David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY V: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 2-3

— 4.2 —

In the French camp, the Dauphin, Orleans, Rambures, and other soldiers were preparing for the battle.

Orleans shouted, “The Sun is making our armor shine. Mount up, my lords!”

The Dauphin shouted, “Montez à cheval! [Mount your horses!] My horse! Varlet! Bring me my horse!”

Orleans said, “Oh, brave spirit!”

The Dauphin said, “Via! Les eaux et la terre![We will go across water and land!]”

Orleans responded, “Rien puis l’air et la feu? [And not across air and fire?]”

Ciel[The Heavens], kinsman Orleans,” the Dauphin said.

He saw the Constable arriving and called, “Is it time now, my Lord Constable?”

The Constable replied, “Listen at how our steeds neigh! They are ready to go immediately to the battle.”

“Mount them,” the Dauphin said, “and dig your spurs into their sides so that their blood will spurt into English eyes, and blind them with the horse’s excessive red blood, the sign of courage.”

“What, will you have the English soldiers weep our horses’ blood?” Rambures asked. “How shall we, then, behold their natural tears?”

A messenger arrived and said, “The English are in formation for battle, you French peers.”

“To horse, you gallant Princes!” the Constable shouted, rallying his troops. “Immediately mount your horses! If you only look at yonder poor and starved band of English soldiers, your fair show shall suck away their souls, leaving them only the shells and husks of men. There is not work enough for all our soldiers; there is scarcely enough blood in all their sickly veins to give each of our unsheathed swords a stain. Many of our French gallants shall today draw out their swords and then sheathe them again because of a lack of English soldiers to kill. Let us but blow on the English soldiers, and the vapor of our valor will send them sprawling.

“Doubtless, lords, our superfluous servants and our peasants, who unnecessarily swarm around our square battle formations, are enough to purge this field of such a contemptible foe, though we upon this nearby mountain’s foot stood inactively looking on, but our honor will not allow us to be mere onlookers.

“What’s left to say? Let each of us do a very little, and all will be done. So let the trumpets sound the note to mount and to march. Our approach shall so much dismay the English soldiers that they shall crouch down in fear and surrender. We will be like hunting hawks that fly overhead and make the birds that are prey quiver so fearfully that they may be easily captured.”

Grandpré arrived and said, “Why do you stay so long, my lords of France? Yonder corpses-to-be from the British island, who have no hope of saving their bones, ill befit — and disgrace — the battlefield this morning. Their ragged banners, hanging in the air, make a poor show. Our air shakes them very scornfully. Big Mars — the King of England — looks like a bankrupt in his beggarly army and faintheartedly peeps through his helmet’s rusty faceguard. The English horsemen sit like fixed candlesticks with torches in their hands — they look like inanimate objects, not like men of spirit. Their poor jades hang their heads and lower their hides and hips, with the gummy discharge from their as-pale-as-if-they-were-dead eyes hanging down in long strings. In each jade’s pale dull mouth, the jointed bit is dirty with chewed grass, completely motionless. And the knavish crows — the executors who will claim the corpses of the English soldiers and horses after the battle — fly over them, all impatient for their hour. Description cannot clothe itself in words in such a way to adequately describe the life of such an army that is so lacking in life.”

The Constable said, “They have said their prayers, and they are waiting to die.”

The Dauphin asked, sarcastically, “Shall we go send them dinners and fresh suits of clothing and give their fasting horses provender, and only afterward fight with them? That might make it more of a fair fight.”

The Constable said, “I am waiting for my pennant, but let’s go to the battlefield. To save time, I will take the banner from a trumpet and use it as my pennant. Come, come, let’s go! The Sun is high, and we are wasting the daylight.”

— 4.3 —

In the English camp were standing Gloucester, Bedford, Exeter, Erpingham, Salisbury, and Westmoreland, among others.

Gloucester asked, “Where is the King?”

Bedford replied, “The King himself has ridden to view the French army’s battle formation.”

“The French have sixty thousand fighting men,” Westmoreland said.

“They outnumber us five to one,” Exeter said. “In addition, the French troops are all fresh.”

“May God’s arm strike with us!” Salisbury said. “Those are fearful odds.God be with you, Princes. I am going to my troops. If we meet no more until we meet in Heaven, then we will meet joyfully. My noble Lord of Bedford,my dear Lord Gloucester, and my good Lord Exeter,and my kind kinsmen, warriors all, adieu!”

“Farewell, good Salisbury,” Bedford said, “and may good luck go with you!”

