Today is known as St. Crispin’s Day. Huh? What is that?
October 25th is the annual date of the feast celebrating Christian saints – Crispin and Crispian, twins who were martyred in 286 AD. This day is also known for notable battles that occurred: the battle of Agincourt (during the Hundred Years’ War), the battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War (which included the Charge of the Light Brigade), the Battle of Shanghai (First Matabele War), among others.
St Crispin’s Day is notably featured in Shakespeare’s play Henry V in which Henry V’s speech to his troops prior to the Battle of Agincourt was dramatized. Setting: The English armies are tired and ready to quit. Yet the French armies, who outnumber the English 5 to 1, are fresh and are ready for war. King Henry had to inspire his Band of Brothers to enter the battle despite the overwhelming odds against them. His St. Crispin’s Day speech is famous for its inspiration:
WESTMORLAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin, Westmorland? No, my fair cousin;
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, Westmorland, 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 call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day, and live 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 rememb’red.
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 rememberèd-
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 accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Happy St. Crispin’s Day!