Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Poetry Wednesday - A Speech

I absolutely love this from Shakespeare's Henry Vth, Act 111, Scene 1. The grand speech on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt as the king stirs his men into action. Another piece I had to learn at school. And I can still remember it!! I recall in the 60s watching the film starring a young Lawrence Olivier - we had to watch it as we were doing Henry Vth for 'O' Level. Kenneth Branagh's production many years later didn't stir the same emotions!

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 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 sheathed 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 yeoman,
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!'


  1. My but you have rearranged your blog. I do love the Daily Puppy.

    And Shakespeare is wonderful choice for poetry Wednesday

  2. Hi Bee.thank you so much for your wonderful contribution to my blog, great memories.
    My apologies for this but I find the Ken Branagh version more enjoyable. Burton never did it for me as an actor - far to wooden but an amazing voice.
    His audio version of Under Milk Wood is superb...


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