Today is the day of England’s patron saint, St George. Well known for killing the dragon and saving the maid, he was probably a Roman soldier of Greek origin who was put to death because of his faith.
We no longer have any traditions to celebrate our national day, in fact we make much more fuss of St Patrick’s day, and even St David usually has a few daffodils pinned to people’s chests on March 1st. There has been quite a few articles in the media about trying to make more of the day, and I guess once it is taken up more than the shops will be full of flags of St George (red cross on a white background) red roses, knick-knacks and gew-gaws and more money spinners/money wasters from businesses… it will become like St Valentine’s day, or Halloween, another excuse to make/waste money! Cynical old me!
In the meantime, at my voluntary teaching today, our theme will be St George’s Day and it will be interesting to see how many of the students from other countries know it already, and also to find out how they celebrate their patron saints. Maybe we should have bacon and egg and toast and marmalade for breakfast, a ploughman’s lunch and bangers and mash for dinner today, drink only tea, and have snacks of scones and Victoria sponges!
I can’t finish this without a little Shakespeare whose birthday it is:
King Henry v:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which i doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘god for harry, England, and saint George!’