Crispin’s Day Speech

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!


9 thoughts on “Crispin’s Day Speech

  1. Hello, Tim.

    It’s storming outside and I’m afraid my in-laws’ computer’s about to fry in a surge, but before I shut it down, I wanted to thank you for every word you shared with us this past week.

    (And, of course, major props for bringing O’Connor, Shakespeare, and Tolkein into the mix:).


  2. Mary, Thanks for the props! I assume that you are a leader since you have a mother in law. Ha ha. Could you remind what church you are with? Did we meet?


  3. Tim,

    As a proud holder of an English degree, it was refreshing to hear Henry V quoted in front of the students. Thank you for sharing the Gospel with us so effectively at camp. The Crispin’s Speech is one of my favorite moments in Shakespeare, another one of my favorites within Henry V happens in Act 3 when Henry urges ”
    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, Or close the wall up with our English dead! In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger: Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. – “King Henry V”, Act 3, Scene 1

    All the Best,

    Dave Blanco


  4. Dave, that is so good man! I love that scene as well. Thanks again for receiving me so warmly. I very much felt that I was among friends last week and relished the opportunity to talk to High School students about my favorite subject. My opportunities to speak to HS students seems to be declining as I also decline in years, yet they still remain my favorite stage of humanity. For some reason, I feel that God has given me some strange ability to connect with them. I pray that never goes away.

    You said that you are a ‘proud holder of an English Degree?’ Do you teach? At different intervals I feel drawn to the classroom myself. In fact, that may be where I eventually wind up. Blessings to you!


  5. Tim,

    I am a teacher indeed. Strangely enough I am a middle school Spanish teacher. Ministry and the classroom offer numerous challenges and both professions demand a reliance on something other than yourself.

    All the best,
    Dave B.


  6. Sorry–I’m back.

    Yeah, I was a leader, with Christ Community Church. We did meet once or twice–I’m Jordan Carr’s wife. He’s the guy with the shaved head and long goat who wears metal shirts and camo cutoffs all the time. Anyway, I had a great time at camp, and I really needed it. Thanks again.


  7. Mary! Hey, of course I remember Jordan. I now have you officially placed in my memory. It was great hearing from you. In your prior comment you mentioned O’connor. Are you a Flannery fan? She is absolutely one of my favorite authors. Her stories are like big beautiful swords that plunge in your soul and violently lay siege upon the idolatrous kittens than hide mewing behind our couches. We judge them as harmless pets, but she knows how deadly they truly are and she knows just where to find them. I usually approach her work the way I approach passing a kidney stone. It’s going to hurt like crazy, but if I am ever going to feel better I must allow the stone to do its dreadful work, even when it drives me to my knees.

    On that cheerful note, Please tell Jordan I said ‘Hi’.


  8. BTW – I just read back over my comment and thought, “You know what, Tim? That kitten thing needs more clarification.” So, in regard to the ‘kittens’ be sure that I am not referring to the progeny of simple domestic house pets, but rather beautiful little idolatrous lions, tigers, and jaguars that, given enough time, will mature into full grown meat eaters; eventually identifying us as supper and tearing us to pieces at meal time.

    Flannery gets a lot of knocks from literary critics about being ‘too dark’ or ‘morbid’ because she loves to go after idols just like these, especially while they are still in their cute and cuddly stage. So her readers, in order to fully appreciate her, must remember that she is far more prophet than poet and more surgeon than gardener. She is not growing flowers, she is cutting away weeds.

    I hope that clears things up. I love kittens.


  9. Yes, I am most definitely an O’Connor fan. I like lots of the Americans from that time period, but O’Connor’s something special. Maybe it’s what she’s got in common with the Russians (my other favorites), and how she brings it home to her own very particular settings.

    Anyway, you’ve certainly hit the nail on the head. And don’t worry. I’m not about to get all up in arms in defense of some metaphorical kittens (I’m not much of a cat person anyway, but kittens are incredibly precious), although the metaphor is stronger when you’ve got the big cats in mind :).


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