This story or novella probably dates from the '80s and I probably read it in Analog or Galaxy, but I cannot swear to it.

An exploratory team of humans, or maybe a small colonizing team, (call them "We", Our) has landed on an alien planet, with intelligent humanoid (?) inhabitants. The team establishes friendly relations with one group (tribe ? nation ?) of the aliens, who are primitive by our standards, but with ethics and morals similar to our own. (Call them Our Allies.) Our Allies are threatened by another group (tribe?) with whom, if I remember correctly, they have a long-standing rivalry. War is about to break out, and Our survival could be threatened if Our Allies are overrun.

The leader of the human team helps with battle strategy, but perhaps his biggest contribution is a rousing speech to Our Allies on the eve of the deciding battle. (Somehow, the human leader has become fluent in the native language.) The rousing speech is a translated combination of Henry V's speech to the English soldiers before the Battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin's Day as presented by Shakespeare, and Churchill's "We shall never surrender" speech early in WWII.

Fired up by the speech, Our Allies win the decisive battle, and.....???? I have now told you 100% of what I remember, except that it was a great story or perhaps novella.

1 Answer 1


That is Poul Anderson's The Man Who Counts AKA War of the Wing-Men, a Nicholas Van Rijn story.

Van Rijn and two others are stranded on a remote part of Diomedes when their air car goes down and Van Rijn has to organize them to rescue themselves.

He allies himself with the Lannach, a sea-going folk who can fly, and stirs them into battle against enemies which prevent Van Rijn and company from getting to a human base.

The relevant text goes:

An hour later he [one of the main native characters] sat on a bluff with his people a mass of shadow below him, and van Rijn's bass came through the fog like thunder:

"I only say, think what you have here, and what they [the enemy] would take away from you:
"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars
This other Eden, demi-paradise
This fortress built by nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed..."

"I don't comprehend all those words," whispered Tolk.
"Be still!" answered Trolwen. "let me hear." There were tears in his eyes; he shivered.

"...This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Lannach!"

The army beat its wings and screamed.

Van Rijn continued through adaptation of Pericles' funeral speech, "Scots Wha' Hae" and the Gettysburg Address" By the time he finished discussing St. Crispin's Day, he could have been elected Commander if he chose.

  • 3
    +1 But no Churchill. archive.org/details/Astounding_British_Ed._v14n07_1958-07/page/…
    – user14111
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 2:58
  • 4
    I think the text might have differed a bit between editions - I think Poul was particularly unhappy with the version published as "War of the Wing-Men" and was a lot happier with the version published as "Earth Book of Stormgate 2".
    – AJM
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 12:34
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    Maybe I remembered the Churchill aspect wrong, or assumed it was there. Anyway, thanks for the answer. I was thinking Poul Anderson, really, not making this up, but it was just a hunch that there was Poul Anderson DNA in that story. What a great author!
    – user48960
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 21:26
  • 1
    It was certainly a Churchillian speech, even if it didn't include any of his words.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 21:40

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