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Fiore de'i Liberi/Poleaxe

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Morgan Transcription [edit]
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Getty Transcription [edit]
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[1] The Stance of the Shortened Serpent

I am the Shortened Stance, the Serpent, with axe in hand;
If my thrust does not miss, I will made trouble for you.

I am Posta Breve la Serpentina (Short Serpentine Position), I maintain myself better than the others. To whom I give my thrust, the sign will show itself well. This point is strong, for passing through cuirasses (coraze) and breastplates (panceroni).[1] Defend yourself, that I want to try it.

[2] The Stance of the True Cross

I am the strong stance called the Cross:
Neither blows of the axe nor thrusts can bother me.

I am Posta di Vera Crose (Position of the True Cross), because with a cross I defend myself and all the art of fencing and armed combat defends itself with covers of the armizare incrosare (crossed-weapon armed combat). Attack, because I am waiting for you well, because of that way in which the first student of the Master Remedy of the sword in armour does, and with the pass that thrust with my pollaxe, I can do to you.

[3] [The Stance of the Queen]

I am the Stance of the Queen, of pure loyalty:
I make great blows from a different measure.

I am Posta di Donna (Position of the Lady) against Dente Zengiaro (Boar's Tooth). If he waits for me, I want to make great strike at him, in which I pass the left foot forward out of the way, and I enter with a fendente to his head. And if he comes with force under my pollaxe with his, then not being able to injure him in his head I will not fail to injure him in his arms or hands.

MS Ludwig XV 13 35v-d.jpg

[4] [The Wild Boar's Tusk/Middle Iron Gate]

I am the Boar's Tusk, full of daring:
Blows of the axe can do nothing to me.

If Posta di Donna (Position of the Lady) is against me, Porta di Ferro Mezana (Middle Iron Door); I know its play and mine. And many many times we have been in battle and with sword and with poll axe. And I say that what she says she is able to do, I can do it more to her than she can do it to me. Also, I say that if I had a sword, and not a poll axe, I would put a thrust in the face, that is, in the striking that Posta di Donna does with the fendente, and I am in Porta d'Ferro Mezana two-handed with the sword, that immediately as it comes, I advance forward (acresco) and pass (passo) out of the way, under his pollaxe with force I enter and immediately with my left hand grab my sword in the middle and place a thrust in his face. So that between our others that of malice is little comparison.

[The Paris image resembles the Pisani-Dossi.]

MS Ludwig XV 13 36r-a.jpg

[5] [The Stance of the Long Tail]

I am Coda Longa (Long Tail), against Posta de Fenestra (Position of the Window) I want to do it all the time [so that] I can injure. And with my blows of fendente, beat (sbateria) every pollaxe and sword into the ground, and to narrow play (zogo stretto) strongly I will make. As you find these plays after, I pray you to look at them one by one.

MS Ludwig XV 13 36r-b.jpg

[6] [The Stance of the Casement Window on the Left]

I am called Posta de Fenestra la Sinestra (Position of the Window the Left). A small arm (brazo) does me on the right. We do not have stability. One and the other certainly feints (falsità), you think that I come with the fendente and I turn a foot backwards and change my position (posta). From being on the left, I enter on the right. And I believe for entering in these plays which come after me I am well ready.

[7] I have beaten your axe to the ground;
And mine will quickly be thrust in your face.

These are the plays that the guards question. Each one wants to get it, and thinks it has the right. The one who can beat (sbatter) the pollaxe of the companion to the ground, as it is drawn here, does these plays; he will do them all if the contrario [counter] does not cause problems.

[In the Getty and Pisani-Dossi, the Master is missing his crown.]

MS Ludwig XV 13 36v-b.jpg

[8] The student puts his axe between the player's legs, and with the left hand he covers his view. And when the player can not see, and wants to turn, he falls to the ground without failing.

[9] I have come from the Boar's Tusk with my axe,
And with that I have wounded you in the face.

Also the student which is before me can do this play when he is in close, as you can see. He puts his left foot over his [the opponent's] pollaxe, and pulls his own back, and puts the point [thrust] at the player, in the face.

[In the Getty, the Scholar's right foot is on his opponent's poleax.]

[In the Paris, the Scholar wears a crown.]

[10] I have lifted your visor—you can feel it—
And I will bore out your teeth with my axe.

The student which was before saw that with the point of the pollaxe it was not possible to do anything to the player in the face, for the visor which was strong. He advances forward (acresse) the left foot, and lifts the visor, and puts the point in the face with as much force as he can give to the poll axe. This play which I do follows those that were before, and then all those after.

[In the Paris, the Scholar wears a crown.]

Cod.1324 25r-a.png

[11] Because of my hand which I have under your arm
I will cause you trouble in the strong key.

