Henry V Rousing Speech To Soldiers At Agincourt

Speeches to rouse Soldiers to fight #

The following excerpts illustrate contrasting techniques to arouse soldiers to fight in battle.

The first one is Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt while the second is a poem by Bruce Dawe about a Drill Sargeant addressing new recruits in training.

KING Henry V:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon: let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,

Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide;
Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English, Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that like so many Alexanders Have in these parts from morn till even fought,

And sheath’d their swords for lack of argument.
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding- which I doubt not;

For there is none of you so mean and base
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and upon this charge

Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

[Exeunt. Alarum, and chambers go off]

Note the largely positive tone of the above address by Henry before the battle of Agincourt.

The King is leading his men into battle and he acknowledges the difference between their deportment during peace and times of war. He appeals to their sense of honour, patriotism and expectations of their families to prove their valour. The entire address is respectful uplifting and rousing.

In Contrast we have the abusive tirade of Bruce Dawe’s Drill Sergeant:

Weapons Training #

*And when I say eyes right I want to hear
those eyeballs click and the gentle pitter-patter
of falling dandruff you there what’s the matter
why are you looking at me are you a queer?
look to your front if you had one more brain
it’d be lonely what are you laughing at
you in the back row with the unsightly fat
between your elephant ears open that drain
you call a mind and listen remember first
the cockpit drill when you go down be sure
the old crown-jewels are safely tucked away what could be more
distressing than to hold off with a burst
from your trusty weapon a mob of the little yellows
only to find back home because of your position
your chances of turning the key in the ignition
considerably reduced? allright now suppose
for the sake of argument you’ve got
a number-one blockage and a brand-new pack
of Charlies are coming at you you can smell their rotten
fish-sauce breath hot on the back
of your stupid neck allright now what
are you going to do about it? that’s right grab and check
the magazine man it’s not a woman’s tit
worse luck or you’d be set too late you nit
they’re on you and your tripes are round your neck
you’ve copped the bloody lot just like I said
and you know what you are? You’re dead, dead, dead *

Analysis: weapons training

I Sound Effects

Read the poem aloud. Comment on the Sound Effects,

verbal music, its rhyme, rhythm and melody. Assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, etc. (Blending repetition patterns, slow/ movement, Melody, tone, mood, atmosphere, voice.

As a dramatic monologue, this diatribe, tirade or harangue would likely be delivered in a shrill, strident monotone with few pauses. The tenor of the persona (a N.C.O. squad instructor) is extremely bullying condescending, derisive and at times even contemptuous and abusive to his audience as he exhorts them to learn their trade of killing the enemy. This is one of the few of Dawe’s poems that actually has a rhyme pattern imposing a discipline and sense of poetic purpose on the poem.

II Subject Matter

The poem is an example of a sergeant (martinet) dressing down a squad of recently enlisted recruits, likely for the air force of an Asian Campaign (references to “mob of little yellows”, “a pack of Charlies” and “their rotten fish-sauce breath” suggest Vietnam War a distinctive brand of in-built war propaganda.

III. Themes

The poet through the persona of a drill Sargeant (martinet) is inculcating the philosophy that it pays to learn to kill the enemy before he gets a chance to kill you.

Dawe is also suggesting that the all aspects of War are degrading, brutalising and dehumanising. While the language of the sergeant may be acceptable on the parade ground, it would be rejected by civilised society hearing it in their home surroundings or in respectable school classrooms.

Some critics claim that the persona is voicing his own fears of the men, his sexual inadequacy and his own vulnerability and mortality.

Futility of most of the parade ground exercises which are not relevant to actual fighting especially to the airforce pilots.

IV. Poetic Technique

Structure, images. (visual, auditory, olfactory tactile ,gustatory) figures of speech. contrast antithesis, unity irony etc

Dramatic Monologue that begins in mid sentence with a conjunction - And

Images are base, crude and generally appeal to the visceral (gut) rather than the heart and never anywhere near the cerebral (mind).

Humour of the smutty kind is meant to keep us amused but is merely degrades and alienates by turning grim facts into a joke to make life (death) bearable.

Address is glazed - the ‘you’ is not individualised, it could any dehumanised recipient of racism,, militarism or sexism.

Rhetorical Questions:

“what are you looking at? Are you queer?”

“what are you laughing at?”

“what could be more distressing than….”

“what are you going to do about it?”

Antithesis: “tit”/magazine



eyeballs “click” dandruff “pitter patter”

Short sharp syllables


diction, tenor, level, euphemism, punctuation ambiguity, connotation evocative, emotive/demotive, omission, etc.

Language used as a weapon of invective and insult.


Lack of most – except for question marks.

Dawe preferred the lower case even in his titles – though later publishers changed this.

Aggressive & Bullying – Abusive, Brainwashing, conditioning, fear and hate

Eye-balling talk. Derisive and demeaning: “tripes around your neck”, dead, dead

Prejudicial Pejoratives - labels

are you a queer? little yellows, pack of Charlies, rotten fish sauce..

Blather and Drivel

eyeballs click, pitter patter of dandruff, copped the bloody lot (Australian idiom)

Smutty and Crude

Life and love are precious even to the drill instructors. They are “the key” (double meaning) “Cockpit drill” and “the old crown jewels

No rifle has the life-affirming qualities of a woman’s tit.

Put-downs questioning the recruits’ manhood

  1. “are you queer?”

  2. “crown jewels”

  3. “turning the key”

  4. “you’d be set”

Clichés and Australian Idioms

  1. “If you had one more brain”

  2. “unsightly fat”

  3. “you’d be set”

4. “copped the bloody lot”

5. “worse luck”

  1. “tripes” is slang for “guts”