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Lay for the Day
31st December



The anniversary of the death of John Wyclif, a cleric who spoke out against the corruption of the church. Because his teachings were regarded as an inspiration for the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, all of his writings were banned in 1382, and he suffered a stroke in that year, followed by a second and fatal one in 1384. He was posthumously declared a heretic, and his remains were disinterred and removed from consecrated ground in 1428.
Wyclif advocated the translation of Scripture into the common tongue, and two separate English versions of the Bible were produced under his patronage. There is still a Wyclif Society devoted to making a version of the Bible in every language spoken on Earth – a job made, sadly, steadily easier as globalisation wipes out “the tongues of men”.


Book

This perplexing sheaf, the Bible,
From which are built the longing naves,
Empire’s dome and seamark steeple
Out of the wood’s unbreaking waves,
Engraves fat tombs, and stones that speak
Lowly of ones who sleep – a book
Whose leaves, turning to granite, saint-
Strewn glass, and marble, ragged oak
And gold, to plaster, cloth and paint,
Yet vow that craft shall be shaken
To dust when these dead awaken.
It is a reed sharp and unpliant
As iron. A stark peak, fertile as graves.
A word sprung green among the thorns of print.

John Gibbens
from Church of Thorns

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar