St Swithun – Man and Legend


There’d been one miracle in his life:
a woman dropped a basket of eggs
on the bridge that he built over the Itchen
and he collected the eggs – all unbroken.

Unlike his peers, the Bishops of Winchester,
he chose to be one with the soil and the wind,
buried in the churchyard, open
to the rain and the common people.

Pilgrims came – how they came
attracted by his space in the ordinary.
The pilgrims came and left like eggs,
arriving broken and leaving whole.

Other cathedrals wanted part of him.
Canterbury claimed the head.
Evreux an arm.
His fame spread as his body was broken.

At Winchester, Ethelwold reformed the monastery,
dedicated the cathedral church to him,
and built a shrine over him
where pilgrims could come and wonder.


Beneath the shrine, from rain protected,
St. Swithun woke, his heart dejected.
How he wept, how he cried.
For forty days, it rained outside.

ST. SWITHUN’S day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain ;
St. Swithun’s day, if thou be faire,
For forty days ’twill raine nae maire.

by Alastair Fear (written for share a poem on Saints and sinners – Nov 2023)

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