We Few, We Happy Few…

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“In that day the remnant left in Israel,
the survivors in the house of Jacob,
will no longer depend on allies
who seek to destroy them.
But they will faithfully trust the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel.
A remnant will return;
yes, the remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God.”

Isaiah 10:20-21, New Living Translation

Working our way through Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, we met the second person Eddie surprisingly encounters in heaven: the captain. Discussing those pages with my students, I took them to Shakespeare’s famous scene from Henry V, in which King Henry proclaims those immortal words: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” (Though I showed them the Tom Hiddleston version, since they recognize him as Loki, I’ve included the more memorable Branagh version below.) For them, the closest they have likely come to such camaraderie and sense of purpose in the face of insurmountable odds has been found on the fields and courts of battle provided by athletics.

At the same time, my daily Bible reading had me in the prophet Isaiah. Just this week I worked through the first fifteen chapters of Isaiah’s words, and though I could spend an entire post addressing the hope found in the coming judgment on Babylon (we shall see this, friends), it was the reference above to the remnant that filled me with the same unwavering determination and willingness to surrender all for something greater than myself, which the Saint Crispin’s Day speech inspired among Henry V’s men.

The odds are seemingly not in our favor. Everything appears to be stacked against us. Yet for the remnant loyal to the Lord of Heavens Armies… “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9). Yes, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers following the one called Faithful and True, seated upon a white horse, will be able to look back on these days, “stand a tip-toe,” and show our scars and say we stood with Him who cannot be shaken in the face of death and destruction. Hold fast! The Lion is roaring!

From Shakespeare’s Henry V, starring Kenneth Branagh (1989)

Saint Crispin’s Day Speech – William Shakespeare

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 called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
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 Crispin’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 remember’d.
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 remember’d;
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 accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

From Henry V, Act IV, Scene III

P.S. You should also watch this memorial to those who gave their all in WWII.

Published by thedeepened

I am a lover of words - the way they sing together in neat or sprawling lines upon the page, conducted by the great wordsmiths of all time. The way a sudden turn of phrase or surprising combination of sounds resonates with the deep within me, causing pause: moments of reflection and appreciation that transcend the superficial babblings and paltry visions of the infantile. Here at the deepening ground, it is my intent to make time and space for the reflection, appreciation, and creative imaginings that sustain the human soul.

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