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Lay for the Day 18th January

1912: Robert Falcon Scott and his party arrive at the South Pole and discover the Norwegian flag already planted there by the expedition of Roald Amundsen a few weeks before. Scott and his companions – E.A. Wilson, H.R. Bowers, L.E.G. Oates and Edgar Evans – freeze to death on the return journey.

* * * * *

Coming death in kindly light
illuminates failure, defines a gift,
though I must be yet and am afraid
how fierce it yet shall be.

Bless them who call it unfriendly,
who say as I have heard
Jamaican voices threefold sing,
We live to live, we do not live to die.

Death circumscribes
the gift I have
and all the gifts I have
no need to envy others.

Lack of singleness
in loves, in purposes,
the fault that I proscribe –
though who was ever wise

enough to say?
As rock by circumstance
reveals its flaws,
strength expresses likeness to its weakness.


John Gibbens
from Bay

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar