Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
This often repeated poem about the 1605 Gunpowder plot tells the original story behind Bonfire night. In 1605, the Catholic Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament when the Protestant king James was visiting. This was one of many efforts to restore Catholicism as England’s official religion during a long and brutal conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The gunpowder plot failed and Guy Fawkes was publicly executed. King James celebrated his survival on the 5th of November every year. While this was originally an anti-Catholic event, it is now simply something to enjoy as the days get darker and colder.
Bonfire night traditions are centred around a bonfire and fireworks. Many cities host big firework displays as well as public bonfires. Traditional food includes baked potatoes, sausages and toffee apples.
Poetry is not a traditional part of bonfire night celebrations, but there are some enjoyable bonfire night poems for children. Here are two of my favourites.
The Bonfire at Night – Enid Blyton
This excellent poem is full of vivid imagery. Its couplet rhyme scheme makes it easy for even EFL students to read fluently. I particularly like how cheerful this poem is.
Bonfire, you’re a merry fellow
With your flames of red and yellow,
And your cheery cracks and pops-
You gobble up the old bean-props,
The pea-sticks, withered plants, and all
The leaves blown down beside the wall.
Your never-ending spires of smoke
(The colour of a pixy’s cloak)
Go mounting to the starry sky,
And when the wind comes bustling by
Oh, what a merry game you play,
And how you pop and roar away!
Your heart is red, your smoke is thick,
On, pile on leaves and branches quick!
Let’s dance around and shout and sing,
Oh, Bonfire, you’re a LOVELY thing!
Fireworks by John Morris (James) Reeves
This poem is equally vivid and imaginative. It has short stanzas with an ABAB rhyme scheme, making it easy to read and remember.
They rise like sudden fiery flowers
That burst upon the night,
Then fall to earth in burning showers
Of crimson, blue and white.
Like buds too wonderful to name,
Each miracle unfolds
And Catherine wheels begin to flame
Like whirling marigolds.
Rockets and Roman candles make
An orchard of the sky,
Where magic trees their petals shake
Upon each gazing eye.