St. Crispin’s Day & Other Heroes

Kage Baker loved Shakespeare, and England, and archeology, and heroes and sailors. She also loved staying warm, and was a devout believer in instant cocooning in the face on inclement temperature – which, for her, was anything below 70 degrees for more than half an hour at a time.

It’s a cold, grey, wet day here in Los Angeles. The first autumn rain fell this morning; the skies have refused to clear, and though the wind has dried the streets somewhat, it’s a chilly wind. It’s the kind that bites when you meet it – a nasty little terrier of a wind. Of course, the rain may be all we see for the next 6 months; you never know around here. On the other hand, it may rain until next May Day (it’s done that, too, some years) and in the meantime everything is damp and evil.

I’ve tried to spend the day in bed, but it got boring. Except for the little black cat, who keeps going outside and getting icy cold and wet, and then coming back in to shelter under the covers – which is exciting but unpleasant. So I’ve been desultorily wandering around on the Net, trying to find something to engage my interest, my creativity or at least my amusement …

Instead, I realized that today is St. Crispin’s Day! Shakespeare’s speech for Henry 5th on this day is one of the best, most rousing and beautiful hymns to desperate courage ever written. It is one of my private prayers, my reminders to not give up – whether in Lawrence Olivier’s voice or Kenneth Branagh’s, or in the various voices in which I have heard it performed at Renaissance Faires – it is one of the ultimate hero’s speeches. It burns, it sings; it makes us immortal to hear it and imagine we, too, might aspire to such heights and glories.

Appropriately enough, today I also found an article describing a marine archeology team who thinks they are about to find the encoffined body of Francis Drake.(http://tinyurl.com/3tapyya)

Captain Sir Francis Drake! Hero of England’s victory over the Spanish Armada; explorer, privateer, pirate, unflappable bowls-player … the patron hero of the English Navy, Elizabeth 1st’s private purveyor of pearls, gold and emeralds. Not to mention international scandal.

He died aboard ship, off the coast of Panama, and his crew reportedly dressed him in full armour and slid him into the sea in a lead-lined coffin. His ships were found some time ago, and now the team thinks they are close to finding the coffin itself. As Sir Henry Newbolt famously asked, “Capten, art tha sleeping there below?” Not much longer, comes the answer – instead, that stalwart sailor may be on his way home to Devon at last.

How nice, upon St. Crispin’s Day, to learn that a hero long-lost may someday soon come home! It warms the grey day. It would have all been a treasure hunt for Kage, the perfect search and delight mission for a day like this.

And just to delight the rest of you as well, Dear Readers, here is the splendid St. Crispin’s Day speech from William Shakespeare’s (not Edward DeVere or the Earl of Southampton)  Henry 5th. Enjoy, in the heroic male voice of your choice – and if you don’t have one of those available, I suggest you strike an appropriate pose and say it out loud yourself:

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

KING. 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 call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
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 Crispian’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 rememb’red.
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 accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.


About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to St. Crispin’s Day & Other Heroes

  1. Michael Horgan says:

    Always hard to get through that speech. My throat tightens, and my eyes well at the words Shakespeare wrought for the king. I think me that any man that has taken up arms in his country’s honour would feel the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexander says:

    Supposedly, if it rains on St. Crispin’s day it’s supposed to rain for the next forty days or something. 🙂

    Like

  3. Kate says:

    Alexander – isn’t that St, Swithun’s Day? His feast day is July 15th, and if it rains on that day, it’s supposed to rain for 40 days. Which makes for a soggy summer but that happens a lot in England …

    Like

  4. athene says:

    I used to be an Olivier purist, but it’s Branagh I hear these days (weird haircut imposed upon him in the movie not withstanding). I always get goosebumps at:
    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 accurs’d they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

    Like

  5. Widdershins says:

    Had to take a few breaks just reading it … not even out loud! … Thank you Bill.

    Like

  6. Tom says:

    We recorded Austrailian actor/author Jonathan Hardy reading it for us a few years back – wonderful!

    Like

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