Thursday, October 6, 2016

V 6 N. 74 Shakespeare Knew Cross Country


When I first saw Henry V on the silver screen performed  by Kenneth Brannagh, I was so moved by the St. Crispin’s Day  speech before the Battle of Agincourt that I felt like getting up in the cinema and kicking someone’s you know what.   The Bard caught what many in modern times call the pre-game or pre-meet coach’s speech  and set it alight.    It was  meant  to inspire people about to go into battle seemingly not caring if they  lived or died as long as their side carried the day.  He tells them that later the survivors would be able on the Feast of St. Crispin to  roll up their sleeves and look at the scars they earned and tell their grandchildren what happened on that day.  He talks about the men who stayed behind in England when his men would be fighting.  How they would regret not being there.  He invokes the passions of men to overlook the odds and go forth and believe in themselves.  Pure mind over matter. 

The battle took place on October 25, 1415 near the end of the Hundred Years War between England and France.  On this day the  French knights greatly outnumbered the English and they were on their home ground.  They definitely had home field advantage as Henry and his men had been on the march for some time and were cold and wet and short of rations.  However this battle was to turn the medieval  way of warfare on its head.  The French army consisted of armed nobility, men who had all taken vows of chivalry.  They did not use the common man to represent them in battle, (one)  as they did not want to arm the peasants and risk an uprising, and (two)  because warfare  was considered a gentleman’s privilege.   Were that not still the case.

The English however were not kin to those thoughts having themselves recently fought a  not so ‘civil’ war (The War of the Roses) for years between themselves and resorted to the recruiting,  training,  and arming of the less than noble folk.  Furthermore the English were on the cusp of weapons technology and had developed the longbow which was capable of piercing French armor.  When Henry’s men set arrow to the bow, the French knights were doomed.   This battle demarked the end of the middle ages and the beginning of the Renaissance.  Two hundred years later Shakespeare was able to reignite those times in his plays.  

The King is referred to by his men as King Harry.  This is a corruption of Henri or what it  sounded like in the ears of the common  folk.  Henry V had blood mixed with the French in his veins.    In fact it is a derivation from the French  Henri and the original Old German  Heinrich or Haimirich..  Harry became a very popular name in England and was even used in the phrase, ‘every Tom , Dick , and Harry’. 

So what we have here is a modest attempt to update the story in the context of a late season cross country meet.  The team of coach Harry is attempting to get through the NCAA district meet and on to the nationals at  Terre Haute, a name perhaps lost  on the unwashed and unschooled.

When starting this little exercise I thought of Coach Harry Groves the venerable dean of Penn State Cross Country and Track and Field.  Harry is a living legend and the epitome of the salty toughness of the old time coaches.  I’ve never met the man, but the stories about him can be found on the Penn State alumni track blog.  How do you say ‘reverence’ and ‘fear’ in the same breath?  Read the blog and get the answer.

My own college coach at Oklahoma, Bill Carroll, used to say before the big races.  “This ain’t no county meet.  And if you’re not ready to go all out and give 100%, just get on the bus and wait there.  We won’t be long.”

You will see on the left, the original St. Crispian’s Speech as Shakespeare wrote it.  On the right side our updated Cross Country Version in italics.  There may  be some mixing of the two dialogs, but the italics will help  you to separate them.   You may also reference the speech as delivered by Brannagh and Sir Laurence Olivier on the two links below.  


The Life of Henry the Fifth
Wm. Shakespeare
Act 4  Scene III
The English Camp

The Characters:

Coach Harry, venerable coach of the Puxatony State Groundhogs XC team

The Runners:  Gloucester, a third year chemistry major, suspected of creating PEDs in his alchemy courses, Bedford, a transfer from Great Britain, said to be a former world class six miler,  Exeter, another English transfer from McNeese State, Erpingham, red shirt frosh out of East Texas, Salisbury, a born again runner from Timmons, Ontario, Westmoreland,
grad assistant recently retired from West Point.


