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April 23.

St. George. St. Adalbert, Bp. A.D. 997. St. Gerard, Bp. A.D. 994. St. Ibar, or Ivor, Bp. in Ireland, about 500.

Patron of England.

Who was St. George? Butler says that the Greeks long distinguished him by the title of "The Great Martyr;" that, among other churches, five or six were formerly dedicated to him at Constantinople; that he "seems" to have been the founder of the church of St. George over "his tomb" in Palestine; that one of his churches in Constantinople gave to the Hellespont the name of "the Arm of St. George;" that he is honoured as principal patron of saints by several eastern nations, particularly "the Georgians;" that the Byzantine historians relate battles gained, and miracles won, by his intercession; that he was celebrated in France in the sixth century; that his office is found in the sacramentary of the (credulous) pope Gregory the Great; that certain of his (presumed) relics were placed in a church at Paris, on its consecration to St. Vincent; that "he is said to have been a great soldier;" that he was chosen by our ancestors the tutelar saint of England, under the first Norman kings; that the council at Oxford in 1222, commanded his feast to be kept a holiday of the lesser rank; that under his name and ensign our Edward III. instituted the most noble order of knighthood in Europe; that this institution was fifty years before that of St. Michael by Louis XI. of France, eighty years before the order of the Golden Fleece by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, one hundred and ninety years before that of St., Andrew by James I. of Scotland, and one hundred and forty years before the order of St. George by the emperor Frederick IV.; and that "the extraordinary devotion of all Christendom to this saint is an authentic proof how glorious his triumph and name have always been in the church." Still who was St. George?

St. George and the Dragon.

It is related of St. George,*[1] that he arrived at a city of Lybia called Sylene. Near this city was a stagnant lake or pond like a sea, wherein dwelt a dragon, who was so fierce and venomous, that he terrified and poisoned the whole country. The people therefore assembled to slay him; but when they saw him, his appearance was so horrible, that they fled. Then the dragon pursued them even to the city itself, and the inhabitants were nearly destroyed by his very breath, and suffered so much, that they were obliged to give him two sheep every day to keep him from doing them harm. At length the number of sheep became so small, that they could only give him one sheep every day, and they were obliged to give him a man instead of the other: at last, because all the men might not be eaten up, a law was made that they should draw lots to give him the youth and infants of all ranks, and so the dragon was fed with young gentlefolks and poor people's children, till the lot fell upon the king's daughter. Then the king was very sorry, and begged the people to take his gold and silver instead of his daughter, which the people would not accept, because it was according to his own law; and the king wept very much, and begged of the people to give the princess eight days before she should be given to the dragon to be devoured, and the people constented. And when the eight days were gone, the king caused his daughter to be richly dressed as if she were going to her bridal, and having kissed her, he gave her his blessing, and the people led her to where the dragon was. St. George had just come; when he was the princess, and demanding why she was there, she answered, "Go your way, fair young man, that you perish not also." Then again St. George demanded the reason of her being there, and why she wept, and endeavoured to comfort her; and when she saw he would not be satisfied, she told him. Upon this St. George promised to deliver her; but she could not believe he had power to do her so great a service, and therefore again begged him to go away. And while they were talking the dragon appeared, and began to run towards them; but St. George being on horseback, drew his sword and signed himself with the cross, and rode violently, and smiting the dragon with his spear, wounded him so sorely that he threw him down. Then St. George called to the princess, to bind her girdle about the dragon's neck, and not to be afraid; and when she had done so, "the dragon followed as it had been a meke beest and debonayre;" and she led him into the city, which when the people saw, they fled for fear to the mountains and vallies, till, being encouraged by St. George, they returned, and he promised to slay the dragon if they would believe and be baptized. Then the king was baptized, with upwards of 15,000 men, besides women and children, and St. George slew the dragon, and cut off his head; and the people took four carts and drew the body with oxen out of the city; and the king built a church, and dedicated it to our Lady and St. George.—"This blyssyd & holy martyr saynt George, is patron of this realme of englond, & the crye of men of warre. In the worshyp of whom is founded the noble ordre of the gartre, & also a noble college in the castel of wyndsore by kynges of englonde, in whiche college is the hert of saint George, which Sygysmond the emperour of almayne *[2] brought, & gave it for a grete & precyous relyke to kynge Henry the fyfth; & also the sayd Sygismond was a broder of the said garter, & also there is a pece of his heed."

Butler informs us, that St. George, was born in Cappadocia; that he went with his mother into Palestine, of which country she was a native, where she had a considerable estate, "which fell to her son George," who was a soldier, and became "a tribune or colonel in the army," wherein he was further promoted by the emperor Dioclesian, to whom he resigned his commissions and posts when that emperor waged war against the christian religion, and who threw him into prison for remonstrating against bloody edicts, and caused him to be beheaded. This is all that Butler relates of him, and this on the authority of what he calls "the account given to us by Metaphrastes." According also to Butler, St. George became the patron of the military because he had been military himself, and his apparition encouraged "the christian army in the holy war before the battle of Antioch," which proved fortunate under Godfrey of Bouillon; and also because his apparition inspirited Richard I. in his expedition against the Saracens. "St. George," says Butler, "is usually painted on horseback, and tilting at a dragon under his feet; but this is no more than an emblematical figure, purporting that, by his faith and christian fortitude, he conquered the devil, called the dragon in the Apocalypse." This is very easily said, but not so easily proved, nor has Butler in any way attempted to prove it. To this assertion may be opposed the fact, that St. Michael is also represented killing a dragon; and the present writer presumes to think, that unless there be any valid objection to mounting an angel on horseback, the well-known legend of this archangel supplies the clue to the pictorial representation of St. George; or, in plain words, that St. George and the dragon are neither more nor less that St. Michael contending with the devil. Concerning this device, however, more cannot be observed without excluding curious particulars.

There are many old ballads in honour of the patron saint of England and his feat. The ballad of "St. George and the Dragon," which is not the oldest, begins with the first and ends with the last of the following verses, and places him above sir Bevis of Hampton, and other heroes of mighty doings in our old romances.

Why whould we boast of Arthur and his Knights,
Knowing how many Men have performed Fights?
Or why should we speak of Sir Lancelot de Lake,
Of Sir Tristram du Leon, that fought for Ladies Sake?
Read in old stories, and there you shall see,
How St. George, St. George, he made the Dragon flee.

St. George he was for England, St. Dennis was for France;
Sing Honi soit qui mal y pense.

*             *             *             *             *

Mark Anthony, I'll warrant ye, play'd Feats with Ægypt's Queen;
Sir Eglemore, that valiant Knight, the like was never seen;
Grim Gorgon's Might was known in Fight; old Bevis most Men frighted;
The Mirmidons and Prester Johns; why were not these Men knighted?
Brave Spinola took in Breda, Nassau did it recover;
But St. George, St. George, turn'd the Dragon over and over.

St. George he was for England, St. Dennis was for France;
Sing Honi soit qui mal y pense.*[3]

This latter verse is a modern interpolation. Percy gives a purer version of the old ballad.† [4]

In the romance of the "Seven Champions of Christendom," St. George's performances exceed that of the other champions; the ballad, bearing the same title, distinguishes him in like manner, and it is there sung, that in his fight with the dragon,

When many hardy Strokes he'd dealt,
   And could not pierce his Hide,
He run his Sword up to the Hilt,
   In at the Dragon's Side;
By which he did his Life destroy,
   Which cheer'd the drooping King;
This caus'd an universal Joy,
   Sweet Peals of Bells did ring.‡[5]

Saint George was the ancient English war-cry.§[6] Shakespeare so uses it in his "Richard III." He makes Richmond conclude his address to his soldiery, with

Sound, drums and trumpets, bold and cheerfully,
God and Saint George, Richmond and victory.

So also Richard, after he receives the news of Stanley's defection, exclaims,

Advance our standards, set upon our foes!
Our ancient word of courage, fair Saint George,
Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons!
Upon them!

In the 10th year of king Henry VII. the Irish were prohibited from using their favourite battle-cry of Aboo, or Aber. Every native of that country was enjoined against using that word, or "other words like or otherwise contrary to the king's laws, his crown and dignity and peace, but to call on St. George, or the name of his Sovereign Lord, the King of England, for the time being," &c.*[7] There is also this injunction to the English in an old art of war: "Item that all souldiers entering into battaile, assault, skirmish, or other faction of armes, shall have for their common cry and word, St. George forward, or Upon them St. George, whereby the soldier is much comforted, and the enemie dismaied by calling to minde the ancient valour of England, which with that name has so often been victorious."† [8] So much for the present concerning St. George.

His majesty, king George IV., who was born on the 12th of August, changed the annual celebration of his birth-day to St. George's-day.

