Keeping score


Above: English Army the morning of the battle of Agincourt

A day or two ago, a commentator wrote, “When did three score and ten become four score and ten?”  Well, I must confess, I have mixed up my memories, one of the Bible passage, the other in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which I memorized ages ago, like fourth grade maybe. So much for childhood memory bubbles.

I think the Bible passage reads ‘Three score and ten’ and Lincoln wrote “Four score and seven.”  I didn’t look up the Bible passage. While I am familiar with many Old Testament passages, I must confess my battered Bible does not automatically open to this passage.  I looked up the Lincoln passage, however, and I think he wrote “Four score and seven,” which from 1863 when he gave the address at Gettysburg refers back to 1775 and the creation of the Republic.

Except for a couple of courses in my recently completed history graduate program (I concentrated on Europe), I took all my American history college courses as an undergraduate, now 40 plus years ago. So perhaps I can be forgiven for the odd lapse in my memories of American history.

Lincoln gave what many consider the greatest speech ever given. However, Henry V’s speech at Agincourt is another example of a great speech meant to rally the troops. Although Lincoln was a Southern boy (Kentucky) and a Republican who learned to read by firelight, he was familiar with both the Bible and some works of Shakespeare like the history plays. Was Lincoln’s speech informed by both?  I think the answer is yes.

Heck, at one time in the South both books were taught in the public schools. I had Miss Cherry teaching me about Samson and Delilah in fourth grade, and Miss Calhoun teaching me about Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar in seventh grade.  “Big Julie we called him, says David who took Latin in high school just as I did and read the Shakespeare play. “

More to the point, I will be three score and twelve in two weeks time.

20 thoughts on “Keeping score

  1. According to the King James Bible: The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

    I am watching my neighbours, both ninety eight, Their days a punctuated by visits from social care to take care of their physical needs dressing, washing, feeding, toileting and putting back to bed. All food comes from meals on wheels. I hope I cock my toes long before that happens to me..


  2. Threescore years and ten is Psalm 90 v10 according to google! Your post makes me realise my ignorance of American history and great speeches in particular. Lots to look up and learn about.
    Blessings from Dalamory


  3. I’m now wanting to look up that speech at Agincourt.

    Just taking a breather from now working on our travel album. It’s been a crazy two months for me. First the month long trip to Southeast Asia, then the travel posts, now the album and in all that a zillion and one things that we had to catch up on from when we were gone. Sheesh!


  4. I saw your reply to Gigi’s comment above and laughed so hard I forgot what I was going to say about your post (because there have been way too many times when Amazon has told me ‘you already own that book, you idiot!’ (really they are very nice and non-judgmental aren’t they).

    Anyway — you had a much better classical education in public schools than we did in Podunkville, Washington– back about that same time (two or three years earlier for us, but who’s counting at this stage!). My parents had a very elderly bedridden friend who was classically educated — I used to go to visit him and he would have me read Shakespeare to him for an hour or so at a time (when I was 12 or 13 or so). When Bill and I got married, his widow gave us his set of leather-bound Shakespeare plays as a wedding gift.


    • What a lovely memory Sallie. Yes, the South ever backward and still annoyed with the north gave us a classical education long after it was out of fashion with progressive educators in Yankeeland. I loved it.

      The schools were too poor to afford new textbooks, so we read Middlemarch, Silas Marner, and learned Rudyard Kipling’s poems. We had maps hanging on the walls of our classroom that showed us the extent of the British Empire. I was grown up before I realized we were not part of the Empire and that there was a theory of Evolution.


  5. I think you can and will be forgiven for this slight lapse. I only know the 3-score-and-ten, not being familiar with Lincoln’s speech.

    I wonder how much of Shakespeare’s speech for Henry is historical? Probably nothing at all. But I love the scene; it makes the hair stand up at the back of my neck. Shakespeare’s histories are notoriously inaccurate.

    We will see the plays again this year. For the xxx time.


    • The battle of Agincourt was real enough and made Henry’s reputation. The French badly outnumbered the English, and no one expected them to win the day. Something inspired those soldiers,and I think it was Henry. The long bows also helped proving yet again that technology is powerful. Personally, I like to think that words such as “once more into the breech dear friends” inspired that band of brothers.

      We can see the plays here in Washington at the Folger theater which attracts Shakespearian actors from all over.


  6. Bravo…you just beat me out by a year.

    Books, did I tell you yesterday that I stopped buying them. I find the most interesting things at work to bring home.


  7. So you are 4 years older than I am. I seem to recall memorizing and reciting the Gettysburg address in sixth grade, but now have forgotten most of it. Memory is selective. I can remember names and phone numbers, but I can’t remember prices and where to buy things that are cheaper somewhere else.


      • We also were required to memorize the address in sixth grade. To my surprise, I’m still able to recite most of it—three score and seven years later!


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