As W. Shakespeare did write                               Updated Version (with apologies)

GLOUCESTER                                                      GLOUCESTER
Where is the king?                                                    Where the bloody Hell is Coach Harry?

BEDFORD                                                                BEDFORD
The king himself is rode to view their battle.             He sits in his golf cart looking
O’er the cross  country course and
Strategy in his seasoned mind.
WESTMORELAND                                                  WESTMORELAND
Of fighting men they have full three score
 thousand                                                                       The French are  loaded with studs.

EXETER                                                                      EXETER
There’s five to one;  besides, they are all fresh.            They’ve all been tapering and 
                                                                                      Harry’s  dusted our arses at 
                                                                                      Practice every night this week.

SALISBURY                                                                 SALISBURY
God’s arm strike with us! ‘tis a fearful odds.                If God is on our side, but  I fear He’s
God be wi’ you princes all; I’ll to my charge:               not, we’ll all be in shit by the mile
If we no more meet till we meet in heaven,                   mark.  Good luck you hearty lads. I’ll be
Then joyfully, my noble Lord of Bedford,                    over at the coaches’ tent  and
My dear Lord Gloucester, and my good Lord Exeter,   watch the JV and varsity races on my I Pod.
And my kind kinsmen, warriors all, adieu!                    Meet you at the vans afterward.  

BEDFORD                                                                     BEDFORD
Farewell, good Salisbury; and good luck go                   Best to ya,  Sali.
With thee!                                                                        (Aside to Exeter)  He’ll be rollin’ in
                                                                                         Shit himself  after  that JV race.

EXETER                                                                         EXETER
Farewell, kind lord; fight valiantly to-day:                      Luck , Sali – Do your best,
And yet I do thee wrong to mind thee of it,                    That’s all we can ask.
For thou art framed of the firm truth of valour.              (Aside to Bedford) Bleedin’ Sali
                                                                                         Stole  my spikes!

EXIT SALISBURY                                                    EXIT , SALISBURY RUNNING LIKE HELL.

BEDFORD                                                                   BEDFORD
He is full of valour as of kindness;                                Yeah, he’s a two faced lying,
Princely in both.                                                             Arsehole.

WESTMORELAND                                                   WESTMORELAND
O that we now had here                                                 Why can’t we recruit a few more
But one ten thousand of these men in England              Milers like we did in Viet Nam?
That do no work to-day!                                                 To get a better body count.

KING HENRY V                                                          KING HENRY V
What’s that he wishes so?                                              What’s that freakin’ Westmoreland
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair                         trying to pull over on me?
Cousin:                                                                          I gave him that grad assistant job
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow                            ‘cause our mothers are sisters, and
To do our county  loss; and if to live,                             he goes behind my back, the lout.
The fewer men , the greater share of honour.                 I’d rather run with five guys, lean
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.           And mean than take them down with
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,                             numbers.  Get those JV’s out of my
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;                        sight. Those high school wonders
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;                   All wanting full rides, they never
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:                produce.  I’m down to my jockstrap
But if it be a sin to covet honour,                                    for a budget
I am the most offending soul alive.                                All I want is to win this f---ing
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:           District.  And no more spikes to hand                                                                                                        Out.  I was  hoping for Mizunos and the 
                                                                                         Bloody Exchequer sends us Nike Tailwinds.    

