Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Contrary to appearences on this blog, I actually have considerably less personal and scholarly investment in the Gunpowder Plot and its subsequent commemorations than does George Washington Boyfriend (in early New England, the anniversary was marked by "Pope Day" celebrations). Nevertheless, when I discovered that the town of Lewes, in East Sussex, still celebrates a full-on Bonfire Night (complete with the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V, a procession of seventeen burning crosses to commemorate the town's seventeen Marian martyrs, and [fake] heads on pikes to represent current "enemies of bonfire"), I almost squealed, I was so excited. One of these days, GWB and I are totally, totally going.

Until that happy day occurs, however, I leave you with two treats in honor of the Most Fortuitious Discovery of the Powder Treason:

1) The etymology of the word "guy": Our everyday use of the word to mean, generally, a person, appears to come directly from Guy Fawkes--or rather, from the effigies of Guy Fawkes that it was once common for every community to dress up and parade around (and then burn) every November 5th. That's the first definition for "guy" given in the OED (1806), which appears to have led to the second definition, "a person of grotesque appearance, esp. with reference to dress" (1836), which seems, gradually, to have led to the OED's fourth definition: "a man, fellow" (1847).

2) The full lyrics to the "remember remember" rhyme:*

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

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!

A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.

Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!


*Well, at least according to Wikipedia. I've been meaning to get hold of James Sharpe's recent book, Remember, Remember, which I suspect might be a bit more reliable than the random sources I've cobbled together here--but hey. I've been busy.


kfluff said...

Heck, now we're hearing that some of the entries on Wikipedia are plagiarized (, so all bets are off.

Here's to burnings in effigy!

Anonymous said...

Obligatory Simpsons:

"Effigy, eh? Nothing burns like an effigy."



medieval woman said...

Argh! I've had this poem in my head for 2 days now - a pox on Guy Fawkes! :)

*remember, remember....*