"Soft day, sir John! Soft day, your honour!" Stephen imagines the "gruff squire," Sir John Blackwood, mounted on his horse with his "shiny topboots" and receiving respectful greetings from his constituents, even though in the family story of Blackwood's ride to destiny the old man never got past the step of pulling on his boots. A "soft day" in Ireland—often greeted with the expression, "It's a soft day, thank God!"—is a moist one, with everything wrapped in mist and the slightest drizzling of rain.
The phrase recurs in Circe, in the context of a horse race in which Garrett Deasy is a jockey. Contrary to expectation the Orange Lodges jeer him and the Green Lodges respectfully wish him well: "Soft day, sir John! Soft day, your honour!"