Guy Fawkes Day

The Fifth of November

    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!

 


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 DayGunpowder 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.

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.)
  • From:  
  • Habing, B. (2006, November 3).  The Fifth of November – English Folk Verse. Retrieved from http://www.potw.org/archive/potw405.html
  • About Joe

    I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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