Once more unto the breach
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. . . .
On rather debatable pretexts, King Henry V has led an army—he
calls them "dear friends"—over the channel to invade France. This
speech typifies Henry's rousing oratory, as he exploits his
personal popularity and his men's notions of masculinity.
Disclaiming responsibility for the invasion—the blast of war blows
but no one seems to blow it—he nevertheless takes charge with his
royal directives, of which "Once more unto the breach" is the most
famous. As Henry's army batters the fortifying walls around the
port town of Harfleur, the king urges them to pound again and
again, and to rush again and again at the break in the wall.
Failing successful entry to the town, his "tigers" should clog up
the breach with their dead bodies—to form, one supposes, a
blockade. The heartened troops rally behind their leader.'