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Lay for the Day
15th August

The birthday of my eldest brother, Richard. He shares it with some powerful individuals, notably Napoleon Bonaparte (1769); Sir Walter Scott (1771) and Thomas de Quincey (1775), early movers of English Romanticism; and James Keir Hardie (1856), illegitimate child of a servant from Lanarkshire, who worked as a coal-miner then became the first socialist Member of Parliament (elected as an independent in 1892), a founder of the Labour Party, and one of the first two Labour MPs to be elected, in 1900.


An ascetic
in spareness and
strength of physique,
his aesthetic

goes slow to be
sure of his holds
on the world’s mad

A solitude
is where he’s glad
to catch the light,
rock and water,

opens his heart
to the shutter.
The Nepalese
returned a sense

of wonder grown
gradually since
earnest youth was
plagued by teendom’s

drossy mockers.
I remember
“Draw me something,”
which something turned

out a dragon,
sky-born earth-force,
Chinese fashion.
I copied scores

of that totem.
Picture him ridge-
striding, splayed sun
spilt from a ledge

of cloud, a child,
like the dragon,
of elements,
rare, here and gone.


John Gibbens
from Characters: You & I

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar