Monday, April 23, 2012
St George's Day
April 23rd is the feast day of St George, Patron Saint of England. St George's name was invoked to his soldiers by Henry V in his speech on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and after the tremendous victory against all the odds St George's Day was elevated to become a feast day as important as Christmas in the English church calendar.
Today is also the anniversary of both the birth and the death of William Shakespeare so in celebration of both England's patron saint's day and of her greatest playwright I am posting these stirring words written by William Shakespeare and spoken by Henry V during the Battle of Agincourt.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit
To his full height! On, on, you noblest English!
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof;
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought,
And sheath’d their swords for lack of argument.
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and,upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England and Saint George!