Read Shakespeare’s ‘O God of battles! Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts’ soliloquy from Henry V below with modern English translation and analysis, plus a video performance.
‘O God of battles! Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts’, Spoken by Henry, Act 4 Scene 1
O God of battles! steel my soldiers’ hearts;
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbers
Pluck their hearts from them. Not to-day, O Lord,
O, not to-day, think not upon the fault
My father made in compassing the crown!
I Richard’s body have interred anew;
And on it have bestow’d more contrite tears
Than from it issued forced drops of blood:
Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay,
Who twice a-day their wither’d hands hold up
Toward heaven, to pardon blood; and I have built
Two chantries, where the sad and solemn priests
Sing still for Richard’s soul. More will I do;
Though all that I can do is nothing worth,
Since that my penitence comes after all,
Modern Translation of ‘O God of battles! Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts’
Oh god of battles, don’t let my men be afraid. Deprive them of their ability to count lest realizing the size of the opposing army frightened them. Not today, oh Lord, please not today – don’t think about my father’s sin in the way he got the crown.
I have reburied Richard’s body in Westminster Abbey and shed more remorseful tears on it than the drops of blood it shed. I have given pensions to five hundred poor people to raise their withered hands to heaven twice a day to beg my pardon for the blood he shed. I have built two chapels where the grave and solemn priests still pray for Richard’s soul. I will do more, although whatever I do is worthless since my penitence and plea for pardon come after all the benefits.