St Crispin’s Day

601 years ago today on 25 October 1415, the original band of brothers met the French army on the field of battle near Agincourt on northern France and gave them such a drubbing that the cheers of that victory have echoed down through the years.  On that day a hungry, bedraggled, cold, and wet English army met a superior French force and virtually destroyed it.  Those in England who lay a-bed did indeed come to think themselves accursed that they were not there.  The eve of the battle is remembered by the Bard himself in Act IV, Scene 3 of Henry V in what has become one of the most famous speeches ever written in the English language.

Let us also not forget this splendid feat of English arms and take a minute to wonder, what happened to the west that such men tread the earth in fewer and fewer numbers every generation?

To my brothers who fought and shed blood with me in the deserts of Iraq and everywhere else my military career took me, I salute you on this, St Crispin’s day and declare that you too are my brother.

“If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

 

 

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