Happy St. George’s Day

In England, we all seem to know when St. Patrick’s Day is, with its over-sized hats and excessive drinking; many of us will also be aware of St. David’s Day, with all its daffodils. Yet when it comes to our own Saint’s Day, we cannot be certain when it is, or what it’s for, or why to bother (what, there’s no Guinness involved?!). “It’s sometime between St. Patrick’s Day and the summer, I think… not really sure”; “Oh, that’s the guy who killed the dragon, isn’t it?”; “Shouldn’t it be a bank holiday? It’s not fair, they get one in Ireland, Scotland and Wales on their Saints’ Days.” (Yes, yes, they do… they probably know when the dates are too.) Okay, I could be being a little unfair here: I am sure that there are some patriotic types out there that do know when St. George’s Day is (today, incidentally) and that do celebrate it; and, likewise, that there are people who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for the right reasons (good job they’re rid of those snakes, really, isn’t it?) and don’t just use it as an excuse for a party.

So, this year, I’d like to summon up some patriotism and positivity about this nation, and celebrate England and St. George with a poem by William Ernest Henley.

England, My England

WHAT have I done for you,
England, my England?
What is there I would not do,
England, my own?
With your glorious eyes austere,
As the Lord were walking near,
Whispering terrible things and dear
As the Song on your bugles blown,
England-
Round the world on your bugles blown!

Where shall the watchful sun,
England, my England,
Match the master-work you’ve done,
England, my own?
When shall he rejoice agen
Such a breed of mighty men
As come forward, one to ten,
To the Song on your bugles blown,
England-
Down the years on your bugles blown?

Ever the faith endures,
England, my England:-
‘Take and break us: we are yours,
England, my own!
Life is good, and joy runs high
Between English earth and sky:
Death is death; but we shall die
To the Song on your bugles blown,
England-
To the stars on your bugles blown!’

They call you proud and hard,
England, my England:
You with worlds to watch and ward,
England, my own!
You whose mail’d hand keeps the keys
Of such teeming destinies,
You could know nor dread nor ease
Were the Song on your bugles blown,
England,
Round the Pit on your bugles blown!

Mother of Ships whose might,
England, my England,
Is the fierce old Sea’s delight,
England, my own,
Chosen daughter of the Lord,
Spouse-in-Chief of the ancient Sword,
There ‘s the menace of the Word
In the Song on your bugles blown,
England-
Out of heaven on your bugles blown!

William Ernest Henley, 1849 – 1903

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It’s a good day for Henley poetry fans. Take a look at this YouTube video, which has been made by a group of YouTubers in America, bringing this inspiring poem to life:

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