Dan Hannan points out, entirely accurately (for a change) that:
In Catalonia, men mark St George’s Day by giving women roses, and receiving books in return.
In England, we celebrate the feast with irritable radio discussions about whether we need an English Parliament, and how to reclaim the St George’s Cross from the BNP.
There is something curiously English about soul-searching. We seem to have been embroiled in the search for an identity ever since the dawn of our history. Indeed, the first written text in Old English is the story of a hero of the Scandinavian Geats.
However, it is not difficult to find noble causes, noble aims and noble intentions in our rich heritage, and above all, common values that unite all Englishmen.
The first is our constant striving for good, and I can think of no better hymn for today than this one. Its meaning strikes me now more than ever; an apparently crystal-clear understanding of what it is to be a moral, decent, upstanding member of society in this country.
When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold;
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand,
For God and for valour he rode through the land.
No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.
Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
‘Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth.
With faith and with joy on our side, we should all take up the fight against the dragons of anger and ogres of greed: their continued existence and dominance is to our detriment as a people.
Let us not forget that the 23rd April also marks the birth and death of our finest son: the man who almost single-handedly gave us the language that has risen to be the chosen tongue of some of the finest writing, poetry, song, drama and oratory in recorded history: the English language. So who better to remind us of the abundant richness of the land that informed his work?
“This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”
(Richard II – Act 2 Scene 1)
To one and all, a Happy St. George’s Day.