The mail-coaches, according to annual custom on the king's birth-day, go in procession from Millbank to Lombard-street. At about twelve o'clock, the horses belonging to the different mails, with new harness, and the postmen and postboys on horseback, arrayed in their new scarlet coats and jackets, proceed from Lombard-street to Millbank, and there dine. At this place the coaches are fresh painted; from thence the procession being arranged begins to move about five o'clock in the afternoon, headed by the general postmen on horseback. The mails follow them, filled with the wives and children, friends and relations, of the coachmen and guards; while the postboys sounding their bugles and cracking their whips, bring up the rear. From the commencement of the procession the bells of the different churches ring out merrily, and continue their rejoicing peels till it arrives at the General Post-office in Lombard-street, from whence they sparkle abroad to all parts of the kingdom. Great crowds assemble to witness the cavalcade as it passes through the principal streets of the metropolis, viz. Parliament-street, the Strand, Fleet-street, Ludgate-hill, St. Paul's church-yard, and Cheapside. The clean and cheerful appearance of the coachmen and guards, each with a large bouquet of flowers in his bright scarlet coat, the beauty of the cattle, and the general excellence of the equipment, present a most agreeable spectacle to every eye and mind, that can be gratified by seeing and reflecting on the advantages derived to trade and social intercourse by this magnificent establishment.

On the same day the Society of Antiquaries, by their charter of incorporation, meet at their apratments in Somerset-place, to elect a president, council, and other officers for the year ensuing, and dine together, according to annual custom.


1616. Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra, the celebrated Spanish author, died. Cervantes was born in 1549; he is best known in England by his "Don Quixote," which has rendered him popular throughout Europe.

1616. On the same day with Cervantes in Spain, Shakespeare died in England. It was the anniversary of his birthday, whereon he had completed the fifty-second year of his age. Who is qualified to prasie him, whose supereminent genius all men acknowledge and reverence? To his greatness he added a quality it is seldom allied with. "No man had ever fewer enemies alive or dead; and this is the more remarkable as he was himself prone to parody, and must therefore have mortified many of his contemporaries." * [9]

Goodness and he fill up one monument.

Shakspeare's Jest Book.

Under this title a book was reprinted in 1815, from one lately discovered bearing the title of

¶ A. C. Mery Talys.

Referring to the preface of the reprint for its value in support of the opinion corroborated by other reprints, that Shakspeare was destitute of the learning attributed to him by some writers, an extract (with the spelling modernized) is taken from it as a specimen of the wit, and morals which amused our ancestors:

Of the woman that followed her fourth husband's bier and wept.

A woman there was which had four husbands. It fortuned also that her fourth husband died and was brought to church upon the bier, whom this woman followed, and made great moan, and waxed very sorry, insomuch that her neighbours thought she would swoon and die for sorrow; wherefore one of her gossips came to her and spake to her in her ear, and bade her for God's sake comfort herself and refrain that lamentation, or else it would hurt her, and peradventure put her in jeapardy of her life. To whom this woman answered and said "I wys good gossip I have great cause to mourn if ye knew all, for I have buried three husbands beside ths man, but I was never in the case that I am now, for there was not one of them but when that I followed the corse to church, yet I was sure of another husband, before the corse came out of my house; and now I am sure of no other husband, and therefore ye may be sure I have great cause to be sad and heavy."

By this tale ye may see, that the old proverb is true, that it is as great a pity to see a woman weep, as a goose to go barefoot.

If the moral deduced by the story-teller from the tale just related is satirical on the sex, it should be remembered, that he wrote at a period when jokes were homely, and less felt than in our refined times. To talk now of "no joke like a true joke" is scarcely passable, unless the application be in itself true, and then it is no longer a joke.


A resident on the banks of the Thames at Kingston observes, that when the swan flies any distance against the wind, however serene and fine the weather may appear, a wind, amounting almost to a hurricane, is always certain to ensue within twenty-four hours afterwards, and generally within twelve. If they fly with the wind, which rarely occurs, it seems to be merely for their amusement, or for reading some certain spot in a quicker way than floating down the tide, and in this case no change takes place. The gale is usually unaccompanied by wet, though sometimes a heavy shower will be brought up with it.* [10]


According to our old works on husbandry, we have many prognostics of rain from the motions of animals. One of them observes thus: "In a herd of cows, as they are on their march towards their pastures in a morning, if the bull lead the van, and keep back his company that they go not before him, it is a prognostic of rainy or tempestuous weather; but if he be careless and let them go at random, the contrary. Or if they eat more than ordinary, or lick their hoofs all about, rain follows forthwith. If they run to and fro, flinging and kicking, and extending their tails, tempests usually follow."* [11]

The same writer says that, "If the swallow fly low, and near the waters, it presageth rain: the coming of the swallow is a true presage of the spring." It has been already remarked, that the 15th of April, from the usual appearnce of this remarkable bird about that time, is called "swallow-day."

The Swallow.

The preceding engraving is copied from one which illustrates a scientific and agreeable investigation concerning the harbinger of spring, by Dr. Forster; from which dissertation the following interesting particulars are also derived.† [12]

The swallow makes its first appearance in Great Britain, early in spring; remains with us during summer, and disappears in autumn. The four species which inhabit this island, are also found during summer, in almost every other region in Europe and Asia, where their manners and habits are nearly the same as in this country. In the more southern parts of the Continent, they appear somewhat earlier than in England. The distinguishing marks of the swallow tribe are—a small bill, a wide mouth; a head rather large in proportion to the bulk of the body, and somewhat flattish; a neck scarcely visible; a short, broad, and cloven tongue; a tail mostly forked; short legs; very long wings; a rapid and continued flight.

The house or Chimney Swallow, hirundo rustica, (figured above) is the most common, as well as the best known. Its length is about six inches, its breadth from tip to tip of the wings, when extended, about twelve inches; the upper parts of its body and wings are black; the under parts whitish ash-colour; the head black; the forehead and chin marked with a red spot; the tail very much forked. It generally arrives earlier than the rest of its genus, and mostly before the middle of April. It builds its nest in chimnies, at the distance of about a foot from the top, or under the roofs of barns and outhouses, has commonly two broods in the year, and usually disappears in the latter end of September, or beginning of October. Like all birds of the swallow tribe, it is perpetually on the wing, and lives upon insects, which it catches flying. It has been calculated from the velocity of this bird on the wing, and its flight in the air for fourteen or fifteen hours together, in search of food, that it flies from two to three hundred miles in that time. As previously observed by an early writer, before rain it may often be seen skimming round the edge of a lake or river, and not unfrequently dipping the tips of its wings, or under part of its body into the water, as it passes over its surface. Dr. Forster cites Aratus and Virgil in corroboration, that ancient authors had observed the same fact. He describes the Martin, or Martlett, hirundo urbica, as being rather less than the swallow, and as easily distinguishable from it, by the bright white colour of all the under parts of the body. This species usually makes its first appearance early in May, though sometimes sooner, and leaves us towards the latter end of October. It builds under the eaves of houses, in crags of rocks and precipices near the sea, has oftentimes three broods in the year, and constructs its curious nest like that of the swallow, with mid and straw, lined with feathers on the inside. He says that the Swift, hirundo apus, is the largest of the genus, being seven inches in length, and nearly eighteen in breadth, when its wings are extended, and that it is of a sooty black colour, with a whitish spot on its breast. It arrives towards the middle of May, and departs about the middle of August. It builds in holes of rocks, in ruined towers, and under the tiling of houses; and has only one brood in the year. He observes of the Bank or Sand Martin, hirundo riparia, that it is the smallest of the genus, is of a disky brown colour above, and whitish beneath; and that it builds its nest in holes, which it bores in banks of sand, and is said to have only one brood in the year.

No subject has more engaged the attention of naturalists, in all ages, than the brumal retreat of the swallow; neither is there any subject on which more various and contrary opinions have been entertained. Some have supposed that they retire at the approach of winter to the inmost recesses of rocks and mountains, and that they there remain in a torpid state until spring. Others have conjectured that these birds immerse themselves in the water at the approach of winter, and that they remain at the bottom in a state of torpidity, until they are again called forth by the influence of the vernal sun. Dr. Forster admits that there are several instances on record of their having been found in such situations, clustered together in great numbers, and that, on being brought before the fire they have revived and flown away. But he thinks that few of the accounts were well authenticated; and that the celebrated John Hunter and Mr. Pearson clearly prove, from various experiments, that these birds cannot continue long under water without being drowned. The doctor does not deny that swallows have occasionally been found under water; but he attributes their having been found in such situations to mere accident. As it is well known that, towards the latter end of autumn, swallows frequently roost by the sides of lakes and rivers; he therefore supposes that a number of these birds had retired to roost on the banks of some shallow and muddy river at low tide; that they had been induced by the cold to creep among the reeds or rushes which might grow in the shallow parts of the river, and that while in that situation, driven into a state of torpidity by the cold, they had been overwhelmed, and perhaps washed into the current, by the coming in of the tide. He alludes to occasional instances of other birds besides swallows having been found in a state of torpor during winter, and imagines that fishermen had availed themselves of the coming in of the tide to catch fish, and that the swallows, before supposed to have been carried into the current, coming in contact with their nets, were consequently drawn out by them, and, not having been long under water, were not completely drowned. There are several circumstances which seem to favour the opinion, that these birds remain concealed during winter in this country. Among others, the most striking is, that swallows, hirundines rusticae, as well as martins, hirundines urbicae, have sometimes appeared very late in autumn, a considerable time after they were all supposed to have taken their departure; and that they have likewise been found concealed in the crevices of rocks, in holes of old decayed trees, in old ruined towers, and under the thatch of houses. Dr. Forster further presumes, that those birds, which have been found in a state of torpidity, had, owing to some accident, been hatched later in the year than ordinary, and consequently had not acquired sufficient strength to undergo the fatigue of a long journey upon the wing, at the time when the migration of the rest of their species took place; and that to shelter themselves from the inclemency of the weather, they had sought retreats wherein, from cold and hunger, they had sunk into a state of torpidity. "For several years past," says Dr. Forster, "I have observed that chimney swallows have appeared first in cold weather. I have sometimes seen them as early as April the 2d, when the mercury in the thermometer has been below the freezing point. On the other hand, I have often taken notice, that during a continuance of mild weather for the space of a fortnight, in the month of April, not so much as one swallow has appeared." He remarks, that towards the latter end of September, swallows, as well as martins, congregate in great numbers, and are frequently seen sitting on the tops of houses, and on rocks near the sea. These meetings usually continue for several days, after which they suddenly disappear. They seldom perch on trees, except in autumn, shortly provious to their disappearance, and they then choose dead trees in preference. They sometimes sit on trees earlier in summer, when the weather has been very cold.