“Farewell, kind lord,” Exeter said. “Fight valiantly today, and yet I do you wrong to tell you that because you are made of the firm truth of valor.”

Salisbury departed.

Bedford said, “He is as full of valor as of kindness; he is Princely in both.”

King Henry V arrived, but many people were present and he was not immediately noticed.

The date was 25 October 1415, and it was a feast day in England. On 25 October 286, two twin brothers who were later named saints, Crispin and Crispinian, were martyred.

Westmoreland said, “I wish that we now had here just ten thousand of those men in England who do no work today!”

Henry V asked, “Who is he who wishes that? My kinsman Westmoreland? No, my fair kinsman. If we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country loss; and if we are marked to live, the fewer the men fighting in this battle, the greater share of honor each man of us will have.

“By God’s will, I hope that you will not wish for even one man more. By Jove, I am not covetous for gold, nor do I care who eats at my expense, and it does not grieve me if other men wear my clothing — such material things do not dwell among my desires. But if it is a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive.

“No, by my faith, my kinsman, do not wish that even a single man from England could be added to our army here. By God’s peace, I would not lose as much honor as one man more, I think, would take from me for the best hope I have — the hope for my salvation. That is how covetous I am for honor and glory. Oh, do not wish for even one man more!

“Instead, proclaim, Westmoreland, throughout my army, that he who has no stomach for this fight is permitted to depart. He shall be given a letter to allow him passage through foreign lands, and crowns to pay for his journey shall be put into his purse. We do not want to die in the company of a man who fears to die with us in brotherhood.

“This day is the feast day of Saint Crispinian. Any soldier who outlives this day, and returns safely home to our island, will proudly stand tall when this day is named, and raise himself up at the name of Crispinian.

“He who shall outlive this day, and see his old age, will yearly on the eve of this day feast his neighbors and say, ‘Tomorrow is Saint Crispinian’s feast day.’ Then will he roll up his sleeves and show his scars and say, ‘These wounds I earned on Saint Crispinian’s feast day.’

“Old men forget, yet when everything else shall be forgotten, he’ll remember — with embellishments — what feats he did on this day. At that time our names, as familiar in his mouth as household words — Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester — shall be freshly remembered as men drink their flowing cups.

“This story shall the good man teach his son, and the feast day of Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian shall never go by, from this day through the ending of the world, without us being remembered — we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

“For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. No matter how lowly he was born, this day shall raise his status. Gentlemen in England who are now in bed shall think themselves cursed because they were not here, and they will be ashamed and think that they lack courage as they listen to anyone who fought with us upon Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian’s day.”

Salisbury arrived and said, “My sovereign lord, quickly prepare yourself for the battle. The French are splendidly set in their battle formations, and they will soon with all convenient speed charge on us.”

Henry V said, “All things are ready, if our minds are ready.”

Westmoreland said, “Perish the man whose mind is backward now!”

Henry V asked, “You do not wish for more help from England, kinsman?”

“No, by God!” Westmoreland said. “My liege, I wish that you and I alone, without help, could fight this royal battle!”

“Why, now you have wished that we had five thousand fewer men,” Henry V said. “I prefer that to your wishing that we had one more man.”

He said to everyone present, “You know your places: God be with you all!”

A trumpet sounded to announce the arrival of Montjoy, the French envoy, who said, “Once more I come to learn from you, King Harry, whether you will make a bargain for your ransom before this battle that you will certainly lose. Right now, you are so near the abyss of danger that danger will swallow you. In addition, because he is merciful, the Constable asks you to remind your soldiers to repent their sins so that when they die today their souls will make a peaceful and sweet journey away from this battlefield where, poor wretches, their bodies will lie and fester.”

“Who has sent you now?” Henry V asked.

“The Constable of France.”

“Please, take back to him the same answer that I previously gave to you. Tell the French soldiers to defeat and take me and then sell my bones.

“Good God! Why should they mock poor fellows thus? A man once sold the skin of a lion while the beast still lived — that man was killed while hunting the lion.

“Many of our bodies shall no doubt find native graves back home on our native islands. This day’s work shall be witnessed in the brass funeral monuments that will mark their graves.

“Others will leave their valiant bones in France. They will die like men, though they will be buried in your dunghills. They shall be famed; for even there the Sun shall greet them, and draw their honors like steam up to Heaven, leaving their earthly reeking, decomposing bodies behind to choke your environment: The smell of their corpses shall breed a plague in France.

“You will see then the abundant valor in our English soldiers, who despite being dead, are similar to a cannonball’s breaking into pieces and causing a second course of death and destruction, despite its own destruction.

