Quote of the Day – 25 October – The Memorial of Saints Crisp in & St Crispinian – (†285 or 286) Martyrs
The feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian is 25 October. Although this feast was removed from the Roman Catholic Church’s universal liturgical calendar following the Second Vatican Council, the two saints are still commemorated on that day in the most recent edition of the Roman Martyrology. Sts Crispin and Crispinian were the first “band of brothers,” who fought bravely on the battlefield of the soul.
The historian and bishop, St Gregory of Tours (538-594) refers twice in his History of the Franks to a Basilica of Sts Crispin and Crispinian in the northern French city of Soissons, if the Church was already well-established at that time, the commemoration of the martyrs dates from much closer to their martyrdom.
The St Crispin’s Day speech was delivered on 25 October 1415 by King Henry V of England to rouse his soldiers on the morning of the Battle of Agincourt and later chronicled by William Shakespeare in his play, Henry V, in Act IV Scene iii 18–67. In the speech, which fell on Saint Crispin’s Day, Henry V urged his men — who were vastly outnumbered by the French — to recall how the English had previously inflicted great defeats upon the French.
The speech by Shakespeare has been famously portrayed by Sir Laurence Olivier to raise British spirits during the Second World War, and by Sir Kenneth Branagh in the 1989 film Henry V (see video below) and it made famous the phrase “band of brothers.” The play was written around 1600 and several later writers have used parts of it in their own texts.
Note: the text is Shakespeare’s, as the wording of Henry’s historical speech is not known.
WESTMORLAND. 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, Westmorland? No, my fair cousin,
If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
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, Westmorland, 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 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 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 rememberèd—
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.