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Fiore de'i Liberi/Poleaxe

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Novati Translation Complete translation by Michael Chidester
Getty Translation Complete translation by Colin Hatcher

Paris Translation Draft translation by Kendra Brown and Rebecca Garber
Morgan Translation Complete translation by Michael Chidester

Morgan Transcription (1400s) [edit]
by Michael Chidester

Getty Transcription (1400s) [edit]
by Michael Chidester

Pisani Dossi Transcription (1409) [edit]
by Michael Chidester

Paris Transcription (1420s) [edit]
by Kendra Brown and Rebecca Garber

Pisani-Dossi MS 27a-a.png

[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 the Short Serpent Guard and I consider myself better than the other guards. And whoever receives one of my thrusts will bear the scars.[1] This guard delivers a powerful thrust that can penetrate cuirasses and breastplates. Fight with me[2] if you want to see the proof.

Behold, with grasping hands I am called the Short Spear Position
Among mortals. And if the spear point would not try to deceive,
Perhaps I will deceive you, Man. Jupiter is near on a mountain.

Pisani-Dossi MS 27a-b.png

[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 named the Guard of the True Cross, since I defend myself by crossing weapons, and the entire art of fencing and armed combat is based on defending yourself with the covers of crossed weapons. Strike as you wish, I’ll be waiting for you. And just as the student of the First Remedy Master of the sword in armor does, so I can do with a step and a thrust with my poleaxe.

Behold, I am a Position of strength, and I am called the Cross. No blow is
Bothersome to me, nor as yet the point of the poleaxe[3] at any time.

Pisani-Dossi MS 27a-c.png

[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 the Guard of the Lady, and I go against the Boar’s Tusk guard. If he waits for me, I will make a powerful strike at him, in which I move my left foot off the line, and then I pass forwards, striking downwards at his head. And if he blocks strongly under my poleaxe with his, then even if I can’t strike him in his head I will not fail to strike his arms or hands.

Behold, I am pure of faith standing in the Position of the Woman.
And I work deadly things by doubling a strike of strikes.

MS Ludwig XV 13 35v-d.jpg
Pisani-Dossi MS 27a-d.png

[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 my Middle Iron Gate is opposed by the Guard of the Lady, we both know each other’s game, for we have faced each other many, many times in battle with swords and with poleaxes. And let me tell you, what she claims she can do to me, I can do better against her. Also let me tell you that if I had a sword instead of a poleaxe, then I would thrust it into my opponent’s face as follows: when I am waiting in the Middle Iron Gate with my two-handed sword, if he attacked me with his poleaxe with a powerful downward strike from the Guard of the Lady, then I quickly advance forward striking him strongly under his poleaxe as I step off the line, and then I quickly grasp my sword in the middle with my left hand and make the thrust into his face. While there is little difference between we two guards, I am the more deceptive.

I am the strong Boar’s Tooth and, horribly daring,
By no means do I fear those strikes you make. It cannot be believed.

[The Paris image resembles the Pisani Dossi.]

MS Ludwig XV 13 36r-a.jpg

[5] [The Stance of the Long Tail]

I am the Long Tail, used against the Window Guard, and I can strike at any time. With my downward strikes I can beat every poleaxe or sword to the ground, setting me up nicely for close play. As you see the plays that follow, please consider each one in sequence.

MS Ludwig XV 13 36r-b.jpg

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

I am named Window Guard on the left, and I am made with the right arm pulled back.[8] This is not a good guard to wait in.[9] Everything I do is deceptive. You think that I am going to strike a downward strike, but I pass backwards and switch guards. So while I began on the left, I actually enter on the right. And I can quickly transition to the plays that follow.

MS Latin 11269 09r-c.png

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

These are the plays that these guards put to the test. Each guard can do them, and each guard believes it will prevail. As is drawn here, whoever beats his opponent’s poleaxe to the ground can do these plays, and will succeed as long as the opponent fails to counter him.

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

I will certainly throw your poleaxe down to the earth,
But mine will strike the face with listless wounds.

MS Ludwig XV 13 36v-b.jpg

[8] This student puts his axe between his opponent’s legs, and covers his eyes with his left hand. When the opponent, who cannot see, tries to turn, he will surely fall to the ground.

Pisani-Dossi MS 27b-b.png

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

The previous student can also do this play when he is at close range, as you can see here. He steps with his left foot on top of his opponent’s poleaxe head, and draws back his own poleaxe, then thrusts it into his opponent’s face.