                                                                                          If we can get by Michigan
God’s peace!  I would not lose so great an honour           We’ll win the Nationals on the
As one man more, methinks, would share from me         Terre Haute come
For the best hope I have.  O, do not wish one more!        St. Crispin's  Day.
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,       Have faith , cousin Westy, do not
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,                     seek one more replacement if you
Let him depart, his passport shall be made                        value your assistantship.
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:                        Let any of these Slackers who is not
We would not die in that man’s company                          ready to give 110% just get on the
That fears his fellowship to die with us.                            Bus right now and never show
This day is called the feast of Crispian:                             Himself again at practice.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,                Today is the feast of St. Crispian,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,                       And even though we are a state
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.                             Sponsored university, we will undo
He that shall live this day, and see old age,                        That PC sanction and honour our
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,                     saintly heritage.  And someday when
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’                             We are Farts Redundant, shall we pull up our trouser legs
Then will  he strip his sleeve and show his scars.             And show off our
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day’               Spiking scars at the Legion Hall.
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,                             And the lads swilling the cheap beer
But he’ll remember with advantages                                will remember our names-
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.            Coach Harry, Bedford, Exeter,
Familiar in his mouth as household words                       Warwick, and Talbot , Salisbury, and
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,                                 Gloucester.  They will teach their
Warwick, and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,               sons and daughters now, and St.
Be in their flowing cups  freshly remember’d.                  Crispin shall never go by without
This story shall the good man teach his son;                     The world remembering how we few
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,                            We happy few, we band of brothers;
From this day to the ending of the world,                          did meet the test,
But we in it shall be remember’d;                                      Achieved and sustained Lactate
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;                    Threshhold, and crossed the line in
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me                       Victory!!
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,                            Those who did not answer that call
This day shall gentle his condition;                                   but instead stayed home watching porn 
                                                                                             will curse themselves and hide
And gentlemen in England now a-bed                                their senseless tattoos when we are
Shall thin k themselves accursed they were not here,        Honoured with our teammates on  
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks           St. Crispin’s Day.
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.                      

                                                            Re-enter SALISBURY

SALISBURY                                                                    SALISBURY
My sovereign lord, bestow yourself with speed               Coach, enough with the small talk
The French are bravely in their battles set,                       We haven’t even  our numbers on
And will with all expedience charge on us.                       Our beating breasts  We need some run                            outs.  The Frogs  are all on the line,
                                                                                            ready to go.

KING HENRY V                                                            KING HENRY V
All things are ready, if our minds be so.                           It’s mind over matter , Lads!
                                                                                          To Hell with run outs!

WESTMORELAND                                                       WESTMORELAND
Perish the man whose mind is backward now.                 Salisbury has my f------g spikes fer

KING HENRY V                                                            KING HENRY V
Thou dost not wish more help from England,coz?           Then run barefoot, Westmoreland
                                                                                          You sorry piece of rotten codfish!

WESTMORELAND                                                       WESTMORELAND
God’s will! My liege, would you and I alone                   OK, coach, but don’t say I didn’t
Without more help, could fight this royal battle.              Warn ye.

KING HENRY V                                                             KING HENRY V
Why, now thou hast unwish’d five thousand men;           We can pull this off, my Boys.
Which likes me better than to wish us one.                       You’ve just got to believe in
You know your places: God be with you all!                     Yourselves.   And may the
                                                                                           Almighty light a fire under your
                                                                                            Collective arses.

                              ENTER MOUNTJOY, A MESSENGER FROM THE FRENCH

MOUNTJOY                                                             MOUNTJOY (at coaches’ meeting)
Once more I come to know of thee, King Harry.       Well, Harry, you can pull out now and go
If for thy ransom thou wilt now compound,               home before your lads lay strewn across
Before thy most assured overthrow:                           bloody meadow, spiked to  shreds,
For certainly thou art so near  the gulf,                      Achilles ruptured, ACLs torn.  They’ll
Thou needs must be englutted.  Besides in mercy,     naught be ready for the indoor season. 
The constable desires thee thou wilt mind                 You’ll have to red shirt the entire team.
Thy followers of repentance; that their souls             Go home now and suffer no more
May make a peaceful and a sweet retire                     humiliation at French hands.  Indeed,
From off these fields, where, wretches, their             we are on our home turf. You shall
Poor bodies  must lie and fester.                                 Rot in the sun.

KING HENRY V                                                      KING HENRY V
Who hath sent thee now?                                            Who sent you with this 
                                                                                    Message of foreboding?

