Last Updated on May 19, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 223
Context: The English army is encamped at Agincourt in preparation for battle against the stronger army of France, in a contest which will grant to King Henry V of England the crown also of France. In the darkness before battle the king, disguised, walks among his troops and learns the feelings of his men. Alone again, Henry reflects upon his responsibilities as king that weigh upon his mind and drive away the sleep which is enjoyed by his lowliest subject. The monarch chides greatness for being unable to command health and repose with ceremony.
. . .
Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,
That play'st so subtly with a king's repose.
I am a king that find thee; and I know,
'Tis not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,
The farced title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on; nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the high shore of this world–
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Not all these, laid in bed majestical,
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,
Who with a body filled, and vacant mind,
Gets him to rest, crammed with distressful bread,
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell; . . .
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