“Let me speak proudly. Tell the constable that we are only warriors for the working day; we look like we are wearing workingmen’s clothing. Our fancy and gilded clothing is all muddy because we have marched through rain to finally get to this battlefield. There’s not a piece of feather to serve as a helmet-plume in our army — a sign, I hope, that no one will fly away from the battle — and time has worn us into scruffiness.

“But, by the Mass, our hearts are still trim and in perfect condition, and my poor soldiers tell me that before this night comes that either they will be wearing fresher robes in Paradise or they will pluck the gay new coats over the French soldiers’ heads and dismiss them from military service.

“If they do this — as, if God is willing, they shall — whatever ransom I ask from you will easily be collected because we will seize your French treasure. Herald, save your labor. Do not come here any more to ask me for a ransom, gentle herald.

“You French shall receive no ransom, I swear, but these my joints. I intend to die before I allow you to take them, and therefore this ransom will yield you little value. Tell the Constable that.”

Montjoy replied, “I shall, King Harry. And so fare you well. You shall never hear from me any more.”

As Montjoy exited, Henry V called after him, “I’m afraid that you will return to ask me what ransom I demand from you French.”

York came over to Henry V, knelt, and said, “My lord, most humbly on my knee I beg you to allow me to command the vanguard — the troops at the front.”

Henry V replied, “Take their command, brave York. Now, soldiers, march away, and to whomever You wish, God, give the victory!”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: Mishaps Anecdotes

At Sheffield, Thomas Beecham produced one of the operas in Wagner’s Ring cycle. Unfortunately, as Brünnhilde was singing her farewell song, the curtain came down. Mr. Beecham pressed the bell-button repeatedly, and the curtain went up again, only to come down again almost immediately. Again, Mr. Beecham pressed the bell-button repeatedly, and this time the curtain stayed up until the end of the opera. Afterward, he learned that the individual in charge of the curtain had fallen asleep. When he woke up, it was long after 11 p.m. Since in his experience, no performance had ever lasted that long, he concluded he had slept through it and so he let the curtain down. Hearing Mr. Beecham’s bell-button, he had raised the curtain again, but then he remembered that his wife was expecting him for dinner at 11 p.m., and that she would be angry if he were late. This made him think there must be a mistake somewhere and so he dropped the curtain again.

In the later 1800s and early 1900s, Jacob A. Riis became famous for his photographs of poor people in New York City tenements. His photographs showed How the Other Half Lives—the title of one of his books. In the early days of photography, getting enough light to photograph indoors could be a problem. He used to make a fire in a frying pan and use it to light his flash powder. If that didn’t work well enough, he would shoot a revolver and use the light of its flash to take his photographs. Occasionally, Mr. Riis’s lighting techniques started fires. He once caught his own clothes on fire, and he twice accidentally set fire to buildings. In addition, when a flash went off too close to his eyes, he almost blinded himself. However, his muckraking photographs, articles, and books led to social reforms to help poor people.

George Burns and Gracie Allen had years of experience performing in vaudeville before they started doing their radio show. This long experience came in handy when mishaps occurred on their show. Once, the lights in the studio went out, and no one could read the script. On another occasion, Gracie accidentally dropped her script, and the pages scattered everywhere. Both times, they ignored the script. George simply asked, “Gracie, how’s your brother?” — and Gracie started one of their well-memorized and very funny vaudeville routines.

Every hockey fan knows what a slap shot is, but a backside shot can also score goals. The very first goal scored by the great Stan Mikita of the Chicago Black Hawks came when teammate Bobby Hull unleased a slap shot that went awry. The shot hit Mr. Mikita in the backside, then landed in the net of the opposing team for a goal — because Mr. Mikita had touched the goal last before it went into the net, the goal was credited to him. Fortunately, the other 540 goals scored by Mr. Mikita in his career came in more conventional ways.

Opera/lieder singer Kathleen Ferrier occasionally made mental lapses, forgetting a phrase as she sang. She once forgot some of the words to Handel’s “Where’er You Walk.” So instead of singing, “All things flourish, where’er you turn your eyes,” she sang the only thing she could think of, which was, “All things flourish, where’er they eat the grass.” This normally wouldn’t be too bad, but the phrase which she couldn’t remember appeared three times in the song, and by the time she had finished singing it, her face was bright red.

