Fifth Of November

★ Fifth Of November Story :

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 two, 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.

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