Due to this hold, with which I keep you in this way, with my pollaxe I injure you in the head. And with my left arm, I will put you in Ligadura de Sotto la Forte (Under Bind, the Strong), which more than the others is dangerous to death [is more likely to enable a kill].

[These two images seem to show the beginning and end of the technique.]

[12] I will make a quick rotation from this catch:
Your axe will be lost, and mine will strike you in the face.

With a middle-turn/half-turn (meza volta) I will take this pollaxe from your hands. And as I have removed it from you, in just that one turn, I injure you in the head, as this student which is after me does. You will fall down dead I think.

[In the Paris, the Scholar's right foot is forward and he wears a crown.]

MS Ludwig XV 13 37r-c.jpg

[13] This play is that of the student which is before me. As he said, well I believe that you will fall to the ground dead for the blow in the head that I did to you. And if this blow is not enough then I can give another and can pull you by your visor into the ground. Like it is drawn after, and this I do to you if I do not repent.

MS Ludwig XV 13 37r-d.jpg

[14] What the student who was before me said, I do to you, that I want to pull you in to the ground by your visor. And if I want, I can do it with wrestling (abrazare), which is better than the others, and this I can do well.

[15] This play is easy to understand, as well it can be seen that I can pull him to the ground. And when I have him on the ground, I will drag him behind me. And when I don't pull the long tail anymore, he will get injuries from me.

[36a-cd] [No text]

MS Ludwig XV 13 37v-b.jpg

[16] This pollaxe of mine is full of powder and the said pollaxe has holes around. And this powder is so strong and corrosive that immediately as it touches the eye, the man can not open it in any way, and maybe will not be able to see anymore. And I am a heavy (ponderosa), cruel and mortal pollaxe, better blows I make than other manual weapons. And if I fail the first strike that I come to do, the pollaxe will damage me and is no more of any use. And if I fiercely make the first blow, I avoid troubles of all the other manual weapons. And if I am with good weapons [armour?] well accompanied for my defence I take the pulsativa guards of sword. Very noble Signore, my Signor Marchese, there are a lot of things in this book, such maliciousness you would not do. But to know better, be pleased to see them.

[36a-b] [No text]

[17] This is the powder that goes into the pollaxe drawn above. Take the milk of the titimallo,[6] and dry it over a warm oven and make it powdery, and take two ounces of this powder and one ounce of powder of the fior di preda,[7] and mix them together. And put this powder in the axe which is above, as you can do it well with any rutorio[8] that is sharp, because you can find sharp things well in this book.

[36a-b] [No text]

  1. Possibly the first refers to a coat of plates while the latter refers to a solid breastplate.
  2. Added later: "quisq…?".
  3. Added later: "con ecce".
  4. Added later: "scilicet subito".
  5. Added later: "+ tibi".
  6. Matt Easton notes that Titimalo is an obsolete Italian word for the spurge family of plants (genus Euphorbia). Members of the spurge family produce latex sap, some species of which can cause blindness when put in contact with the eyes, blistering of the skin and poisonous fumes, or smoke if burned, due to phorbol (tigliane polyol) esters, caustic diterpene compounds, and/or daphnane (tricyclic diterpenoid) esters that can act as cocarcinogens contained in the latex. This latex has a milky appearance, hence the author's description of the 'milk of titimalo'.

    The Spanish explorer Oviedo documented the effects of the 'Manchineel tree' or 'beach apple' (Hippomane mancinella), a member of the Euphorbia genus found on the east coast of the Americas, in 1555:

    "If a man do but repose himself to sleep a little while under the shadow of the same, he has his head and eyes swollen when he rises, that the eyelids are joined with the cheeks. And if it chance one drop or more of dew of the said tree to fall into the eye, it utterly destroys the sight." (Quoted in Lovell CR, Plants and the skin, Oxford, 1993.)

    The latex from this tree was used by native Americans as a poison for arrows and to blind people and animals.

    In AD 50, Dioscorides recommended using seven different species of Euphorbia in medicines, but warned that caution should be exercised in using these plants:

    "But being beaten of itself in a mortar, it is formed into pills and set up. But in the juicing, one must not stand against ye wind, nor put his hands to his eyes, but also before the juicing he must anoint his body with grease, or oil with wine, and especially ye face, and ye neck, and ye scrotum." (Taken from Gunther PT, The Greek herbal of Dioscorides, New York, 1909.)

    More information on Euphorbia can be found here, from whence I take much of the information above.

  7. Tommaso Leoni notes that this is a flower also used to create a powder commonly used as makeup. It had a swelling effect on the skin.
  8. Tommaso Leoni notes that this is a caustic or blistering powder sometimes used in medicine. Also known as Epispastic powder.