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Lay for the Day
25th October

The feast of St Crispin and St Crispinian, fourth-century martyrs. According to an English tradition, they fled persecution and settled at Faversham in Kent, in a house on the site of the Swan Inn, which was still honoured by pilgrims as late as the 17th century. This English legend may account for the fact that Henry V, in Shakespeare’s play, refers to them six times in his speech before the battle of Agincourt, which was fought on their feast day. Crispin and Crispinian were supposed to have been brothers, and shoemakers, and hence they are the patron saints of that trade. From the book of Praises:

31. Of the Shoes

Of the poet, the dauntless brogues,
that find their own way home.
At the word of command,
an encouraging cluck,
they’re off like two fine chestnut mares.
Also, sleek as the pair of ducks
I watched in egoless
race dart down the canal
a foot from the water
then take the bridge in a single
synchronised parabolic hop
to land with arrowy
grace in twin plumes of spray,
my footwear takes the kerb
and puddled gutter in its stride.
These, if the pavements were a grey,
broken stretch of Channel,
would be stout Thames barges,
first one then the other
catching the best of a stiff breeze
as they beat up the strait for home.
You won’t see me exchange
for Trojan-panicking
Achilles’ chariot
my Czechoslovakian shoes.

John Gibbens
from Collected Poems

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar