I love the Crispin’s Day Speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. It gives me so much hope. Several years ago, after once again watching Kenneth Branagh’s version of the play, I memorized Crispin’s Day. Ever since, whenever I get depressed and start losing hope, I imagine Christ giving me this speech, reminding me of the day that is coming, when His Kingdom will reign visibly and gloriously upon the earth. How could I turn back? Just like Peter, I agree that Christ alone has the words of life. Where else could we go?
The setting of the Crispin’s Day Speech finds King Harry and his men in dire straits. In the long journey to meet the French on the fields of Agincourt, just before Harry delivers his address, he overhears his cousin, Westmoreland, wishing that the English army could be fortified with more troops from home. Not only were the English tired, hungry, and depleted from previous battles, but they were now facing a French opponent that outnumbered them 5 to 1. Henry responded to Westmoreland by spurning the idea that they needed more troops. In his address to the men, Henry appealed to his men’s sense of honor and loyalty, declaring that if any man wanted to leave, he would pay them to do so. He would not die in that man’s company that feared the fellowship of dying together with him.
In the same way, Christ also calls us to follow Him, to engage in a battle where the only thing we are promised is the glory and joy of fighting beside our Sovereign King; a King who will never leave us and never forsake us. Just like Henry’s men, may we respond to Jesus’ clarion call – ‘He who wishes to gain his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for the sake of Christ, will most assuredly find it.’
Click below to hear my version of the speech and to read the speech as it is written:
Here’s my version (My version pales in comparison – haha! Kenneth Branah is awesome!):
St. Crispin’s Day Speech
What’s he that wishes so, my cousin Westmoreland?
No my fair cousin. If we are marked to die,
we are enough to do our country loss.
And if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honor.
God’s Will I pray thee, wish not a man from England.
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 honor, I am the most offending soul alive.
God’s Peace! I would not lose so great an honor
as one man more methinks would share from me for the best hope I have
No, faith my dear cousin, wish not one man more
Rather, proclaim it Westmoreland, throughout my host
That he which has no stomach to this fight, let him depart, his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy placed into his purse
We would not die in that man’s company that fears his fellowship to die with us
This day is called Crispian. The Feast of St. Crispian.
He that outlives this day and comes safe home will stand a tip toe when this day is named
And rouse himself at the name of Crispian
Yes, He that shall live this day and see old age will yearly, on the vigil,
feast his neighbors and say, “Tomorrow is St. Crispian.”
Then shall he strip his sleeves 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 their mouths as household words…
Harry the King, Bedford and Exetor, Warrick and Tolbot, Salisbury and Gloster
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember-ed
This story shall a good man teach his son, and Crispin Crispian shall n’er go by from this day ‘til the ending of the age, but we in it shall be remembered.
We few. We happy few. We band of brothers…
For he that sheds his blood with me this day, shall be my brother, be he n’er so vile,
this day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen now abed in England will think themselves accursed they were not here And hold their manhoods cheap,
Whilst any speaks, that fought with us, upon St. Crispin’s Day!