Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

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!

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may be having a sense of deja vu here and you would be quite right as I have done this post before but it seems so appropriate that I decided to use it again. Happy St George's Day! Edited to add that I'm aware that St George is not of English origin, I suspect that he probably came to England at the time of the Crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries.


Jenny Woolf said...

The funny thing is that St George is foreign, from somewhere in the Middle east and may never have got to Britain. :) Happy St Georges Day! said...

Wonderful Post Rowan,
I love to read posts and blogs on History.
What wonderful words Shakspere wrote..
thank you .
I see that "jenny Woolf " has said that St. George is foreign. I will have to look that up.
however he is the patron st.of England.
happy day

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

I had forgotten this date was Shakespeare's Birthdate. It's my oldest son's birthday too. I just flitted over your recent sites too. So many interesting little places. So humble and beautiful.

Kentish Keg-Meg said...

Enjoyed reading this post.

Mac n' Janet said...

Happy St.George's Day. Great speech, though I think the St.Crispin Day speech is my favorite. Have you seen the movie Anonymous about who wrote Shakespeare's plays?

Patricia said...

Thanks for that Rowan. I knew St George wasn't English but not sure where from. I do think it's sad that if you ask anyone when St George's day is, most of them do not know and it's those people who are probably asking for a bank holiday to celebrate!

elaine said...

An interesting post - I enjoy learning new facts about bits of history we take for granted. I wonder why we adopted him.

Thimbleanna said...

Happy St. George's Day Rowan. I always enjoy your historical posts. I read this morning that today is thought to be Shakespeare's birthday -- the exact date isn't known, but his christening date is so they assumed he was christened when he was three days old!

Roy said...

Happy St George's Day D.
You can repeat this post every year, no problem.
St George was reputed to be a Roman Soldier of the Guard of Diocletian which was stationed in the Roman Provence of Syria Palaestina. So as he was a Roman we will claim him anyway. {:)
"England and the People"

Rosie said...

Stirring stuff! As you know I do enjoy a bit of Shakespeare. Happy St George's Day:)

Dartford Warbler said...

A stirring speech and probably quite appropriate for our current trials and tribulations!

There is a field near our village green where a battle with a dragon was said to have happened. St George, wherever he came from, seemed to be there fighting dragons wherever he was needed!

Rowan - did you catch the excellent BBC 4 programme tonight, about Shakespeare`s Jacobean Plays? It was the first of a series and the next will be next Monday evening.

Cheryl said...

A great post Rowan and one my father would love.
We always celebrated St. George's day as children.
My mother loves Shakespeare, and often quotes the first two lines.