MOUNTJOY                                                             MOUNTJOY
The Constable of France                                             ‘Tis the surrogate of the French, one
                                                                                    Dassler from the Rhinelands,
                                                                                    Purveyor of a magic footwear that will
                                                                                    Make us invulnerable to your Fearsome
                                                                                    Farm Lads.  Beware the three stripes
                                                                                    Shall leave a mark on your backsides!

KING HENRY V                                                      KING HENRY V
I pray thee, bear my former answer back:                      I tell you, Man, take this my answer back to
Bid them achieve me and then sell my bones.               Your Kraut purveyor , that your offer to
Good God! Why should they mock poor fellows thus?  Retreat insults us too much to accept.
The man that once did sell the  lion’s skin                      There will be no baby cast out with the
While the beast lived, was killed with hunting him.       Bath upon this playing field.
A many of our bodies shall no doubt                              We’d rather leave our bones dissected on
Find native graves; upon the which, I trust,                     Your campus to fester and reek sores
Shall witness live in brass of this day’s work:                  upon your coeds, than walk away
And those that leave their valiant bones in France,          from our fate with tails ‘twixt our
Dying like men, though buried in you dunghills,             sweaty loins.
They shall be famed; for there the sun shall greet them,  Let me say with pride that we are
And draw their honours reeking up to heaven;                  Gay Warriors cloaked in Crimson
Leaving their earthly parts to choke your clime,               And Gold and Fuschia  though a bit
The smell whereof shall breed a plague in France.            Soiled from this incessant French
Mark then abounding valour in our English,                      Reign, if you would so deign a wretched
That being dead, like to the bullet’s grazing,                      Pun.  Is there no decent dry cleaner
Break out into a second course of mischief,                       in this forsaken land?  Our secret is
Killing in relapse of mortality.                                            A second wardrobe, Versache no less
Let me speak proudly: tell the constable                            While you French must be content in
We are but warriors for the working-day;                          your derivative Dior and Louis
Our gayness and our gilt are all besmirch’d                       Vuitton  Purses. 
With rainy marching in the painful field;                            You will go running backwards and
There’s not a piece of feather in our host—                        From these Fields bare arsed when
Good argument, I hope, we will not fly—                          We English are finished with our work.
And time hath worn us into slovenry:                                 Come no more with offers of
But, by the mass, or hearts are in the trim;                           Surrender, Mountjoy.
And my poor soldiers tell me, yet ere night
They’ll be in fresher robes, or they will pluck
The gay new coats  o’er the French soldiers’ heads
And turn them out of service.  If they do this—
As if God please, they shall, -- my ransom then
Will soon be levied.  Herald, save thou thy labour;
Come thou no more for ransom, gentle herald:
They shall have none, I swear, I swear, but these my  joints;
Which if they have as I will leave  ‘em them,
Shall yield them little, tell the constable.

MOUNTJOY                                                             MOUNTJOY
I shall, King Henry. And so fare thee well:                You shall hear no more from
Thou never shalt hear herald any more.                     The likes of me King Henry.
                                                                                    You, Sir,  may mange de la merde!

YORK                                                                        YORK
My Lord, most humbly on my knee I beg                  Coach, please do  please let me set the
The leading of the vanguard                                       pace on the first mile.  A 4:15 is
                                                                                    Within my legs.

KING HENRY V                                                      KING HENRY V
Take it, brave York.  Now, soldiers, march away:     Take it out hard, fair York.
And how thou pleases, God, dispose the day!            And should God care a hoot
                                                                                    This day will be England’s and you
                                                                                    Shall wear the noble boot.

Exeunt                                                                         Off they go



skwilli said...

Well done, my friend. I'll make sure to have Greg Fredericks deliver your post to Coach Groves at tomorrow's visit. He will be proud of the hat-tip while holding the old-time stopwatch Greg arranged for him to replace his original. And a toast to St. Crispin with it!

Richard Trace said...

mange de la merde?? nom de dieu.

V 9 N. 20 A New Record in the Women's Mile and a Book Review

I hope you were able to watch Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands set a new World Record in the women's mile in Monaco this past Friday.  ...