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Merry Christmas! Fiore translation project #3: the sword in one hand plays 3-4

Merry Christmas! In an unprecedented fit of organisation, this post was actually uploaded about two weeks ago, so don't worry, I'm not working today, I'm opening presents, cooking an unfeasibly large amount of food, and probably already stuck into a bottle of wine. I hope you're having a great day. But I decided on posting these every Tuesday when the first one happened to be ready on, you guessed it, a Tuesday.

Continuing on from Tuesday… If you’re coming late to the party, you should start here (where I explain what this project is all about, describe my decision making in the transcription and translation, and so on.)

Folio 20v, plays 3 and 4.

These plays are relatively straightforward, after the master’s cover, which has not blown the player’s sword far enough aside that you can just cut the head as in the second play, you enter, into either of these two situations. I’ll address why you would end up in one or the other after we’ve looked at the text.

De taglo e de punta ben te posso ferire. Anchora se acresco lo pe ch’e denanzi io ti posso ligare in ligadura mezana ch’e denanzi dipenta al terzo zogo del primo magistro rimedio di daga. Anchora questo zogo ch’e me dredo ti posso fare. E per tal modo ti posso ferire, e anchora ligare.

I can strike you well with cuts and thrusts. Also if I advance the foot that is in front I can bind you in the middle lock, that is shown at the third play of the first remedy master of the dagger. Also I can do this play that is after me. And in this way I can strike, and also bind.

Anchora is a popular word, isn’t it? It literally means “again”, but is often used as “um”, “er”, “so”, “also” etc. Ligare, and it’s noun form ligadura are also common, and bear some expansion. You may recall from Royal Armouries Ms I.33 the expression in Latin “ligans ligati contrari sunt et irati: fugit at partes laterum, peto sequi”, “The binder and the bound are contrary and irate: he flees to the side, I seek to follow”. In this case, ligans/ligati denotes binding sword to sword, but it survives into Italian as to bind, to tie, etc. (In modern Italian, legare). It’s important to note that throughout the book Fiore only uses it to describe grappling of one sort or another, never binds between blades (it would actually be really useful to be proven wrong on this, so if I've missed something, do let me know!).

Because we tend to call these grappling techniques where you hold the person still in order to hit them ‘locks’, I have translated ligadura mezana as the middle lock. It’s interesting to note that the ligadura sottana, the lower lock, is also called the ‘strong key’, the chiave forte. Key implies lock, of course.

While we’re here, let’s look at those two dagger plays:

The third play of the first master from f10v:

In la mezana ligadura t’o serato ‘l brazo, per si fatto modo che tu non mi poi fare alchun impazo. E se ti voglo sbatter in terra a mi e pocha briga. E de fuzirme non ti daro fadiga.

I have locked your arm in the middle lock, in such a way that you can’t be of any inconvenience. And if I want to smash you to the ground, that’s no trouble. And don’t bother escaping from me.

Notice that Fiore uses ‘serare’, ‘to lock’, not ‘ligare’, ‘to bind’, in the first sentence, further justification for translating ligadura as lock. And the text where ligadura sottana is equated with chiave forte is on 14r, third illustration (this is the 6th play of the third master):

Questa e chiamada ligadura di sotto e la chiave forte. Che cum tal ligadura armado e disarmado se po dar la morte, che in tutti loghi piculosi po ferire, E di si fatta ligadura no po essire e chi gli entra gli sta cum briga a cum stenta/sienta/fienta segondo che si vedi ne la figura dipenta.

This is called the low lock and the strong key. With this lock one can give death, armoured or unarmoured, because one can strike in all the dangerous places. And the one to whom the lock is done cannot escape, and whoever enters it will be in trouble and in pain, as you see in the depicted figure.

Here's how I do the third play:

The fourth play of the sword in one hand is the lock that one could also do (as stated in the text of the third play). The text reads:

La tua spada el tuo brazo e ben impresonado e no ten poy fuzare che non ti fiera a mio modo, per che tu mostra saver pocho di questo zogho.

Your sword is well imprisoned and you cannot escape without being struck in the way that I do (lit. my way), because you show that you know little of this play.

This is how I do it:

The primary difference I see between the first and the third play is the player’s feet; in the third play he appears to have passed back, as he is now right foot forwards. This suggests that the scholar is chasing him. In the fourth play, the player is still left foot forwards, and the scholar appears to have extended himself forwards.

The first, third, and fourth plays, taken together, suggest that the scholar does one thing: parry. Depending on what happens when he does so, he'll either enter, or strike.  Not seeing an opening to strike, he enters in with his left hand. He may grip the player’s sword hilt, wrist, or envelop the elbow, depending on the measure, which is a factor of the player’s movement, and the scholar’s intentions. If the opening is there, he strikes directly.

These videos are excerpted from my Medieval Longsword Complete Course, which you should totally go and buy. Here's a 50% discount

Alternatively, feel free to drop some change in the tip jar. I really appreciate all donations: they are a tangible proof that this work has value to someone other than myself, and it makes it much easier to justify the time spent doing it.

Next week we'll have a look at the fifth play, and detour through the four other sword disarms. See you then!

This project is being published in stages. You can get part one, The Sword in One Hand, as a free PDF by subscribing to my mailing list below, or buy it in ebook format from Amazon or Gumroad. You can get Part two, Longsword Mechanics, from Amazon or Gumroad too!

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