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

Now from the Boar’s Tooth and the particular poleaxe, ready I immediately sprang forth.
And I pierced the face using that thing with the strength of oak.

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

Pisani-Dossi MS 27b-c.png

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

The previous student saw that it was not possible to strike his opponent in the face with his poleaxe, because his opponent’s visor is too strong. So he advances his left foot forward and lifts the opponent’s visor, and drives his point into his face with as much force as he can give to his poleaxe. You can add on this play to any of the previous plays, as well as to any of the plays which follow.

Lo, I press your very own face with the strong hand, and you feel that.
My sacred poleaxe will now extract these, your very own teeth.

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

Cod.1324 25r-a.png
Pisani-Dossi MS 27b-d.png

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

With this hold[13] I can strike you in the head with my poleaxe, and with my left arm I will put you in the Strong Lower Bind, which is more deadly than any other lock.

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

Pisani-Dossi MS 28a-a.png

[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 half-turn of this poleaxe I will take it from your hands. And once I have taken it from you with this particular turn, I will strike you in the head with it, as the next student shows. And I do not believe you will survive this.

By means of this taking, I will possibly have made a whirling around.
From here yours will be plundered, but my poleaxe will strike your forehead.
In this way fate wants the strong to survive.

[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 follows on from the student before me. As he clearly told you, you will likely drop to the ground dead after being struck in the head like this. And if this blow is not enough then I can give you another. If I choose I can also drag you to the ground by your visor, which is drawn next.

MS Ludwig XV 13 37r-d.jpg

[14] I am demonstrating what the student before me said he would do to you, that is dragging you to the ground by your visor. This is a grappling technique that is one of the better ones you can do.[14]

Pisani-Dossi MS 36a-c.png
Pisani-Dossi MS 36a-d.png

[15] This play is easy to understand, and you can clearly see how I can drag him to the ground. And when I have him on the ground, I can drag him behind me. And when the long tail of my poleaxe can no longer hold him, then he’ll feel my strikes.

[36a-cd] [No text]

MS Ludwig XV 13 37v-b.jpg

[16] This poleaxe of mine is filled with a powder and is hollow and perforated.[15] And this powder is so strongly corrosive that the moment it touches your eye, you will no longer be able to open it, and you may be permanently blinded.

I am the poleaxe, heavy, vicious and deadly. I deliver blows more powerful than any other hand-held weapon. If my first strike misses, then my poleaxe becomes risky to hold on to and is no more of any use to me. But if my first blow is powerfully made on target, then I can stop any other hand-held weapon. And if I am accompanied with good protective armor, then I can defend myself with any of the powerful striking guards of the sword.

My most noble lord, my Marquis, there are some vicious things shown in this book that you would never do. I show you them purely to aid your knowledge.[16]

[36a-b] [No text]

Pisani-Dossi MS 36a-b.png

[17] This is the powder that you use in the poleaxe drawn above. Take the sap of the spurge,[17] and dry it in a warm oven to make a powder. Now take two ounces of this powder and one ounce of powder of fior d'preda,[18] and mix them together. Now load this powder into the poleaxe shown above. You can do this with any good caustic powder, but you won’t find a better recipe than the one in this book.

[36a-b] [No text]

  1. Fiore literally says “will be marked”.
  2. Fiore literally says “defend yourself”.
  3. Literally “trident”, perhaps referring to the three striking surfaces of the weapon’s head (axe or hammer, hook, and spear point).
  4. Added later: "quisq…?".
  5. Corrected from "e" to "i".
  6. Added later: "con ecce".
  7. The text says "a doii mane cum la spada" with symbols next to "a" and "cum" apparently indicating that it should move. Since "cum a doii mane" makes no sense, I've moved the whole phrase "cum la spada".
  8. Literally “I am made with a short right arm”.
  9. Literally “We do not have stability.”
  10. Added later: "scilicet subito".
  11. Word partially effaced.
  12. Added later: "+ tibi".
  13. “Presa” means a hold, a grip or a grapple.
  14. Fiore actually writes that this grappling move is “better than the others”, but gives us no clue as to what the “others” are.
  15. As in full of holes.
  16. I believe this is not an apology for the poleaxe itself but an apology for showing the dirty trick of the corrosive powder. As such it should really be placed higher up.
  17. “Titimallo” refers to a plant named spurge, genus Euphorbia. Used in medieval medicine as a laxative, spurge has a poisonous milky white latex-like sap. For more information, see "Pollaxe in Armour" by Matt Easton and "Being wrong can lead to wonderful things" by Guy Windsor.
  18. Tom 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.