The 5th of November

A number of songs alluded to this date. John, for one, wrote Remember from his Plastic Ono Band album and ended it with a big explosion.

Wiki: At the end of the song, Lennon sings an excerpt from the poem Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November, then an explosion is heard. This is a reference to Guy Fawkes Night, a holiday in Britain celebrated with fireworks.

Wiki: Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night and Firework Night, is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November, primarily in Great Britain. Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

V for Vendetta

The Fifth of November (See notes below)

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Source: http://www.potw.org/archive/potw405.html

Perhaps most widely known in America from its use in the movie V for Vendetta, versions of the above poem have been wide spread in England for centuries. They celebrate the foiling of (Catholic) Guy Fawkes’s attempt to blow up (Protestant controlled) England’s House of Parliament on November 5th, 1605. Known variously as Guy Fawkes Day, Gunpowder Treason Day, and Fireworks Night, the November 5th celebrations in some time periods included the burning of the Pope or Guy Fawkes in effigy.

This traditional verse exists in a large number of variations and the above version has been constructed to give a flavor for the major themes that appear in them. Several of the books referenced below cite even earlier sources.

Lines 1-6 are as in Moore and Lloyd (1990; pg. 14). They differ from Chambers (1888; pg. 550) only in the third line (“There is…” instead of “I know of…”). “I know…” but not “I know of…” occurs in Thiselton-Dyer (1876; pg. 413, Northamptonshire).

Lines 7-14 follow the order of the dialect version in Northall (1892, pg. 248, Lowsley). The wording used is from Thistleton-Dyer (1876, pg 413, Northamptonshire) for lines 7-10 and 13-14, and J.C.R (1857) for lines 11-12.

Lines 15-20 are taken from Thiselton-Dyer (1876; pg. 414, Oxfordshire). They differ from Chambers (1888; pg 550) only in line 16 (“Victoria” instead of “King James”).

Lines 21-24 are taken from McDowall (1908) except that “roast” in line 24 has been replaced with the “burn” found in Hems (1908) and Thistelton-Dyer (1876, pg. 414, Oxfordshire). Hems differs in line 22 (“A pound…” instead of “A penn’orth”). Thiselton-Dyer differs in line 21 with “A penn’orth of bread to feed the Pope” instead of the hanging, and in line 24 with “…a good old faggot…” instead of “… a jolly good fire…”

Lines 25-27 are taken from Thiselton-Dyer (1876, pg. 413, Northamptonshire), except that “Hollo” in lines 25 and 26 has been replaced by the “Holloa” in McDowall (1908), the last line of “Hurrah” has been replaced by what is found in J.C.R. (1857), and “king” has been capitalized. J.C.R. uses “Holla” instead of “Holloa” and has “make your voice ring” in the line 25 instead of the bells. McDowall has “Queen” instead of “King” in its version of line 26.

While not all eight cited versions contain all five groupings of lines, the “verses” present in each of the eight appear relative to each other in the order used above.

References:

  • Chambers, Robert. The Book of Days. London: W. & R. Chambers, 1888.
  • Hems, Harry. The fifth of November: Guy Fawkes Celebrations.Notes and Queries, 1908; s10-X, 496-497.
  • J.C.R. The fifth of November. Notes and Queries, 1857; s2-IV, 450-451.
  • McDowall, S.S. The fifth of November: Guy Fawkes Celebrations.Notes and Queries, 1908; s10-X, 496.
  • Moore, Alan & Lloyd, David. V for Vendetta. New York: DC Comics, Inc., 1990.
  • Northall, G.F. English Folk-Rhymes. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd., 1892. (As reissued by Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1968).
  • Thiselton-Dyer, Rev. T.F. British Popular Customs, Present and Past. London: George Bell and Sons, York Street, Covent Garden, 1876. (As reissued by Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1968.)This page can be cited as:
  • Habing, B. (2006, November 3). The Fifth of November – English Folk Verse. Retrieved from http://www.potw.org/archive/potw405.html

 

 

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