Fifth Of November

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

The fifth of November,

Since I can remember,

Gunpowder treason and plot:

This was the day the plot was contriv'd,

To blow up the King and Parliament alive;

But God's mercy did prevent

To save our King and his Parliament.

A stick and a stake

For King James's sake!

If you won't give me one,

I'll take tw

The better for me,

And the worse for you!

This is the Oxfordshire song chanted by the boys when collecting sticks

for the bonfire, and it is considered quite lawful to appropriate any

old wood they can lay their hands on after the recitation of these

lines. If it happen that a crusty chuff prevents them, the threatening

finale is too often fulfilled. The operation is called going a

progging, but whether this is a mere corruption of prigging, or

whether progging means collecting sticks (brog, Scot. Bor.), I am

unable to decide. In some places they shout, previously to the burning

of the effigy of Guy Fawkes--

A penn'orth of bread to feed the Pope,

A penn'orth of cheese to choke him;

A pint of beer to wash it down,

And a good old faggot to burn him.

The metropolis and its neighbourhood are still annually visited by

subdued vestiges of the old customs of the bonfire-day. Numerous parties

of boys parade the streets with effigies of Guy Fawkes, but pence, not

antipopery, is the object of the exhibition, and the evening fires have

generally been exchanged for the mischievous practice of annoying

passengers with squibs and crackers. The spirit and necessity of the

display have expired, and the lover of old customs had better be

contented to hear of it in history; even although the special service

for the day, still retained in our Prayer-book, may tend to recognise

the propriety of external rejoicings.