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Wrong again! First play first master zogho largo, revisited.

While I was at the Armizare 2015 event, I had a discussion about Fiore’s first play of the first master of zogho largo with Francesco Baselice. Let me summarise our interpretations, with reference to the text.

The first and second plays of the first master of the zogho largo.
The first and second plays of the first master of the zogho largo.

Qui cominza zogho di spada a doy man zogho largo. Questo magistro che qui incrosado cum questo zugadore in punta de spada, dise quando io son incrosado in punta de spada subito io do volta ala mia spada e filo fiero dalaltra parte cum lo fendente zo per la testa e per gli brazzi, overo che gli metto una punta in lo volto, come vederi qui dredo depinto.

Here begins the play of the sword in two hands, wide play. This Master that is here crossed with this player in the point of the sword, says “when I am crossed at the point of the sword, immediately I make a turn of my sword and strike with a cut from the other side with a fendente, thus to the head and to the arms; or I place a thrust in his face, as you will see depicted next.

The key point for our discussion was regarding on the other side of what? I read the line “I make a turn of my sword and strike with a cut from the other side [of the player’s sword].” Which lead to the interpretation you can see on pages 170-171 of The Medieval Longsword.

But Francesco read it as ““I make a turn of my sword and strike with a cut from the other side [of my body].” So instead of striking on the other side of the opponent’s sword, he was striking to the head with a roverso fendente.

I have shot a quick video of the two versions and uploaded it here for reference. Sorry for the crap quality.

After I got back to Finland, many of my students asked what my cryptic reference on this blog to “a very interesting discussion about the first and second plays of the first master of the zogho largo” was about, and I explained it up to this point. And then began to dig…

Clearly, on the evidence above, it is impossible to choose one interpretation over the other. Both follow the text, and picture (the fendente isn’t shown), and similar actions can be found elsewhere in the manuscript. The first two plays of the sword in one hand show striking on one side of the player’s sword, or the other, after a parry; the first two plays of the second master of the zogho largo describe a cut followed by a thrust, on the same side.

The text of the second play, showing the thrust, was the next place to look for more data.

In the Getty MS, it reads:

Io to posta una punta in lo volto come lo magistro che denanci dise. Anchora poria aver fatto zo chello dise zoe aver tratto de mia spada subito quando io era apresso lo incrosare dela parte dritta. De laltra parte zoe de la stancha io debeva voltare la mia spada in lo fendente per la testa e per gli brazzi, como a ditto lo mio magistro che denanzi.

I have placed a thrust in the face as the master before me says. Also I could have done what he says, so, have struck with my sword immediately when I was near the crossing from the right side. From the other side, thus from the left, I would have to turn my sword in the fendente to the head and to the arms, as my master that is before me said.

Hmmm. That is inconclusive, but it appears that the strike should be done very early; as you get close to the crossing, or immediately that the crossing is made. And he mentions that the blow is done from the left side. “Stanca” in modern Italian means “tired”, and in this period, means “left hand side”. Two pages on from here, in the play of the colpo di villano, Fiore tells us to “await the peasant’s blow in a narrow stance with the left foot forwards”, with “lo pe stancho” for “the left foot”. (You definitely do not want to put your “tired food” forwards!) So perhaps “stancha” here is more likely to refer to the body than the sword, but it’s hard to say. After all, posta di donna on the left, is posta di donna la sinestra.

So let’s go to the Morgan Ms: the text in both paragraphs is identical except for a few variant spellings. No help there then. So how about the Pisani Dossi manuscript?

The same plays in the Pisano Dossi.
The same plays in the Pisano Dossi.

Over the master, the lines are:

Per incrosar cum ti a punta de spada/ De laltra parte la punta in lo peto to fermada.

By crossing with you at the point of the sword, from the other side I’ll strike you with a thrust in the chest.

The differences are obvious, I trust. No mention of the cut, and the thrust is to the chest, not face. But it’s still “de laltra parte”, from the other side.

And the next play, the strike itself:

Per lo ferir che dise el magistro che denanci posto/ in la golla to posta la punta de la spada tosto.

With the strike that the master before me said/ I have quickly put the point in your throat.

[Note, again not face, or chest!]

And the image is basically identical to the strike shown in the Getty ms, as you can see.

So here is the critical point for this discussion; “from the other side” is not being used here to mean the other side of the player’s sword. It is quite clearly describing a thrust that remains on the same side of the sword, so it is probably being used to refer to the way you make the blow. You got into the crossing with a blow from the right, and you leave it with a blow from the left (as all Audatia players should already know).

So, Francesco old chap, you were right. I take my hat off to you sir!

Hat off to Federico :)
Hat off to Francesco 🙂

And as I said on the day, looks like I’ll have to revise that bit of The Medieval Longsword.  Given that the final draft of the book was finished in April 2012, that makes it three years before a change to the interpretation was developed. Dammit, that’s too long; I’d hope for at least one new thing a year! It makes me wonder what other bits of my interpretation are due for review. This is one of those plays that I've been happy with since about 2004.

I should also note at this point that the interpretation we were using is the correct response to the context in which we do it; but that context is not what Fiore is showing us in this play. It seems that in both plays, it's the inside line that is open, not outside for the first, inside for the second. It remains to be seen what knock-on effects this will have to the rest of my interpretation; at present it seems to be fairly self-contained, but who knows what other doors this might open…

Let me summarise the steps that lead to this correction to my interpretation.

1) I published my interpretation. This meant that Francesco, and others like him, could see what I was thinking, and therefore check it against their own ideas.

2) Francesco brought his alternative interpretation to me, and showed me that it did not contradict the source. This was made much easier by our being at the same event; there is nothing like discussing these things sword-in-hand. Thanks again to Mauro and Andrea for organising Armizare 2015!

3) That lead to me re-examining my interpretation in the light of the sources themselves; we are very lucky to have more than one copy of the manuscript.

4) I now publish the corrected interpretation, here (and will update The Medieval Longsword in due course).

Readers of this blog will have seen the same procedure in the way I was totally wrong about the identity of the titimallo flower, used in the poison dust pollax play. I shamelessly published an idea, which generates responses, which lead to the idea being abandoned, confirmed or corrected as needed. That's how the process is supposed to work, folks.

I'm sure you have an opinion: do share!

2 Responses

  1. I have always been bothered by the general interpretation of the “other side” to mean coming over the opponents blade in what the German style would call a Zucken and I think your recent understanding makes a lot of sense. I am out of my league here so I hope you can straighten me out but I wonder if there is more to “the other side” then what you have described? I wonder if “from the other side” could refer to the other side of the blade- “the other edge” or the false edge. Maybe a fendente can never be with the false edge? I ask because following your description, from the high bind, “with a turn of the blade” could mean to turn the blade putting the false edge down and performing a short edge cut or thrust at your opponent. The mechanics of this become very similar to Lichtenauer’s Scheilhaw, The blade turns, The hilt is thrust up pinning the opponent’s blade to the crossguard while your blade cuts down and into your target. If your opponent pushes against your crossguard they drive your blade deeper into their own neck. Am I crazy? -Britton

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