Henry V Translation Act 4, Prologue
Now entertain conjecture of a time When creeping murmur and the poring dark Fills the wide vessel of the universe. From camp to camp, through the foul womb of night, The hum of either army stilly sounds, That the fixed sentinels almost receive The secret whispers of each other’s watch. Fire answers fire, and through their paly flames Each battle sees the other’s umbered face. Steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs Piercing the night’s dull ear; and from the tents The armorers, accomplishing the knights, With busy hammers closing rivets up, Give dreadful note of preparation. The country cocks do crow, the clocks do toll, And, the third hour of drowsy morning named, Proud of their numbers and secure in soul, The confident and overlusty French Do the low-rated English play at dice And chide the cripple, tardy-gaited night, Who like a foul and ugly witch doth limp So tediously away. The poor condemnèd English, Like sacrifices, by their watchful fires Sit patiently and inly ruminate The morning’s danger; and their gesture sad, Investing lank-lean cheeks and war-worn coats, Presenteth them unto the gazing moon So many horrid ghosts. Oh, now, who will behold The royal captain of this ruined band Walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent? Let him cry, “Praise and glory on his head!” For forth he goes and visits all his host, Bids them good morrow with a modest smile, And calls them brothers, friends, and countrymen. Upon his royal face there is no note How dread an army hath enrounded him, Nor doth he dedicate one jot of color Unto the weary and all-watchèd night, But freshly looks and overbears attaint With cheerful semblance and sweet majesty, That every wretch, pining and pale before, Beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks. A largess universal, like the sun, His liberal eye doth give to everyone, Thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all Behold, as may unworthiness define, A little touch of Harry in the night. And so our scene must to the battle fly, Where, Oh, for pity, we shall much disgrace, With four or five most vile and ragged foils Right ill-disposed in brawl ridiculous, The name of Agincourt. Yet sit and see, Minding true things by what their mock'ries be.
Now imagine a time when creeping whispers and staring darkness fill the wide container of the universe. From camp to camp, through the dirty belly of night, both armies hum quietly, so the guards of each camp can almost hear each other's whispered secrets. Fires in both camps mirror each other, and through their pale flames each army sees the other army's shadowy face. Horses threaten each other, piercing the quiet night with high-pitched and bragging neighs; and from the tents the armorers, finishing their work for the knights, busily hammering down nails, make frightening sounds of preparation. The roosters crow in the countryside, the clocks strike, and, now that it is the third hour of sleepy morning, proud of their army's size and sure of themselves, the confident and overeager French play dice for English captives they assume they will take, and scold the handicapped, slow-walking night, which limps like a dirty and ugly witch so slowly away. The poor doomed English, like animals waiting to be sacrificed, sit awake patiently by their fires and think quietly about the danger the morning brings. And their sad appearance and the hollow cheeks and war-torn coats they wear make them seem to the watching moon like horrible ghosts. Oh, now who wants to see the royal leader of this ruined troop walking from guard to guard, from tent to tent? Let whoever sees him cry, "May he have praise and glory!" because he goes out and visits his whole army, greets them with a humble smile, and calls them brothers, friends, and countrymen. On his royal face there is no hint of how frightening an army has surrounded him, nor does he allow the tired, sleepless night to take any color from his face, but instead he looks fresh and overcomes tiredness with a cheerful appearance and greatness, so that every poor man, previously suffering and pale, takes comfort from his appearance when he sees him. His generous eye gives gifts to everyone like the sun, thawing cold fear, so that common men and nobles all get what is, as I unworthily call it, a little touch of Harry in the night. And so we must change our scene to the battle, where, sadly, we will disgrace the name of Agincourt very much, misusing four or five cheap and broken-down fencing swords in a ridiculous squabble. But sit and watch, remembering true things by seeing mockeries of them.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
- Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
- Downloads of 987 LitCharts Lit Guides
- Explanations and citation info for 22,519 quotes covering 987 books
- Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
- PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms