Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Remember Remember

Remember remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason...
Should ever be forgot...

Funny, but these words were ingrained in my memory long before I read V for Vendetta.

This poem, if you can call it that, refers to our national pariah, Guy Fawkes, with it's origins way back in 17th C British history. On the 5th November 1605, Guy Fawkes (can anyone say 'patsy') was nabbed in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with several dozen barrels of gunpowder.

Fawkes was subsequently tortured to delirium, tried as a traitor with his co-conspirators, and convicted of plotting against the government. He was tried by one Judge Popham (the Pickles of his day) who came to London specifically for the trial from his country manor in Hungerford, Gloucestershire (pronounced 'sheeer' on the end for our collonial visitors). Fawkes was sentenced to death and was hung, drawn and quartered to 'reflect the serious nature of the crime of treason'. This I know from my classical education (having studied hard at both York Dungeon and Madame Tussauds in Blackpool).

The Tradition begins...

In 1606 it became an annual custom for the King (and Parliament) to commission a sermon to commemorate the near miss of the year before. Lancelot Andrews delivered the first of many Gunpowder Plot Sermons. This practice, together with the nursery rhyme, was to ensure that this crime (treason against the state) would never be forgotten, hence the words "Remember, remember the 5th of November". The poem is sometimes referred to as 'Please to remember the fifth of November'. It serves as a warning to each new generation that treason will never be forgotten and The Tower is still open for residents and the skillet hot if you fancy giving it a go.

In England the 5th of November is still commemorated each year with billions of pounds worth of staggeringly lame home-bought fireworks and the incineration of unwanted furniture, culminating with the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes (AKA, "The Guy"). The 'Guys' are constructed by kids (who probably think we have Bonfire Night to celebrate winning the Worl Cup in '66) by cramming old clothes with crumpled newspapers, banging an unwanted Halloween mask on it, then semi-legally extorting money from passers by with the words "Ere, penny for The Guy, Mr.?"

This year, the tradition has apparently crossed into virtual worlds with the ceremonial burning of a n00b Voodo Doll mannequin bearing the floating text "Philip Linden (away)".

I'm off home early to check on the cat before England starts to small like burning tyres...

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