Lay for the Day 15th
feast of St Vitus, a 4th-century martyr, whose protection was invoked
against the bites of snakes and mad dogs, and for the healing of epilepsy
and other nervous afflictions. One of these, a disease that caused involuntary
spasmodic movements, was known as St Vitus Dance in the Middle Ages;
its modern medical name is Sydenhams chorea. (Teenage girls are
particularly prone to it.)
condition’s medieval name apparently alludes to rituals of frantic
dancing that took place in front of the saint’s image on his feast
day, in parts of northern and eastern Europe – presumably survivals
of a pagan religion.
St Vitus is patron saint of dancers and actors and such which reflects,
perhaps, the dim view the Church has generally taken of the Classical
sacred arts of dance and theatre.
the book of Praises:
Of a Dancer
Would it be without weight,
garment, or the dwelling flesh float?
It goes to its dear ground again.
Pensive for a few long inches,
fingers try the air. The bare heel
proposes a step, the bold knee
seconds it. Then the deliberate
vertebral column, suppler than
reason, with its subtle rhetoric
sways the issue. Now it tends
led by unfledged shoulders meekly,
not from heaviness, as by light
homeless graces affinity
with the level earth, everywhere
itself, dense and unrelenting.
A ghost in parting might care
less for all but elevation,
though be as tender. It is there-
fore arriving spirit that
in through this door, this dancing frame.
Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar