Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday way off topic trivia

As some of you might remember I also hold a French passport. Thus I was drawn to this New York Times piece: Historians Reassess Battle of Agincourt. Apparently the mythic feat so eloquently put in verse by The Bard , and splashed on a great movie by Kevin Branagh, was not so mythic. True, Henry V forces were outnumbered but by not such a wide gap. It seems that diligent post victory propaganda made sure that the feat was grander for the numbers gap than the French incoherence.

Interestingly in my French school days that huge number gap was kept, which I suppose is a consequence of being in the losing side where you have other more pressing business to attend than figuring whether the French outnumbered 1 to 2 or 1 to 5. Besides, even if Azincourt (the French spelling) is looked at badly as a humiliating day, it is always put into the context of the civil war starting then between "Armagnacs et Bourguignons". That civil war dynastic consequences would drag all the way until Louis XIV. Also in the French psyche of the 100 Years War that I was taught, the battles of Crecy won by Edward III and Poitiers won by the Black Prince 50 years earlier are considered more fateful and more humiliating than Azincourt. This because in each one of the them the king was involved while Agincourt is looked more upon as a mad dash of unruly aristocrats as king Charles VI was sinking into folly and thus absent from command. A true disaster for sure, but an additional one to Civil War and the Mad King.

The power of myth is indeed powerful and crosses cultural barriers, influencing even the defeated. Fidel Castro understands this very well, and it is certainly part of the reason why chavismo is so busy rewriting history: after a while people will think that chavista manuals are indeed historical.... Venezuelans will start beleiving crap like "dia de la resistencia indigena" and black Bolivar just as the French bought the propaganda so nicely put up by Shakespeare. Hey, I am French but the Henry V harangue is stirring no matter what!

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 remember'd;
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 a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day

-The end-

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