Sunday, October 20, 2013

ELM (part 3) - St. Crispin's Day Battles in English History and Literature

Wikipedia - Martyrdom of Saints Crispin and Crispinian

October 25th 

This date has been celebrated as St. Crispin's Day

Saints Crispin and Crispinian are the patron saints of cobblers, tanners. and leather workers.  Some accounts give they were brothers.  In the tradition of St. Paul, they were Christian missionaries in Gaul and made shoes to support themselves.  Later, they were martyred for their faith on October 25, 285 or 286.  [reference:  CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Sts. Crispin and Crispinian]

And this holy feast day on October 25th marks battles of English history retold in its literature.

*  One a great victory against all odds

*  The other an agonizing defeat because of the odds

Let's take a look at the wars, the battles, and the literature for each case.

First, the Great Victory

The War:  The Hundred Years War

This was a series of conflicts between two kingdoms - England and France - over control for the French throne.  It lasted from 1337 to 1453 - more than a hundred years by my reckoning. (Sigh!)  [reference: BBC - History - British History in depth: The Hundred Years War]

The Battle:  The Battle of Agincourt

The Date:  October 25, 1415 - St. Crispin's Day

The battle was a great victory for Henry V of England as his army, greatly outnumbered, crippled France.  The French lost almost 6,000 and the English, just a little over 400.  So King Henry won one of the greatest military victories in history. [reference: Battle of Agincourt — This Day in History — 10/25/1415]

The Story Teller:  William Shakespeare

Playwright, poet [reference:  William Shakespeare Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story -

The Literary Work:  Henry V

This play most likely written in 1599 telling the story of King Henry V of England, focusing on events before and after the Battle of Agincourt.  [reference:  William Shakespeare's Henry V]

One of the most well known parts is ...

Henry V's Saint Crispin's Day Speech. 

 Below is a clip:

For the text:  SCENE III. The English camp.

From this scene we get the phrase ...

 * Band of Brothers *

As a footnote:  Such was the title of the HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers, taken from the Stephen Ambrose book - telling the story of Easy company who fought in World War II.

Next, the Agonizing Defeat

The War:  The Crimean War

This war from 1853-1856 pitted Russia against the Ottoman Empire, which found allies with Britain and France.  Most of the fighting took place to control the Black Sea with land battles on the Crimean peninsula south of Russia - hence its name.  [reference:  Crimean War (Eurasian history [1853-56]) -- Encyclopedia Britannica]

As a footnote:  Perhaps, the most famous person that emerged from this war was a woman - Florence Nightingale  - whose service and writing greatly improved the care of wounded soldiers as well as reforms in health care.

The Battle:  The Battle of Balaclava - The Charge of the Light Brigade

The Date:  October 25, 1854 - St. Crispin's Day

A strategic loss, much has been written about the blunders and bravery in this battle.  The Light Brigade was intended to pursue and harass retreating Russian artillery, but due to mis-communication the brigade was ordered into a suicidal frontal assault into the wrong artillery battery, which was in a well prepared defensive position.  [reference:  The Battle of Balaclava - Crimean War - Charge of the Light Brigade]

The result was a slaughter!  (278 of the 600 killed or wounded.) The journalists reported the story back to London where the battle recounted in The Times became a national scandal.

The Story Teller:  Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Poet, Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland  [reference:  Alfred, Lord Tennyson : The Poetry Foundation]

The Literary Work:  The Charge of the Light Brigade

Tennyson wrote the poem a few minutes after reading the account in The Times. It told of the extraordinary bravery of British soldiers in face of enemy fire in spite of poor leadership.   [reference: Charge of the Light Brigade]

The poem is read below:

For the text:  The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson : The Poetry Foundation

The Summary of it all:

*  Two battles - 450 years apart on St. Crispin's Day
*  Two epic pieces of literature - one a play, the other a poem
*  Two accounts of valor and bravery - one a victory against the odds, the other a defeat because of the odds

This is the stuff stories are made of 
so told in this part of English, Literature, and Musings (ELM)....


Previous posts on this series:

ELM (part 1) - English, Literature, and Musings (2013)

ELM (part 2) - Thug Notes does Hamlet (2013)


Photo from - Wikipedia - Martyrdom of Saints Crispin and Crispinian

No comments:

Post a Comment