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St George for merry England

by
13 April 2017

April 20th, 1917

WHAT the observance of St Patrick’s Day means to the Irish, and that of St David’s Day to the Welsh, the observance of St George’s Day should mean to the English. From the Scot we can here derive no useful lesson; he has transferred to Robert Burns the devotion which he should pay to St Andrew. As for the Englishman, he is but faintly aware that St George is — in William Caxton’s phrase — special protector and defender of this realm, and he is but just beginning to keep his feast. It has lost its ancient glory; no patron of a people was ever more venerated than formerly St George in England. “St George for merry England” was once the cry of English warriors, as “St George for Holy Russia ” is a cry of our Ally. It was the radiant St George, in gleaming armour and with the rosy cross on his shield, who led the Crusaders to victory at Antioch, as they believed, and so gained the inclusion of his name in the English Kalendar, and his recognition at last as the “spiritual patron of the soldiery of England”. . . Little wonder that many customs associated with the national devotion to St George survived the Reformation, and lingered until the time when the temporary triumph of Puritanism put an end to the veneration of St George, and England ceased to be merry. . .

 

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