Skip to comments.Upon Saint Crispin's Day: My Two Cents on Honoring What's Honrorable
Posted on 10/26/2007 8:37:14 AM PDT by Natty Bumppo@frontier.net
1,721 years ago, two Christian brothers in pagan Gaul were martyred. 300 years later, they were named Saints of the Catholic Church, celebrated on the 25th of October. On the Feast of Crispin and Crispinian, some of the most climactic battles in Western history have been fought: Balaklava, Leyte Gulf, Cap Finisterre. The Cuban Missile Crisis began on Crispins Day, as did the First Marxist Revolution, and the United States invaded Grenada. Pablo Picasso and Minnie Pearl were born on Crispins Day; Geoffrey Chaucer and Bat Masterson passed away.
But no one remembers Saint Crispins Day the way Will Shakespeare did, commemorating the Battle of Agincourt in his play, Henry V, with the words supposedly spoken by the young king to his vastly outnumbered knights and soldiers:
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.
One needs little imagination to picture such words being spoken to the Light Brigade, or by Admiral Nimitz, or in the wind-whipped reaches of the Bay of Biscay. Throughout the ages, October 25th has been a day for the courageous, the determined, and the outnumbered.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a-tiptoe when the day is named, and rouse him at the name of Crispian.
We used to celebrate the valiant acts of Christian martyrs, of warriors fighting a daunting cause, and of brave men and women persevering despite the odds yet we lately behave as if to acknowledge these acts is now in some way chauvinistic and unseemly. The courage and conviction that once spread Christianity across the world is now treated as some sort of intolerant aberration, even as we face religious intolerance of ever more deadly degrees. In the same way, battlefield bravery and soldierly valor are dismissed as mindless (or worse, malignant).
At what point did we stop believing in our history, legends, symbols, and causes?
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, but he will remember with advantages what feats he did that day...and Crispin Crispianus shall neer go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered.
Shakespeare suggests that all memories fade, yet some remain for all time. Certainly, the memory of Agincourt survived for more than two centuries before Shakespeare could enshrine it in couplets, and because of that, we remember it still, if as only a curious footnote to his play.
It is one of the unique chauvinisms of Western culture that we only revere our heroes if they do not revere themselves, an idea that has mutated from noble self-effacement into something far more ignoble: contempt for what is heroic, and contempt for those we should respect. Thus, we hear our President compared to genocidal dictators, our soldiers likened to storm troopers, our religious leaders called crackpots, and our scholars and scientists called liars.
We no longer respect those who act out of principle, but only those who criticize them. We do not honor Petreaus, but we fawn on the Daily Kos. We castigate the truth-speakers, and ritually enshrine the liars. Somehow, weve lost the stomach for the good fight, and have left the field, not in glory, but in apathy, spitting upon those who remain steadfast.
he which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart We would not die in that mans company that fears his fellowship to die with us.
Aye, theres the rub. When we no longer consider ourselves part of the whole, then our common heritage is longer commonly held. When a people no longer share the same standards, no standard is certain. In such a world, it actually seems possible to support the troops while actively undercutting them, and to protect the children while actively exploiting them, or love America while vilifying our leadership and each other.
Being heroic means more than being contrary, something many of our politicians have yet to learn. Persistence in unpopular principles is as often a sign of courage as of madness, something Shakespeare knew. Respecting principled persistence is a sign of wisdom, and of a culture that still has heroes.
On St Crispins Day, I am reminded that wisdom comes from both victory and defeat.
Given a choice, Id take the former.
St. Crispen’s Day Speech
William Shakespeare, 1599
Enter the KING
WESTMORELAND. 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 Westmoreland? 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, 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 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 Crispian’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 remembered-
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.
That was well written.
Sorry but somehow I fail to see the cosmic significance of that. Being as civilization is some 4,000 plus years old and there are only 365 days in most years, auspicious are all too easy to find.
Good read. Thanks for posting it.
God Bless the US Armed Forces and her allies!
Yes it was ...
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