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Lay for the Day 13th August

The feast of St Hippolytus, an early Roman theologian and martyr. His name means, in Greek, “loose horse”, and he is supposed to have been executed by being torn asunder by wild horses. Through these associations he became the patron saint of horses.
The village of Ippollits in Hertfordshire takes its name from a church dedicated to Hippolytus. Sick horses could be led into the church through the north door and brought to the shrine of the saint to be cured.
From the book of Praises:

34. Of Horses

The great bright-harnessed greys
that drew the Whitbread drays
some mornings past the flats,
driven by men in bowler hats.
Their long heads bowing, nod-
ding in time as they trod
up the hill, their broad shoes
struck with a clangour that subdues
the too-present present.
Beat more bold and pleasant
than piston-clattering
is the feathered hooves battering
the tarmac. Neither cowed
nor vaunting, mild and proud:
may death outpace the day
high-stepping horses pass away.

John Gibbens
from Collected Poems


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar