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Scott P. Richert

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

By November 5, 2013

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Throughout the United Kingdom, November 5 is Guy Fawkes' Day, the day in 1605 when a conspiracy by Fawkes and other Catholics to blow up the English Parliament and assassinate King James I was uncovered.A bonfire on Guy Fawkes' Day. (Photo © Andrew Holt/Getty Images) While James I had promised toleration for Catholics, political pressures compelled him to continue the policies of Queen Elizabeth I. Fawkes and his coconspirators began stockpiling gunpowder to place underneath the Parliament building, in what is known as the Gunpowder Plot.

After the conspirators were put to death (by hanging, drawing, and quartering), some of King James' government ministers attempted to implicate the Catholic Church, and the two Jesuit priests who had heard the conspirators' last Confessions were arrested. Both priests, however, refused to break the seal of the confessional, and one, Father Garnett, paid with his life. Meanwhile, the government of James I increased the persecution of Catholics, and Guy Fawkes' Day became a legal holiday, celebrated with fireworks, bonfires, and the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes and, often, the pope.

The legal holiday was repealed in 1859, and, in recent years, popular celebration of Guy Fawkes' Day has begun to wane, though fireworks are still fairly common. But one poem about the Gunpowder Plot took on the nature of a nursery rhyme, and it's unlikely ever to pass out of the popular imagination:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

(A bonfire on Guy Fawkes' Day. Photo © Andrew Holt/Getty Images)

More on Guy Fawkes' Day and the Gunpowder Plot:

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December 5, 2007 at 9:34 pm
(1) bengalmomad says:

” remember remember the 5th of november” Lyrics by John Lennon; PLASTIC ONO BAND

January 25, 2011 at 4:04 am
(2) georgia says:

original remember poem

member member the 5 th of november gunpowder treason and pot i need to have not one reason why gunpowder treason should ever ever be forgot.

November 5, 2011 at 9:46 am
(3) Kirt Higdon says:

Guy Fawkes has made the transition from terrorist to folk hero to cultural icon. The English now refer to him as “the only man who entered parliament with honest intentions”. His persona became the basis for the “V for Vendetta” character in the graphic novel and movie of that name and the Guy Fawkes mask has been adopted by the Anonymous computer hacker collective as well as by many of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. “The guy” now symbolizes rebellion against oppressive power, but any man in the US is now “a guy” and some girls even address their girlfriends as “you guys”.

November 5, 2011 at 11:18 am
(4) Jack says:

I read the original V for Vendetta in the UK Warrior comics, long before it was ever republished in the USA. It was nothing special. The movie however was very bad to the point of being crap. The mask was already worn by UK protestors, just after the movies release. Since the Americans barely understand Guy Fawkes Night, or what it was about, and do not celebrate it, your claims fail. The Hippies occupying Wall Street proved nothing, stand for nothing. What a pointless unpolitical thing to have done. If you hide your face to make some psuedo political statement, then you are not a political protestor at all, you are a coward. Man up and show your face.

November 5, 2011 at 11:35 am
(5) Remember Me says:

Jack…Who Cares What You Think!

Remember, Remember The 5th of November…Where ever you may be!

November 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm
(6) Kirt Higdon says:

What claim of mine fails? People observe and change the significance of traditional customs all the time without understanding or even knowing of their origins.

March 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm
(7) PenguinASM says:

This is only the first stanza of the rhyme. People really should do their research.

March 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm
(8) Scott P. Richert says:

PenguinASM, I don’t recall writing that it was the entire poem. People really should relax.

November 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm
(9) Clete Purcell says:

If Mr. Fawkes (Guido, actually) had succeeded, would that have prevented the greater evil? Was his act justified? In other realms, there is a Guido Fawkes (pseudonym) in England now who runs a web site exposing the shenanigans of Parliament and the media there but caveat emptor concerning the language in some of the comments.


November 5, 2013 at 8:03 am
(10) Rachel says:

Coming from the U.S. I’m pretty embarrassed how much we’ve romanticized a sentence and a mask. Very silly that I have yet to meet another American that has bothered to learn any of the true history, but yet has bought the mask just because of the movie.

The things bald Natalie Portman can make us Americans do.

November 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm
(11) Abriana says:

Haha thats great. Natalie Portman could make me do very bad things.

November 6, 2013 at 2:40 am
(12) J.A.C. says:

I live in the UK and yesterday ( 06th November ) I said a prayer to Guy Fawkes and to all the faithful departed…

November 9, 2013 at 11:51 am
(13) Salvy says:

Go to Ed Ames on youtube and watch him sing this very sweet song of yester-year “Try to Remember”…When life was so tender…with no Obama…

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