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Lay for the Day
30th April

The eve of Mayday, when the Celts held the festival of Beltane. At the same time, their Roman conquerors celebrated the spring festival of Floralia (see 28th April). Both together contributed to the Mayday rites that have have hung on in Europe to this day. This feast, intriguingly, was never suppressed by the Church, nor Christianised.
For the Celts, Beltane was one of the doorways in time when this world and the other – the realm of gods, of Faërie, of spirits of the dead – drew close together. The second such time, on the opposite side of the year, was Samhain, at the end of October. So in later Christian eyes, Walpurgisnacht (as Mayday eve is also known) became a season like Halloween when witches and demons and goblins were abroad.
Perhaps this is why, as the song says, ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most’.

Doubly Sad

My heart was doubly sad
Looking into the spring
For loss of what I had
And hope that May could bring
Again what made me glad.

Now sorrow’s harsh, but lack
Of hope is a boundless
Wilderness without track
Or cairn, shade- and soundless,
Where to go on or back

Are neither of them good.
Such deserts were at hand
Though under buds I stood
To see spring fill the land
And the flowering wood.


John Gibbens
from Becoming Light


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar