Today is St Crispin’s Day. It is the feast day of the Christian saints Crispin and Crispinian.
It is a day most famous for the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, dramatised by William Shakespeare in Henry V in which Henry inspired his much outnumbered English forces to fight the French saying “the fewer men, the greater share of honour”. He calls the soldiers who would fight on the day a “band of brothers”.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother…
…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.
I am not much into fighting but the speech is very rousing and emotional. In each one of us is an instinct for war and a good old fight. It is our survival embedded in our DNA. Our immune systems are primed to rid us of invaders and we are ourselves primed to fight to defend a loved one or to win in sport.
This is our warrior spirit – very useful at times if you need to rouse it up to push though projects, kick a goal or climb a mountain. But of course we give up acting on much of our instincts for fighting as the frontal lobe, our thinking brain, thankfully takes over from our more primitive brain and says “oh well no point getting involved in such silliness” or “no point losing your temper over such things”.
So we back-pedal for the most part. Seriously – what’s the point? We only stress ourselves out if our ego needs to be right, or needs to feel separate from others so we argue and gesture to try and feel important about our place in life. This society we have created doesn’t require it. Just not necessary. Step aside and all will be good. The French aren’t that bad after all. Just chill out and have some delicious cheese.
But I still love that speech, saying it to myself from time to time to rouse my spirit. And I always do so on St Crispin’s day.