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Lay for the Day 17th November

The feast of St Hugh of Lincoln, a monk and bishop of the 12th century, whose iconographic emblem is a swan, in allusion to the wild swan he befriended, which became so attached to him that it would stand guard over his bed while he slept.

The Swan

She is dreaming but dreaming
Of nothing, which is the dream

Sustaining her on a still
Piece of nothing. Her desire

Is not distorted down there
In its inverse easeful life

Nor darkened. It looks up still
With the same sharp eye as she

Looks down. She lowers the shaft
Of her neck into the wide

Waking water, to empty
Her thought, then lets the air take

More of the shade from her wings,
Left whiter still than they were.

* * *

If this is dying, to slide
Above ourselves on the grey

Stream rich with lilies and reeds
Without expense of effort,

’More than ever seems it rich’.
But see below how in one

After the other she must
Take a fistful of water

In her black foot to go on
Slowly against the current.

* * *

Another current wants her,
The breeze and the scumbled clouds.

She reaches out her lightning,
She takes them into her arms.

John Gibbens

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar