Sunday, November 6, 2016

Remember . . .


The above words are widely quoted and are from a poem. More of that later in this post.

I was going to do a Bytes about it on the 5th of November but guess what. . . I forgot!

So here it is, the day after 5 November.

The figure in the mask, above, by the way, is from the film V for Vendetta. The setting for that pic is a future United Kingdom under the control of a neo-fascist regime. Hugo Weaving is V, a masked freedom fighter who seeks to inspire a revolution by terrorist acts. 

More about that and the mask below.

The poem:

The poem is about the attempt of Guy Fawkes to blow up the English Parliament on 5 November 1605

According to the site from where the poem below has been taken, “This traditional verse exists in a large number of variations and the [below] version has been constructed to give a flavour for the major themes that appear in them.”

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!

The history:
  • Known commonly as the Gunpowder Plot, and in earlier centuries as the Gunpowder Treason Plot and the Jesuit Treason, it was an attempt by Catholics to assassinate the Protestant King James 1 of England and VI of Scotland.
  • The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the opening of the English Parliament on 5 November, 1605, thus inspiring (so it was believed) a revolt that would see James’s 9 year old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, installed as the Catholic head of state. It was intended that along with James, much of the English aristocracy would be killed, along with James’s son Henry, and that Elizabeth would be a puppet queen, raised as a Catholic and later married to a Catholic bridegroom.
  • There were 13 active conspirators, led by Robert Catesby. One of the conspirators was Guy Fawkes who, having 10 years military experience fighting in the Spanish Netherlands in suppression of the Dutch Revolt, was given charge of the explosives.

  • The plot was revealed to the authorities by an anonymous letter. A search of the House of Lords at about midnight on 4 November discovered Fawkes and 36 barrels of gunpowder.
Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot (c. 1823), by Henry Perronet Briggs
  • Having been discovered, most of the conspirators fled London. After a battle, Catesby was killed and 8 conspirators, including Fawkes, were tortured, tried and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
  • Asked why he had so much gunpowder, Fawkes advised that it was "to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains." His resistance to the torture inspired King James to say admiringly that he had "a Roman resolution".
  • Whilst climbing the scaffold to be hanged, Fawkes jumped to his death, cheating the hangman. He was nonetheless drawn and quartered.
  • Parliament designated 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for "the joyful day of deliverance". This remained in force until 1859.
  • Despite being one of 13 conspirators, Guy Fawkes became the public face of the Gunpowder Plot, the annual celebration with bonfires becoming known as Guy Fawkes Night, Guy Fawkes Day, Plot Night and Bonfire Night. From the 1650’s fireworks accompanied the bonfires and from 1673 an effigy was placed at the top of the bonfire. Originally this was the Pope, in that in 1673 the heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, made public his conversion to Catholicism. Later the effigy was of Guy Fawkes, the figure becoming known as “the guy”. The figure was usually masked.
English children preparing for Guy Fawkes night celebrations (1954)
  • During the 19th century, "guy" came to mean an oddly dressed person, but in American English it simply referred to any male person.

The Mask:
  • V for Vendetta is a novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, concerning a nuclear war in the 1980’s and a fascist state following in the 1990’s. V is the revolutionary who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and seeks to foment revolution by terrorist acts. David Lloyd’s illustration of the mask is based on the face of Guy Fawkes.
Cover of the book V for Vendetta.
  • The book gave rise to a comic book series in 1982 and in 2006 Warner Bros released the film of the same name, retaining the use of the same mask.
  • When developing the story, illustrator David Lloyd made a handwritten note: 
"Why don't we portray him as a resurrected Guy Fawkes, complete with one of those papier-mâché masks, in a cape and a conical hat? He'd look really bizarre and it would give Guy Fawkes the image he's deserved all these years. We shouldn't burn the chap every Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!" 
       Writer Alan Moore commented that, due to Lloyd's idea, 
"All of the various fragments in my head suddenly fell into place, united behind the single image of a Guy Fawkes mask."
  • Since release of the film, the mask has become a widespread symbol of protest and preserver of identity, keeping the wearer anonymous.
  • It has become a well-known symbol for the online hacktivist group Anonymous, and used by members of the Occupy movement, and other anti-government and anti-establishment protests around the world.


A 2007 poll by the BBC asked the nation who they thought were the Greatest Britons. The winner was Winston Churchill. The top 10 were:

1. Winston Churchill (28.1%)
2. Isambard Kingdom Brunel (24.6%)
3. Princess Diana (13.9%)
4. Charles Darwin(6.9%)
5. William Shakespeare (6.8%)
6. Sir Isaac Newton (5.2%)
7. Queen Elizabeth I (4.4%)
8. John Lennon (4.2%)
9. Horatio Nelson (3%)
10. Oliver Cromwell (2.8%)

Included in the 100 was Guy Fawkes.


Guy Fawkes is sometimes toasted as "the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions.”

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