Friday, April 23, 2010

St George for England

It's the feast of St George, the patron of England. There's no English blood that I know of coursing through these veins, but for better or worse, this civilization is of English origin, the only literature I have any real acquaintance with is English, and the only language I speak with any felicity at all is English. Whenever the form asks if I have any other languages, I usually put down "Latin" with the parlous hope that no one will call me on it. Six and half years of classes ought to count for something, but it slips away so fast. I took a course in Irish for a couple of years and got relatively good at coming up with simple sentences. I had three years of Russian and got so I could converse slowly and haltingly with fellow students who also spoke slowly and haltingly and had mercifully limited vocabularies. Two years of German in which I got remarkably good grades by sitting in the back of the classroom reading novels - the one I remember to this day wasn't really a novel but Betty MacDonald's The Egg and I which was made into a movie with the divine Claudette Colbert - and then memorized the vocabulary at home and plugged it into Latin grammar. There was a year of Spanish: Deseo comida! Deseo dos hamburgesas, con lechuga y salsa de tomate! The cultural immersion was not deep. There was also the semester of Greek which seems to have left no abiding impression at all.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. St George. There's a pageant for St George in London today, the first in 425 years. The Beeb has a story on it here but there seems to be no video and only one picture. And a festival of English folk song that seems to be related. For something on the holy martyr himself, there is always the old Catholic Encyclopædia which has a longish article here. Unfortunately it's by the ever-grumpy Fr Thurston still confident in his belief that all our ancestors were liars. But he does relate the stories. You can take his opinions or leave them as you wish.

And what would St George's Day be without the roast beef of old England?

Recommendation: ignore verses 5 and 6. Instead, sing verses 3 and 4 again very loudly in their place.

ADDENDUM: For a much nicer view of St George, this one from the viewpoint of the Eastern Church, take a look at The Irenikon here.