vol II date / index
Sts. Crysanthus and Daria, 3rd Cent. Sts. Crispin and Crispinian, A. D. 287. St. Gaudentius of Brescia, A. D. 420. St. Boniface I. Pope, A. D. 422.
The name of this saint is in the church of England calendar and the almanacs; why Crispinian's is disjoined from it we are not informed[.]
St. Crispin and St. Crispinian
PATRONS OF THE GENTLE CRAFT.
"Our shoes were sow'd with merry notes,
And by our mirth expell'd all moan;
Like nightingales, from whose sweet throats
Most pleasant tunes are nightly blown:
The Gentle Craft is fittest then
For poor distressed gentlemen!"
St. Hugh's Song
This representation of St. Crispin and St. Crispinian at their seat of work, is faithfully copied from an old engraving of the same size by H. David. Every body knows that they were shoemakers, and patrons of that "art, trade, mystery, calling, or occupation," in praise whereof, when properly exercised, too much cannot be said. Now for a word or two concerning these saints. To begin seriously, we will recur to the tenth volume of the "Lives of the Saints," by "the Rev. Alban Butler," where, on the 504th page, we find St. Crispin and St Crispinian called "two glorious martyrs," and are told that they came from Rome to preach at Soissons, in France, "towards the middle of the third century, and, in imitation of St. Paul, worked with their hands in the night, making shoes, though they were said to have been nobly born and brothers." They converted many to the Christian faith, till a complaint was lodged against them before Rictius Varus, "the most implacable enemy of the Christian name," who had been appointed governor by the emperor Maximian Herculeus. Butler adds, that "they were victorious over this most inhuman judge, by the patience and constancy with which they bore the most cruel torments, and finished their course by the sword about the year 287." In the sixth century a great church was built to their honour at Soissons, and their shrine was richly ornamented. These are all the circumstances that Butler relates concerning these popular saints: most unaccountably he does not venture a single miracle in behalf of the good name and reputation of either.
On Crispin's-day, in the year 1415, the battle of Agincourt was fought between the English, under king Henry V., and the French, under the constable d'Albret. The French had "a force," says Hume, "which, if prudently conducted, was sufficient to trample down the English in the open field." They had nearly a hundred thousand cavalry. The English force was only six thousand men at arms, and twenty-four thousand foot, mostly archers. The constable of France had selected a strong position in the fields in front of the village of Agincourt. Each lord had planted his banner on the spot which he intended to occupy during the battle. The night was cold, dark, and rainy, but numerous fires lighted the horizon; while bursts of laughter and merriment were repeatedly heard from the soldiery, who spent their time in revelling and debate around their banners, discussing the probable events of the next day, and fixing the ransom of the English king and his barons. No one suspected the possibility of defeat, and yet no one could be ignorant that they lay in the vicinity of the field of Cressy. In that fatal field, and in the equally fatal field of Poictiers, the French had been the assailants: the French determined therefore, on the present occasion, to leave that dangerous honour to the English. To the army of Henry, wasted with disease, broken with fatigue, and weakened by the privations of a march through a hostile country in the presence of a superior force,—this was a night of hope and fear, of suspense and anxiety. They were men who had staked their lives on the event of the approaching battle, and spent the intervening moments in making their wills, and in attending the exercises of religion. Henry sent his officers to examine the ground by moon-light, arranged the operations of the next day, ordered bands of music to play in succession during the night, and before sun-rise summoned his troops to attend at matins and mass: from thence he led them to the field.
His archers, on whom rested his principal hope, he placed in front; beside his bow and arrows, his battle-axe or sword, each bore on his shoulder a long stake sharpened at both extremities, which he was instructed to fix obliquely before him in the ground, and thus oppose a rampart of pikes to the charge of the French cavalry. Many of these archers had stripped themselves naked; the others had bared their arms and breasts that they might exercise their limbs with more ease and execution: their well-earned reputation in former battles, and their savage appearance this day struck terror into their enemies. Henry himself appeared on a grey palfrey in a helmet of polished steel, surmounted by a crown sparkling with jewels, and wearing a surcoat whereon were emblazoned in gold the arms of England and France. Followed by a train of led horses, ornamented with the most gorgeous trappings, he rode from banner to banner cheering and exhorting the men. The French were drawn up in the same order, but with this fearful disparity in point of number, that while the English files were but four, theirs were thirty deep. In their lines were military engines or cannon to cast stones into the midst of the English. The French force relatively to the English was as seven or six to one. When Henry gave the word, "Banners advance!" the men shouted and ran towards the enemy, until they were within twenty paces, and then repeated the shout; this was echoed by a detachment which immediately issuing from its concealment in a meadow assailed the left flank of the French while the archers ran before their stakes, discharged their arrows, and then retired behind their rampart. To break this formidable body, a select battalion of eight hundred men at arms had been appointed by the constable; only seven score of these came into action; they were quickly slain, while the others unable to face the incessant shower of arrows, turned their vizors aside, and lost the government of their horses, which, frantic with pain, plunged back in different directions into the close ranks. The archers seizing the opportunity occasioned by this confusion, slung their bows behind them, and bursting into the mass of the enemy, with their sword and battle axes, killed the constable and principal commanders, and routed the first division of the army. Henry formed the archers again, and charged the second division for two hours in a bloody and doubtful contest, wherein Henry himself was brought on his knees by the mace of one of eighteen French knights who had bound themselves to kill or take him prisoner: he was rescued by his guards, and this second division was ultimately destroyed. The third shared the same fate, and resistance having ceased, Henry traversed the field with his barons, while the heralds examined the arms and numbered the bodies of the slain. Among them were eight thousand knights and esquires, more than a hundred bannerets, seven counts, the three dukes of Brabant, Bar, and Alençon, and the constable and admiral of France. The loss of the conquerors amounted to no more than sixteen hundred men, with the earl of Suffolk and the duke of York, who perished fighting by the king's side, and had an end more honourable than his life. Henry became master of fourteen thousand prisoners, the most distinguished of whom were the dukes of Orleans and Bourbon, and the counts of Eu, Vendome, and Richmond. As many of the slain as it was possible to recognise were buried in the nearest churches, or conveyed to the tombs of their ancestors. The rest, to the number of five thousand eight hundred, were deposited in three long and deep pits dug in the field of battle. This vast cemetery was surrounded by a strong enclosure of thorns and trees, which pointed out to succeeding generations the spot, where the resolution of a few Englishmen triumphed over the impetuous but ill-directed valour of their numerous enemies. Henry returned to England by way of Dover: the crowd plunged into the waves to meet him: and the conqueror was carried in their arms from his vessel to the beach. The road to London exhibited one triumphal procession. The lords, commons, and clergy, the mayor, aldermen, and citizens, conducted him into the capital: tapestry, representing the deeds of his ancestors, lined the walls of the houses: pageants were erected in the streets: sweet wines ran in the conduits: bands of children tastefully arrayed sang his praise: and the whole population seemed intoxicated with joy.—Lingard.
