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!
As soon as the noose settled around his neck, Guy Fawkes broke free from the hangman and jumped off the scaffolding — guaranteeing a quick drop with a stop sharp enough to break his neck cleanly.
Sudden death seems like an odd goal for a man to reach in a hurry. Until you consider the alternative…
(Ironically, in a way, it’s an early example of government not being able to get anything right. Not even a hanging.)
Guy had just watched his fellow English-Catholic conspirators hanged until nearly dead (with emphasis on nearly.) Then they were cut down. Their most private parts and entrails were removed and burned before their eyes. Finally, they were beheaded.
This all would have happened to Guy Fawkes, too…except wily Guy made sure he was too dead to notice.
What offense warranted this extreme torture and dismemberment?
Guy and his co-conspirators felt that the crown made life miserable for the Catholic minority in England. In truth, the crown was doing exactly that.
So on the 5th of November, 1605, Guy and his buddies planned to ignite the three-dozen barrels of gunpowder they’d packed under Parliament. Their plan was… simply enough… to blow up the king.
Known as a man “highly skilled in matters of war,” Guy’s job was to light the match. Afterwards, he planned to escape across the Thames. But an anonymous letter warning of the plot was sent to the King.
When the Master at Arms went to check out the dwelling beneath Parliament, he discovered Guy, a set of matches, and a whole lot of gunpowder.
The conspiracy was uncovered and thwarted. Torture, confessions and painful executions followed. This was the end of the now-famous Gunpowder Plot. And the end of Guy Fawkes.
For centuries afterward, Londoners have organized a curious bonfire on the Nov. 5th anniversary of Guy’s bust. They even gave it a catchy phrase…
“Remember, remember the fifth of November,” they chant.