Poetry Breakfast – St. Crispin’s Day Speech (Henry V)

One last Poetry Breakfast entry. I wrote this about midway through the month of doing these, and knew then that I would save this for the final entry. I had great fun writing these. When I started out, I was able to keep a few days ahead of my publishing schedule. Alas, a combination of work travel and a lack of source material (hey, my knowledge of poetry isn’t THAT deep) and the well ran dry on me. Maybe I’ll do another month of these next year, if I can line up some good poems between now and then.

This remains one of my favorite passages of all time. The speech is from Shakespeare, from Henry V – Act 4, Scene 3 – as King Henry is spurring on the troops, weary from slogging across France in horrible weather, for the Battle of Agincourt. The actual passage is a bit longer; this comes from Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 movie adaptation (). I remember clearly where I was when I heard this – junior year of high school, second semester, British Lit – and to this day the scene gives me chills.

Through the power of YouTube, you can see the scene below. It loses a bit of oomph without the context of the rest of the film – which I highly recommend watching – but it’s pretty awesome nonetheless.

(Note – St. Crispin’s Day is October 25th. After writing this, I urge anybody reading this to gather friends together on that day and share a meal. It might have helped if I published this two months ago, but hey.)

St. Crispin’s Brunch Speech
regrets to Shakespeare and Kenneth Branagh

What’s he that wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland?
No, my fair cousin. If we are fit to dine,
we are enough to do our hunger proud.
And if to eat, the fewer eggs, the greater share of bacon!
God’s will, I pray thee, wish not one diner more.
Rather, proclaim it, Westmoreland, to the table,
that he which has no stomach for this meal…
let him depart.
His tab shall be paid,
and cash for the valet put into his purse.
We would not dine in that man’s company
that fears his fellowship to dine with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian.
He that partakes of this meal, and comes safe home,
will stand at tiptoe when this meal is named
and rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall eat this day and live old age
will yearly, on the vigil, feed his neighbors
and say, “tomorrow is Saint Crispin’s.”
Then will he lift his shirt and show his gut
and say, “this weight I gained on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget, yet all shall be forgot
but he’ll remember with advantages what foods he ate that day.
Then shall their names, familiar in their mouths as household words -
Pigs in a Blanket,
Bacon and Sausages,
Omelettes and French Toast,
Orange Juice and Coffee –
be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
These dishes shall a good man teach his son.
Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
from this day to the ENDING OF THE WORLD,
but we diners shall be remembered.
We few,
we happy few,
we band of brothers.
For he today that eats his fill with me shall be my brother.
Be he ne’er so full, this day shall strengthen his appetite.
And gentlemen who stayed home still in bed
shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
and HOLD THEIR MANHOODS CHEAP
whilst any speaks that dined with us
upon Saint Crispin’s Day!

St. Crispin’s Day Speech
Shakespeare Henry V, from the Kenneth Branagh movie
Source: http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/h/henry-v-script-transcript-branagh.html

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 one man 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 called
the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day
and comes safe home…
will stand at tiptoe
when this day is named…
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 neighbors…
and say, “tomorrow
is Saint Crispin’s.”
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 their mouths as household words…
Harry the king,
Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot,
Salisbury and Gloucester…
be in their flowing cups
freshly remembered.
This story shall
a good man teach his son.
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 today 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 abed…
shall think themselves accursed
they were not here…
and hold their manhoods cheap…
whilst any speaks
that fought with us…
upon Saint Crispin’s day!