Swifts begin to assemble in large bodies previous to their departure, early in July: their numbers daily increase, and they soar higher in the air, with shriller cries, and fly differently from their usual mode. Such meetings continue till towards the middle of August, after which they are seldom seen. Sand martins likewise flock together in autumn. Some years ago they appeared in great numbers in London and its neighbourhood. Dr. Forster clearly shows that swallows are birds of passage, and produces the accounts of mariners, who had seen these birds many hundred miles out at sea, and on whose ships they had alighted to rest, almost exhausted with fatigue and hunger. By this means we may be enabled, in some measure, to determine to what quarter of the globe they retire, when they leave Europe in autumn. Adanson, in his "Voyage to Senegal," relates, that on the 6th of October, being about fifty leagues from the coast, between the island of Goree and Senegal, four swallows alighted on the shrouds of his ship, which he easily caught, and knew to be European swallows. He adds, that they never appear at Senegal, until the winter season, and that they do not build nests as in Europe, but roost every night on the sand by the sea shore. Sir Charles Wager, first lord of the admiralty, relates, that in one of his voyages home, as he came into soundings of our channel, a great flock of swallows settled on his rigging: every rope was covered with them: they hung on one another like a swarm of bees: the decks and carvings were filled with them: they seemed spent and famished, and, to use his own expression, were only feathers and bones; but, recruited with a night's rest, they resumed their flight in the morning. A similar circumstance happened to captain Wright, in a voyage from Philadelphia to London.

There are many anecdotes of sagacity in these birds. For several years some swallows had built their mud habitations in the window frames of a house at Beaumaris, in Anglesea. These dry, comfortable, and protected abodes, were envied by the less favoured sparrows of the same place, who embraced the opportunity (while the unsuspected swallows were skimming o'er the wide bosom of the main) and confidently took possession, thinking also to establish an undoubted settlement by depositing their eggs; the swallows finding their rightful mansions engrossed by other tenants, seemed reconciled to the ejectement; but to the astonishment of the lady residing in the house, no sooner had the sparrows hatched their young, than the swallows gather all their forces and plastered up the entrance of the nest containing the old sparrow and her brood, where they perished.

In most parts of the country, martins and swallows are considered sacred birds, and to kill one is deemed a greater sin than the killing of other equally harmless birds. Children of all ages in the counties of Berks, Buckingham, and Oxford, repeat the following couplet, which if not taught, is always sanctioned by their parents:

The Martin and the Swallow,
Are God Almighty's birds to hollow.


Harebell. Hyacinthus non scriptus.
Dedicated to St. George.


Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. In the Golden Legend. [return]

2. Germany. [return]

3. Collection of Old Ballads, 3 vols. [return]

4. In his Reliques. [return]

5. Coll. Old Ballads. [return]

6. Fosbroke's Dict. Antiq., Crabbe's Techn. Dict. &c. [return]

7. Brady's Clavis Coll. [return]

8. Nare's Glossary, from Warton, &c. which Glossary also see further concerning St. George. [return]

9. Mr. Gifford, Life of Ben Jonson. [return]

10. Athenæum. [return]

11. Worlidge's Mystery of Husbandry. [return]

12. Observations on the Brumal Retreat of the Swallow, by Thos. Forster, F. L. S. &c. fifth edit. 1817. 8vo. [return]