Thursday, October 25

Saint Crispin's Day

Saint Crispin and his brother Crispinian were Christians who were martyred during the persecution by the Emperor Maximian in Rome. They preached to people during the day and made shoes at night in order to earn their living. Interestingly, two of England’s greatest battles were fought on the anniversary of their feast and as a result, Saint Crispin’s Day is more immediately associated with those battles than with the saints it was intended to memorialize:

On this day in 1415, England’s King Henry V defeated the overwhelming force of the French Army in the fields of Agincourt. The stunning and unexpected turn-about inspired Shakespeare’s famous monologue:

“If we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country loss;
And if to live, the fewer the men, the greater share of honor.
God’s will, I pray thee, wish not one man more.
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 today 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 abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap
Whiles any speaks that fought with us on St. Crispin’s Day.”

Then, in 1854, the Charge of the Light Brigade took place during the Crimean War. It was the climax of Battle of Balaklava. The battle which has been long regarded as one of the most famous military blunders in history--yet, provided great inspiration for the courage and tenacity of the troops.

The Light Brigade consisted of five regiments totaling 661 men. The men were ordered to attack a well-entrenched Russian force—it was a certain slaughter but due to confused communications and conflict within the officer corps, the men advanced into a withering line of fire. Amazingly, despite heavy casualties, the men achieved their objective. The charge lasted no more than 20 minutes. When the brigade was mustered afterwards, there were only 195 mounted men left.

Though the maneuver was a complete disaster, General Liprandi was deeply impressed by the stature and composure of the prisoners. The moral effect on the Russians of the discipline, courage, and resolve of the Light Brigade was immense. For the rest of the war, the Russian cavalry refused combat with the British, even when vastly superior in numbers. Long afterwards, the fact that a single, under-strength brigade of light cavalry had captured a battery of guns and driven off a far larger body of Russian horses was the admiration of Europe.

This battle too, was the inspiration for great soliloquy in English literature. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote:

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

3 comments:

Mark said...

Branagh performing Henry V - http://youtube.com/watch?v=OAvmLDkAgAM

Tennyson reading Tennyson - http://youtube.com/watch?v=EI4uydeGDmA

Tried to find Shakespeare reading Shakespeare but had less luck. ;)

Silas said...

Dr Grant, I truly enjoy reading your blogs and books. After seeing that you have a very strong grasp of Church History, I was wondering if you could recommend any sort of curriculum for Church History for 5th and 6th grade Sunday School children. I have had the opportunity to teach 5th and 6th for some time now and have become frightfully aware of how neither the children, youth, nor adults have any concept of Church History.
Your recommendation will be truly appreciated.

Silas

George said...

Silas: I really love the various tools Veritas Press has put together. Though not specifically designed for SS classes, they are very adaptable for that use.