Today is St George’s Day, who is the patron saint of England. If you were in England now, you would be seeing this Google doodle (I wish we were). According to above post, “St George has no direct relationship with England. He was Greek and became an officer in the Roman army, with the dragon episode placed somewhere in Libya.” Here are some factoid from the St. George’s Day official website: The date was selected in 1222, but “it wasn’t until 1348 that St George became the patron saint of England. In 1415, St George’s Day was declared a national feast day and holiday in England. However, the practice was ended at the end of the 18th century, and it has since not been acknowledged as a national holiday. The hymn ‘Jerusalem’ was also sung on the 23rd April, or the nearest Sunday to that date, in churches across the nation [William Blake wrote the poem that was later turned into the hymn] .” For an explanation on why the holiday is not official anymore, check out this blog post.
I have surprisingly never heard of either of these poems, though to be fair, the writers were fairly prolific and most people have only heard of the really famous poems, like Sordello or The Ring and the Book for Browning and Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem and Prometheus Unbound for Shelley. Honestly though, I know them because of their wives and not so much for their own work. I will have to remedy that in the future.
Home Thoughts, From Abroad
By Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops-at the bent spray’s edge-
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
-Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
Song to the men of England
By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?
Wherefore feed and clothe and save,
From the cradle to the grave,
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat -nay, drink your blood?
Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?
Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?
The seed ye sow another reaps;
The wealth ye find another keeps;
The robes ye weave another wears;
The arms ye forge another bears.
Sow seed, -but let no tyrant reap;
Find wealth, -let no imposter heap;
Weave robes, -let not the idle wear;
Forge arms, in your defence to bear.
Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells;
In halls ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.
With plough and spade and hoe and loom,
Trace your grave, and build your tomb,
And weave your winding-sheet, till fair
England be your sepulchre!