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English Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Henry V. to His Troops by William Shakespeare

  1. Henry V. to His Troops

    William Shakespeare. Note: Henry V. (1388-1422) was king of England for nine years. During this reign almost continuous war raged in France, to the throne of which Henry laid claim. The battle of Agincourt took place in his reign.

    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-favored rage;
    Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
    Let it 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'er hang and jutty his confounded base,
    Swilled 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 its 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;
    Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
    And teach them how to war.

    And you, good yeomen,
    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 luster 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 St. George!"