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      English Folk Verse (c.1870)

            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!


Perhaps most widely known in America from its use in the movie V for Vendetta, versions of the above poem have been wide spread in England for centuries. They celebrate the foiling of (Catholic) Guy Fawkes's attempt to blow up (Protestant controlled) England's House of Parliament on November 5th, 1605. Known variously as Guy Fawkes Day, Gunpowder Treason Day, and Fireworks Night, the November 5th celebrations in some time periods included the burning of the Pope or Guy Fawkes in effigy.

This traditional verse exists in a large number of variations and the above version has been constructed to give a flavor for the major themes that appear in them. Several of the books referenced below cite even earlier sources.

Lines 1-6 are as in Moore and Lloyd (1990; pg. 14). They differ from Chambers (1888; pg. 550) only in the third line ("There is..." instead of "I know of..."). "I know..." but not "I know of..." occurs in Thiselton-Dyer (1876; pg. 413, Northamptonshire).

Lines 7-14 follow the order of the dialect version in Northall (1892, pg. 248, Lowsley). The wording used is from Thistleton-Dyer (1876, pg 413, Northamptonshire) for lines 7-10 and 13-14, and J.C.R (1857) for lines 11-12.

Lines 15-20 are taken from Thiselton-Dyer (1876; pg. 414, Oxfordshire). They differ from Chambers (1888; pg 550) only in line 16 ("Victoria" instead of "King James").

Lines 21-24 are taken from McDowall (1908) except that "roast" in line 24 has been replaced with the "burn" found in Hems (1908) and Thistelton-Dyer (1876, pg. 414, Oxfordshire). Hems differs in line 22 ("A pound..." instead of "A penn'orth"). Thiselton-Dyer differs in line 21 with "A penn'orth of bread to feed the Pope" instead of the hanging, and in line 24 with "...a good old faggot..." instead of "... a jolly good fire..."

Lines 25-27 are taken from Thiselton-Dyer (1876, pg. 413, Northamptonshire), except that "Hollo" in lines 25 and 26 has been replaced by the "Holloa" in McDowall (1908), the last line of "Hurrah" has been replaced by what is found in J.C.R. (1857), and "king" has been capitalized. J.C.R. uses "Holla" instead of "Holloa" and has "make your voice ring" in the line 25 instead of the bells. McDowall has "Queen" instead of "King" in its version of line 26.

While not all eight cited versions contain all five groupings of lines, the "verses" present in each of the eight appear relative to each other in the order used above.


  • Chambers, Robert. The Book of Days. London: W. & R. Chambers, 1888.
  • Hems, Harry. The fifth of November: Guy Fawkes Celebrations. Notes and Queries, 1908; s10-X, 496-497.
  • J.C.R. The fifth of November. Notes and Queries, 1857; s2-IV, 450-451.
  • McDowall, S.S. The fifth of November: Guy Fawkes Celebrations. Notes and Queries, 1908; s10-X, 496.
  • Moore, Alan & Lloyd, David. V for Vendetta. New York: DC Comics, Inc., 1990.
  • Northall, G.F. English Folk-Rhymes. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd., 1892. (As reissued by Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1968).
  • Thiselton-Dyer, Rev. T.F. British Popular Customs, Present and Past. London: George Bell and Sons, York Street, Covent Garden, 1876. (As reissued by Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1968.)

    This page can be cited as:

  • Habing, B. (2006, November 3). The Fifth of November - English Folk Verse. Retrieved from http://www.potw.org/archive/potw405.html