While Patricia McBride and Edward Villella were dancing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet to Prokofiev’s music as performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony, the conductor set the tempo way too slow, forcing Ms. McBride and Mr. Villella to dance ahead of the music and to finish dancing before the music stopped. What to do? Ms. McBride started to bourrée off stage on pointe, but Mr. Villella grabbed her wrist and pleaded, “Patty, just stay with me.” The two then improvised—well—a few minutes of dance.

While the Old Vic Company was performing Twelfth Night in Philadelphia, problems arose because members of the cast frequently got lost between the dressing rooms and the stage in the large, unfamiliar theater, forcing the other cast members to improvise while waiting for an absent actor. While Judi Dench was onstage as Olivia, she said her line, “Get ye all three into the box-tree. Malvolio’s coming down the walk.” Actor John Neville made her laugh when he whispered, “Wanna bet?”

Before defecting to the west, Natalia Makarova had great trouble with the 32 fouéttes in Swan Lake. Of course, they are supposed to be performed in one spot, and the ballet dancer ought not to travel around the stage while spinning, but Ms. Makarova remembers that at her first attempt at them on stage she travelled so far that she ended up in a rear wing where she could not be seen by the audience.

Kristen Bell, star of the TV series Veronica Mars, says that she once “fell madly in love” with Saturday Night Live star Amy Poehler because of her petiteness and sense of comedy. On a red carpet, she saw Ms. Poehler’s then-husband, actor Will Arnett, and told him, “I’m absolutely in love with your wife.” He replied, “I’m so glad you didn’t say me. That would have been awkward.”

Not all volcanic eruptions are swift. In Hawaii, one volcano emits molten lava slowly. In fact, residents on the island have plenty of time to leave their houses and move their household possessions out of the line of lava. In some cases, people sit on lawn chairs and drink cold beer from a safe distance as they watch the molten lava flow upon and destroy their houses.

When a batter popped up down the third-base line, both catcher Yogi Berra and third baseman Clete Boyer of the New York Yankees ran to catch it, but collided together, letting the ball fall safely to the ground. Clete asked Yogi, “What’s the matter, Yogi? Couldn’t you yell for it?” Yogi replied, “Sure, but I thought you could hear me waving at you.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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Edgar Lee Masters: Washington McNeely and Mary McNeely and Daniel M’Cumber (Spoon River Anthology)

Washington McNeely

RICH, honored by my fellow citizens,
The father of many children, born of a noble mother,
All raised there
In the great mansion-house, at the edge of town.
Note the cedar tree on the lawn!
I sent all the boys to Ann Arbor, all of the girls to Rockford,
The while my life went on, getting more riches and honors—
Resting under my cedar tree at evening.
The years went on. I sent the girls to Europe;
I dowered them when married.
I gave the boys money to start in business.
They were strong children, promising as apples
Before the bitten places show.
But John fled the country in disgrace.
Jenny died in child-birth—
I sat under my cedar tree.
Harry killed himself after a debauch, Susan was divorced—
I sat under my cedar tree. Paul was invalided from over study,
Mary became a recluse at home for love of a man—
I sat under my cedar tree.
All were gone, or broken-winged or devoured by life—
I sat under my cedar tree.
My mate, the mother of them, was taken—
I sat under my cedar tree,
Till ninety years were tolled.
O maternal Earth, which rocks the fallen leaf to sleep.

Mary McNeely

PASSER-BY,
To love is to find your own soul
Through the soul of the beloved one.
When the beloved one withdraws itself from your soul
Then you have lost your soul.
It is written: “l have a friend,
But my sorrow has no friend.”
Hence my long years of solitude at the home of my father,
Trying to get myself back,
And to turn my sorrow into a supremer self.
But there was my father with his sorrows,
Sitting under the cedar tree,
A picture that sank into my heart at last
Bringing infinite repose.
Oh, ye souls who have made life
Fragrant and white as tube roses
From earth’s dark soil,
Eternal peace!

Daniel M’Cumber

WHEN I went to the city, Mary McNeely,
I meant to return for you, yes I did.
But Laura, my landlady’s daughter,
Stole into my life somehow, and won me away.
Then after some years whom should I meet
But Georgine Miner from Niles—a sprout
Of the free love, Fourierist gardens that flourished
Before the war all over Ohio.
Her dilettante lover had tired of her,
And she turned to me for strength and solace.
She was some kind of a crying thing
One takes in one’s arms, and all at once
It slimes your face with its running nose,
And voids its essence all over you;
Then bites your hand and springs away.
And there you stand bleeding and smelling to heaven
Why, Mary McNeely, I was not worthy
To kiss the hem of your robe!

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