According to the story, twin brothers, Crispin and Crispinian, were martyred around AD 286. October 25 commemorates St. Crispin’s Day, even though it has long fallen from observance. On this same day in 1415, the Battle of Agincourt was fought between the English and the French, and this battle was commemorated in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
It is a famous scene in literary history. It is often quoted in a secular sense, but today, I want to take in this scene, but from a spiritual perspective. King Henry’s men are few; many have succumbed to sickness or mortal wounds. They are very far from home, and his friend, Westmoreland, shares his fear with the King:
O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
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.
“How much can you possibly know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” Tyler Durden asks in Fight Club. I’ll extend the thought…”How much could you possibly know about your brother if you’ve never fought, shoulder to shoulder, against a common foe?”
For those of us who have chosen to show up, to gear up, and to put up our dukes, our shields and our weapons, there is a brotherhood that is beyond measure. I recently had the privilege of going to battle with some brothers, in prayer, for another brother. It was hot and heavy. The battle was fierce. The fight was exhausting. But, it was a victory. And I am the richer for having fought alongside those men. I got to see them live out their “special ops” roles in action. I got to see God empower these men for His purpose, His mission. I got to see how uniquely equipped each man was for the task at hand. I got to see a side of them, and they of me, that their loved ones may have not yet seen. It was intimacy on a scale rarely experienced.
For you who were there, moments like that make me long for the fight. Bring it. For those of you who are transitioning into maturity, I look forward to fighting together when you receive your marching orders.
“…and gentlemen in the Church, now at rest, shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks, that fought immortal foes with us…”