Thursday, April 23, 2020

Harow! St. George to Our Aid!

St. George and the Dragon
by Dinah Maria Craik

"Dieu et Mon Droit"

What, weeping, weeping, my little son
Angry tears like that great commander
Alexander –
Because of dragons is left not one
To be a new Cappadocian scourge
For your bold slaying
In grand arraying,
Mounted alone, eh?
On Shetland pony
A knight all perfect, a young St. George?

Come sit at my knee, my little son:
Sit at my knee and mend your wagon: -
Full many a dragon
You'll have to fight with ere life be done.
Come, shall I tell you of three or four --
Villanous cattle!
For you to battle,
When mother's sleeping
Where all your weeping
Will not awaken her any more?

First, there's a creature whose name is Sloth
Looks like a lizard, creeping on sleekly
Simple and weakly,
Powerless to injure however wroth:
But slay him, my lad, or he'll slay you!
Crawling and winding,
Twisting and binding:
Break from him, tramp on him
And as you stamp on him
You'll be St. George and the dragon anew.

Then there's a monster - so fair at first,
Called Ease, or Comfort, or harmless Pleasure;
Born of smooth Leisure -
On Luxury's lap delicious nurst;
Who'd buy your soul if you'd sell it — just
To catch one minute
With joyance on it
Or ward off sorrow
Until to-morrow –
Trample him, trample him into dust!

One more — the reptile yclept False Shame,.
That silently drags its feltered length on,
And tries its strength on
Many a spirit else pure from blame;
But up and at him your courser urge!
Smite hard, I trow, hard
The moral coward,
At throne or altar,
Nor once, once falter -
And be my own son, my brave St. George!

St. George and the dragon — ah, my boy,
There are many old dragons left, world-scourges,
And few St. Georges —
There's much of labor and little of joy!
But on with you — on to the endless fight -
Your sword firm buckle,
To no man truckle,
Wave your bold flag on
And slay your dragon.
St. George for ever! God and my right!

Dinah Craik is best known as a novelist, particularly for John Halifax, Gentleman, but like many successful women authors in the nineteenth century, she wrote in a very wide variety of genres, including didactic works and book-length fairy tales. I like this layered handling of the tale of St. George, which is clearly influenced, albeit not slavishly, by Spenser's The Faerie Queene.

Raphael - Saint George and the Dragon - Google Art Project
Raphael, Saint George and the Dragon

St. George’s Day, 1904
by Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley

April 23

The annual meeting of the Guild of St. George, which was founded by John Ruskin, was held at Sheffield on Saturday.

To-day our land remembers him who fought
The Dragon, hails the Cappadocian brave
Who from the loathly thing went forth to save
Pure Innocence, and her salvation wrought.
This is the day a nation’s thanks are brought
By Avon’s shore to God, who Shakspere gave;
To-day we lay Lent lilies on a grave
In Grasmere Vale and think what Wordsworth taught.

And, gathered here in Vulcan’s town to-day,
Where the smoke dragons from their high-built towers
Plague the live air and cheat the poor of sun,
Do not our hearts in loyal memory run
To him who loved pure light and innocent flowers,
And sent us forth all dragon beasts to slay?

Rawnsley is most famous for being one of the founding members of the National Trust, although he was also involved in a number of projects for the preservation of the environment and the support of the working class. He also is one of the people who encouraged Beatrix Potter to publish her stories.

St. George and the Dragon - Briton Riviere
Briton Rivière, St. George and the Dragon, wherein St. George expresses how we all feel sometimes.

St. George for Merry England

This world, it is a wilding world,
a world of sin and shame;
it speaks and moans a sighing word
and hides its very name.
The dragons rise on every side,
they speak with voice of flame;
but still there rides a knight to fight
and counter dragon's claim.

And all the peasants, ground to dust,
now walk a rocky way;
all the princes forfeit trust
and flee the rightful fray,
but heaven's knight on steed of white
with cross upon his shield
will aid and save the countryside,
will fight, and will not yield.

Cowards cower in dust and mud
as serpents devour the land;
forsaking hope they drop the good,
surrender to drake's demand.
But one will fight, and when he falls
will rise and, rising, stand;
his weary face will pale and pall
but his sword is in his hand.

All people who hear, raise up his song,
the song of the man who will live;
with sound of the drum, the harp and the pipe,
high hallels and rhapsodies give.
Through moor and through forest, through fallowing field
he fights for our honor and grace,
he will fight and never will victory yield
for God shines out in his face.

Waters of life will succor him well
and raise him up from the dead
as the tree of life delivers from hell
by the power of God who bled;
and the dragon will fall, its eye grow dim,
from blade by the holy hand led.
To the dust heel, and countenace grim,
will crush the fell serpent's head.

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