Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This Day Shall Gentle His Condition

Remember when you had to memorize something in high school? Well I do. Recently I joined the speech competition, and so now I have the St. Crispin's Day Speech running through my head at all hours of the day. It has been driving my mom crazy. When you spend so much time with a text, you tend to gain a deeper understanding of it. Everyone has heard of the famous line We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. But of all the lines of the speech, I find This day shall gentle his condition to be much more powerful. For it addresses one of the big ideas of Lent, as well as life in general. The things we as humans do, our experiences, have a profound impact on our lives. They change us in ways we can't even see. Some of them, like a battle or a marriage, are things we can easily identify as life-changing. But other things, such as meeting someone or even reading a book, are harder to see and so we must watch for them more carefully.

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.


a thinker said...

Without a doubt, one of the best speeches ever written. Right up there amoung the best.

Michelle said...

can you drive an already crazy mom crazy?

Mac said...

There are very few lieutenants of Marines who do not know--and take seriously--the St Crispin's Day exhortation.

I am an old man, but yearly on the eve of the day that we of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines refer to simply as "that night," I remember what feats we did that day. (2 Navy Crosses, one Silver Star (posthumous), and a helmetful of Bronze Stars for the sixty men of 1st and 2d Platoons of Charlie Company as they faced 600 NVA!)

Glad you are getting into the spirit--it is a speech that comes from the heart of a leader who loves and trusts his men.

Mac McCarty
LtCol, USMC (ret)

Sally Caves said...

"gentle his condition" means "raise him up into the aristocracy." ("gentle" from "gentry.") It doesn't mean "make him peaceable, nice." Henry is promising the rabble that if they fight with him, they will be equal to him, a promise he doesn't keep, obviously, when later he counts his dead, and they are all only noblemen. Yes, it is a marvelous speech, and a clever piece of propaganda.

Keith Fahey's Blog said...

Thanks, Sally. Needed that note ...