Saturday, December 25, 2010

'Saint George of mery England, the signe of victoree'

One of my traditions on Christmas is to re-read some version of the story of St. George and the Dragon. Here is a poem of it. The Oxfordshire St. George play, while not very substantive, is probably the most famous of the traditional St. George Christmas plays. Here is a more modern version of the same sort of thing. And of course you can never go wrong with Spencer's Faerie Queene, Book I, in which the tale becames the tale of the Redcrosse Knight, who stands for holiness. The following is a minor thing I worked up for St. George's Day once.

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 a steed of white
with a cross upon his shield
will succor and save the countryside,
will fight, and will not yield.

Cowards cower in dust and in mud
as serpents devour the land;
abandoning hope they abandon the good
and leave it to dragon's demand.
But the knight will fight, and when he falls
he will rise and, rising, will stand;
his weary face will pale and will pall
but his sword is in his hand.

All people who hear, sing the song of the knight,
sing 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 will fight 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 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 the blade by the holy hand led.
To the dust will his heel, his countenace grim,
crush the skull of the serpent's head.

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