Today, 25 October, is the feast of St. Crispin, the patron saint of cobblers and shoemakers --- an utterly-forgettable square on the calendar, save for the coincidence that it's also the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (1415). That coincidence in turn inspired William Shakespeare, almost two centuries later, to pen the awesome speech that King Henry V should have given to his troops before the conflict:

Enter the KING

O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

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 this 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 remembered.
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 accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

(But of course, the person who wrote that speech did far more for the world, in too many ways to count, than did any king; his words had more impact than any battle. Compare with today's politicians, reading from the teleprompter speeches ghost-written by their appointees....)

TopicLiterature - 2001-10-25

Postscriptum on Saints

St. Crispin, martyred in 287, under the reign of Diocletian. Fled, with his brother St. Crispinian, from Rome. Worked as a shoemaker in Soissons while striving to spread Christianity. The brothers were subsequently both thrown into molten lead for their efforts.

Eminently forgetable, and not in the Catholic Calendar of Saints for that matter, where 25 October is instead dedicated to St. Chrysanthus and St. Daria, patrician and wife (former priestess of Minerva), equally forgetable, martyred on unknown date. Condemned to death for their faith, they were stoned and buried alive in an old sandpit on the Via Salaria Nova.

These were in the days when admitting to (or being accused of) unauthorized faiths was in no uncertain terms hazardous to your health. -- Bo Leuf

(correlates: GentleGentlyGentling, InvisibleWriting, AntiQuaintances, ...)