds; and, from the strife that ensued, more serious consequences seemed to threaten than were at first apprehended. Whether the East was intent on going westward, or the North determined on veering to the south, is of trifling import. From words the disputants nearly came to blows, and the weathercocks were sadly put to their shifts during all the changes that occurred: those who consulted them found how little attention was paid to the cardinal points, which from time immemorial had been considered their cardinal virtues; in short, it was impossible to tell which way the wind lay. Nothing was to be heard among them but wranglings, wailings, and contentions.

"As for you," roared old Boreas, addressing a mild-looking individual personifying the South wind, "a poor, soft, effeminate creature, only fit to breathe o'er a bed of violets, what, in the name of all that's trifling, can you possibly presume to know?"

"I may not be so bluff as you, nor so excellent a bully," replied the other; "yet I flatter myself that I am equally esteemed by mankind."

"Doubtless! by old maids, invalids, and anglers."

"And I prefer their welcome to the maledictions so lavishly heaped upon you, by the aged, the gouty, and the suffering," was the rejoinder.

"Fie! fie!" lisped the West wind, an exquisite of the most exclusive order. "If you persist, I shall positively arraign you at the bar of good breeding and fashion."

"Which I believe is not situated on my side Temple-bar," exclaimed the East, in a tone that reminded one of the equinox.

"Your intimacy with the bar is confined to the Old Bailey," chirruped his opponent, who commenced,

"Cease rude Boreas, blustering railer:
List ye."

At this personal attack the North looked particularly black, and the East BLEW with increased violence.

"How the puppy squalls!" said the latter, in reference to the singing.

"Rather more melodious than your howling," replied the tormentor; for the West wind is occasionally pretty sharp when its powers are exerted.

With this slight specimen you may suppose that the Winds began to get very high; ill-natured replies followed angry remarks; while the East wind distributed his usual cutting retorts with unsparing profusion. In short, the only subject on which they appeared agreed was to perform "The Storm," ad libitum, with hail and rain accompaniments. There is an old adage, "as busy as the Devil in a high wind:" how busy that may be, let others determine; but truly his Satanic Majesty was never more occupied than on this memorable occasion, for he seemed to have possessed the contending parties with an implacable spirit of opposition, and contrived to divide his influence so impartially that each played the very devil with the other. When the uproar had sufficiently subsided to permit observation, it was clearly apparent that the North, as was his wont, rather sided with the East, and the South as plainly inclined to the West; so, after amusing himself with their differences, the crafty instigator of the feud proposed that the affair should be permitted to blow over, and, by way of cooling themselves, that the four Winds should accompany him on a stroll through London streets, towards the City; where he promised them plenty of adventures, with many sights worthy their attention. After a few more gusts of passion exhibited by the North and East, venting their spite upon their more peaceful opponents, the party set forth on their ramble, with something like outward decency of demeanour, although opposition and dissatisfaction were rankling in their hearts. Their cicerone pointed to a plot of ground in Hyde Park.

"Here," said he, "will be erected an imperishable monument to that greatest of modern heroes, the victor of a hundred fights. In every land shall his matchless deeds be known, and his fame proclaimed by——"

"The four Winds!" exclaimed they all.

"Yonder will be his town-residence," resumed their guide, "the scarcely less than princely mansion of the nation's idol; yet, so evanescent is popularity, and so great is the distinction between civil matters and military, that coming years will display his windows barricaded against the assaults of that people whose opinions are as changeable as the——"

"What?" said his hearers in a breath, ready to take offence should he indulge in any personal allusion.

"As changeable as—as the weather."

"Oh!" exclaimed the East, with a significant whistle, that sounded very like the blast of a war-trumpet.

They walked some distance without further remark, until reaching Pall-Mall.

"This," said the Devil, directing their attention to a range of buildings on the right, "this will ere long disappear. Of yon regal habitation, the scene of revelry and delight, not a vestige will remain; vast local improvements will be completed, magnificent residences erected; and here a lofty column shall be raised, on whose 'tall pillar, pointing to the skies,' will be placed the statue of a princely commander——"

"Who will doubtless be highly indebted to the people," observed the North, in his most unpleasant manner.

"And what may be that heavy-looking temple opposite?" inquired the East, pointing to the Opera-house.

"That is celebrated as the resort of beauty, rank, wealth, and fashion."

Here the West wind nodded his assent, as if perfectly cognisant of affairs so particularly appertaining to his quarter of the metropolis.

"Where the aristocracy of this kingdom assemble to lavish their wealth and favours on foreign artistes, as they are called, while native industry and talent are neglected and unrequited. But my sentimentality outruns my prudence; I patronise the Opera, notwithstanding," said the Devil.

"And I," said the West.

Continuing their perambulation, they reached the present site of Waterloo-bridge.

"A splendid structure," observed their conductor, "will here span that mighty stream, on whose waves float a thousand argosies freighted with riches from every distant land. Speculation will soon furnish means sufficient for the enterprise, and——"

"The profits?" inquired old Boreas, too far north to lose sight of the main chance.

"Will be shared among the subscribers."

"By what rule?"

"Short division," was the answer.

"This building on the right is Somerset House, where the Royal Academy holds its annual exhibition of British artists, at which persons pay a shilling to view their own portraits that have cost most exorbitant sums, if painted by popular professors of the art."

"A noble institution," said the South, in simplicity of soul, "and most encouraging to rising talent."