This memorable achievement on Crispin's-day is immortalized by Shakspeare, in a speech that he assigns to Henry V. before the battle.
This day is called—the feast of Crispian:
He, that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a-tip-toe when this 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 friends,
And say,—To-morrow is St. Crispian:
Then will he strip his sleeve, and show his scars.
Old men forget; yet shall not all forget,
But they'll remember, with advantages,
What feats they did that day: Then shall our names,
Familiar in their mouth as household words,—
Harry the king, Bedford, and Exeter,
Warwick, and Talbot, Salisbury, and Glo'ster,—
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered:
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 remembered:
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 abed,
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here;
And hold their manhoods cheap, while any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Crispin's day.
In "Times Telescope" for 1816, it is observed, that "the shoemakers of the present day are not far behind their predecessors, in the manner of keeping St. Crispin. From the highest to the lowest it is a day of feasting and jollity. It is also, we believe, observed as a festival with the corporate body of cordwainers, or shoemakers, of London, but without any sort of procession on the occasion,— except the proceeding to a good tavern to partake of a good dinner, and drink the pious memory of St. Crispin."
On the 29th of July, 1822, the cordwainers of Newcastle held a coronation of the patron St. Crispin, and afterwards walked in procession through the several streets of that town. The coronation took place in the court of the Freemen's Hospital, at the Westgate, at eleven o'clock; soon after twelve, the procession moved forward through the principal streets of that town and Gateshead, and finally halted at the sign of the Chancellor's-head, in Newgate-street, where the members of the trade partook of a dinner provided for the occasion. A great number of people assembled to witness the procession, as there had not been a similar exhibition since the year 1789.*
The emperor Charles V. being curious to know the sentiments of his meanest subjects concerning himself and his administration, often went incog. and mixed himself in such companies and conversation as he thought proper. One night at Brussels, his boot requiring immediate mending, he was directed to a cobbler. Unluckily, it happened to be St. Crispin's holiday, and, instead of finding the cobbler inclined for work, he was in the height of his jollity among his acquaintance. The emperor acquainted him with what he wanted, and offered him a handsome gratuity.—"What, friend!" says the fellow, "do you know no better than to ask one of our craft to work on St. Crispin? Was it Charles himself, I'd not do a stitch for him now; but if you'll come in and drink St. Crispin, do and welcome: we are as merry as the emperor can be." The emperor accepted the offer: but while he was contemplaing their rude pleasure, instead of joining in it, the jovial host thus accosts him:—"What, I suppose you are some courtier politician or other, by that comtemplative phiz; but be you who or what your will, you are heartily welcome:—drink about—here's Charles the Fifth's health."—"Then you love Charles the fifth?" replied the emperor.—"Love him!" says the son of Crispin; "ay, ay, I love his long-noseship well enough; but I should love him much better would he but tax us a little less; but what have we to do with politics? round with the glasses, and merry be our hearts." After a short stay, the emperor took his leave, and thanked the cobbler for his hospitable reception. "That," cried he, "you are welcome to; but I would not have dishonoured St. Crispin to-day to have worked for the emperor." Charles, pleased with the good nature and humour of the man, sent for him next morning to court. You must imagine his surprise to see and hear his late guest was his sovereign: he feared his joke upon his long nose must be punished with death. The emperor thanked him for his hospitality, and, as a reward for it, bade him ask for what he most desired, and take the whole night to settle his surprise and his ambition. Next day he appeared, and requested that, for the future, the cobblers of Flanders might bear for their arms a boot with the emperor's crown upon it. That request was granted, and, as his ambition was so moderate, the emperor bade him make another. "If," says he, "I am to have my utmost wishes, command that, for the future, the company of cobblers shall take place of the company of shoemakers." It was, accordingly, so ordained; and, to this day, there is to be seen a chapel in Flanders, adorned with a boot and imperial crown on it: and in all processions, the company of cobblers takes precedence of the company of shoemakers.*
Fleabane Starwort. Aster Conizoides.
Dedicated to St. Crispin.
Meagre Starwort. Aster miser.
Dedicated to St. Crispinian.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Sykes's Local Records. [return]
2. European Magazine, vol. xl. [return]