The Life Of Sir Philip Sidney Quotes

"Thy Necessity Is Yet Greater Than Mine"

Context: Sir Philip Sidney, commander of an English force riding towards Zutphen to engage a Spanish army in battle, came up, while on his way to the scene of the action, with the marshal of the English army. Sidney, observing that the marshal wore only light armor, and not wishing to enter the battle except on equal terms with him, discarded his cuisses, or leg armor, as he rode along. (Although this is the most widely known reason for Sidney's engaging in action without his complete armor, there are several other contradictory explanations, and all apparently on as good authority as that of Fulke Greville.) The troop led by Sidney came upon the Spaniards in a mist at very close range, and very quickly Sidney's thigh bone was broken by a musket ball. His horse, which became unmanageable, carried him to the station of his uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. As he lay on the field he became exceedingly thirsty from excess of bleeding and called for water. Thereupon there followed the famous event in which Sidney gave his water bottle to a poor common soldier. The word "necessity" is usually misquoted as "need." In the words of Fulke Greville the event happened thus:

. . . as he was putting the bottle to his mouth, he saw a poor soldier carried along who had eaten his last at the same feast, ghastly casting up his eyes at the bottle. Which Sir Philip Sidney perceiving, took it from his head before he drank, and delivered it to the poor man with these words, "Thy necessity is yet greater than mine." And when he had pledged this poor soldier, he was presently carried to Arnheim.