"Very," was the devilish dry reply.

"And where young exhibitors have fine opportunities afforded them to profit by the experience, skill, and fostering care of their superiors."

"Exactly," said the Devil, with a malicious smile. "In the arrangement and distribution of the pictures the committee show an intimate knowledge of 'light and shade,' which is particularly instructive to others. They appropriate all the 'light' to their own pictures, and the 'shade' to their neighbours'. Yonder dirty-looking gate is Temple-bar, where in the olden time traitors' heads stood in goodly row, as plentiful as the portraits in the Exhibition, only that the 'bodies' never came to own them. But"—and here the Devil sighed like a furnace—"innovation and improvement have destroyed all venerable customs."

So, venting his regrets, they journeyed down Fleet-street, when the attention of the gentle South was attracted to the large gloomy edifice which is so prominent in that locality.

"Ah!" said their guide, "that is the Fleet."

"Where?" said the East, springing up at the idea of stiff breezes and swelling sails; "I see no ships."

"Yet there is no lack of craft, I promise you," replied the Devil. "One of the considerate laws of this realm declares that a debtor shall pay in person what he is deficient in pocket: a sapient method to man his Majesty's fleet, and as pretty a piece of legislation as I would propose."

Turning from the prison and its solid-looking brickwork, the first glimpse of St. Paul's met their astonished gaze. The strangers were enraptured at that mighty monument of man's power and perseverance. After surveying the exterior, the Winds expressed an eagerness to view the inside of the cathedral; but their importunities were negatived by their companion, who intimated in strong terms his repugnance to such a proposition. "Besides," he observed, "which of you will pay the twopences demanded for admission? By-the-bye, do me the favour to wait here a few moments. Some most intimate and particular friends are now assembled at the Chapter Coffee-house."

"Do not let us detain you unwillingly," growled the North.

"We are much indebted for your care and guidance," murmured the South.

"I feel more at home in my own quarter of the town," said the East; "let me prove no hindrance."

"But promise me to remain,—rely upon my speedy return," said the Devil.

"Agreed!" roared the North, who seemed to think the spot a good place to make himself heard.

"Then I depend upon your awaiting my coming. For the present, farewell!"

"Au revoir!" lisped the West, as the arch deceiver disappeared down one of the narrow avenues which abound in that locality.

Well, the poor Winds went whistling up and down, looking at the shops, watching the crowd, and amusing themselves as best they could under such disagreeable circumstances. They made several rounds of the church, the hands of the clock made several rounds of the dial, yet the absent one appeared not; and their patience was nearly exhausted, when the South modestly offered to sing them a song, if indeed such feeble powers could lighten the time and lessen their suspense, and then breathed the following words to a soft plaintive air:


I love to roam where the spice-groves send
Their mingled sweets o'er the fragrant air,
Where orange-blossoms their bright buds lend
To weave a wreath for the blushing fair;
And I waft each shining tress aside
That shades the brow of the blooming bride.
I love to roam at the sunset hour,
To breathe farewell to the parting day,
And kiss the dew from each star-lit flower,
That ever weeps as light fades away.
Oh! I woo them all with my softest sighs,
And gently whisper,—that Love never dies!

"Enough! enough!" grumbled the East; "I cannot waste my time in such frivolities. Where is the fellow who brought us here?"

"Ay!" said the North, "does he fancy we have nothing better to occupy us than attending his pleasure, dancing attendance?"

And thereat the watchers became mighty impatient. At length the North declared that he had business of great importance that night upon the coast.

"What fools we were to pledge ourselves! My engagements are imperative,—go I must!" roared he with vehemence.

"And I," added the East, with similar violence.

"I have made an appointment in Bond-street," muttered the West, mentioning the fashionable lounge of that period; "moreover, the Countess of B—— expects me at her party. I am irrevocably bound to the countess, and would not disappoint the sweet creature for worlds."

"I cannot remain alone in this gloomy place," sighed the South.

"Listen!" said the North, puffing himself up to an unusual pomposity, even for him; "I have a plan to remedy the dilemma. I go,—that is settled. You three can easily find an excuse for my absence."

"And mine," cried the East. "Two are very good company,—three damp conversation."

"As I have nothing particular to communicate, I shall follow your example," said the West, looking significantly at the East.

"I was assured the puppy would oppose me," grunted the latter; "'tis his constant practice."

Thus affairs appeared in tolerable train for a repetition of the former bickering, when it was at last decided, but not without much turbulent and acrimonious feeling, that each should wait in turn, and give timely notice to the others of the truant's arrival; and with this understanding they separated, leaving one on guard. It is hardly necessary to state that the Devil never reappeared. He always leaves his votaries in the lurch; and on this occasion his boon companions at the Chapter gave him such good cheer, that he forgot the poor winds, who have ever since been alternately looking, but in vain, for his arrival. To their honour be it told, that they each and every one performed his promise of remaining for a stated period, neither excepting the boisterous North, the cutting East, the fashionable West, nor the gentle South. Their various watchings may be easily distinguished by their respective degrees of violence in the neighbourhood, and to this very hour is one of them to be heard either roaring, blowing, moaning, or sighing for their emancipation. And this accounts for the fact of their constant presence, and shows why "the wind blows round St. Paul's."

The tradition inculcates a moral. Had the four Winds pursued the "path of duty," this trial had been spared them; but they listened to the tempter. Let all profit by their example: Men, as well as Winds, should "keep within compass."