It’s Monday as I write this and it will be Tuesday when many of you read it. If I were better organized, I would have had it posted earlier in the day. . .
Like I said, it’s Monday.
Sometimes I need a little extra motivation on Mondays. Do you?
Lucky for me, today (Monday) is the 595th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, which took place on October 25, 1415.
Even though it took place a long time ago, Shakespeare immortalized this important battle in his play Henry V. When King Henry V and his band of outnumbered Englishmen are about to go “once more into the breach” of battle against the French, the king delivers a rousing speech exhorting his motley crew to think of the glory and the nobility they will attain if they defeat the French (Act IV, scene iii).
When I’m tired, or procrastinating, or just plain believing I can’t accomplish something, I re-read King Henry’s speech. And when I re-read the famous lines, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” I secretly replace the word “brothers” with “bibliophiles”. We hear so much about the death of print and so often that books are dying, that, in this age of digital media, we bibliophiles are, like King Henry’s little army, a small but happy band who seem outnumbered and surrounded by the encroaching technology of our epoch. When I read it with my — ahem — small correction, this speech makes me, like all good bibliophiles, want to preserve and promote print.
(The encroaching technology of our epoch? Yikes! When I read too much of an author like Shakespeare I subconsciously — and badly — attempt to mimic his style. I’m sorry. I just can’t help it.)
You try it. Listen to the speech and replace the word “brothers” with “bibliophiles” at the appropriate part. If you’re a bibliophile, you’ll like how it sounds.
Here’s a very inspiring performance of King Henry’s speech performed in 1989 by Kenneth Branagh. Makes me want to rally and do great things every time I hear it:
And for those who prefer to read Shakespeare rather than to see his work performed, here’s the text of most of the speech, though slightly altered from the performance above:
KING HENRY V
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 called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
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 remember’d.
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 remember’d;
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 accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
After that, I’m ready to take on the world, at least for a little while.
And now, “once more into the breach, dear friends, once more . . .”