October 25th is the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. That clash between the French army and the soldiers of King Henry V of England would be little remembered today had not Shakespeare immortalized it in one of the most famous speeches in all of English literature, a speech every young homescholar should know.
It’s called the St. Crispin’s Day Speech because October 25th happens to be, on the church calendar, the feast day of two early Christian saints, the brothers Crispin and Crispinian, the patrons of cobblers and leather-workers. In 1415, King Henry rallied his men against “fearful odds” by declaring that the feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian would never again pass, “from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be rememberèd.”
Here in the River Houses we fulfill King Henry’s prophecy every year — and you and your students can too, joining a tradition that is centuries old. Here’s one famous demonstration of how to do it:
But I think this young man’s example is even more impressive:
So on this St. Crispin’s Day 2022, the 607th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, break out your homeschool copy of Henry V, turn to Act IV, Scene iii, and read along:
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 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 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.
What Shakespearean spectacles and oratorical anniversaries are you commemorating in your homeschool this Cygnus Term? 👑
❡ They call it Agincourt: Where was this memorable speech first spoken in its original form? Why not send your students to your homeschool atlas to find out! There’s a trick to this search, however: you have to know that our modern atlas uses the modern French spelling Azincourt for the location. Once you know that, just turn to index at the back of the atlas to find the name, and the index entry will point you to the correct atlas plate and grid section. Incroyable! 🌍
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