Saturday, October 24, 2015

Henry V and St. Crispin

Tomorrow is October 25. It is the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt and it is also St. Crispin’s Day. Both of these events are tied together in William Shakespeare’s Henry V. After invading France and losing one quarter of his men, the young English king Henry finds his path blocked by the French army that outnumber him 5 to 1. In his famous speech to his men before battle Henry eludes to St. Crispin a number of times. 

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.’

 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;

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.

Then call we this the field of Agincourt,
Fought on the day of Crispin Crispianus.
Of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, we know only that they were twins, possibly only fraternal. They preached the Gospel to the Gauls, supporting themselves by working nights as shoemakers. Around the year 286, the governor Rictius Varus tried to drown them, and when that failed they were beheaded. Crispin and Crispinian are the Christian patron saints of cobblers, curriers, tanners, and leather workers. Their feast day is October 25.

This month of All Saint celebrates holiness not as a spectator sport, like fans cheering the holy souls from the bleachers and then saying, "We won!" Those who only observe from the sidelines the spiritual battles in which our culture is now engaged, would be like those who were not at Agincourt.                                                                         

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