SCHOOLE OF THE NOBLE
And Worthy Science of Defence.
Being the first of any English-mans invention, which professed the sayd
Science; So plainly described, that any man may quickly
come to the true knowledge of their weapons, with
small pains and little practise.
Then read it advisedly, and use the benefit thereof when occasion shal serve, so shalt
Thou be a good Common-wealth man, live happy to thy selfe,
and comfortable to thy friend.
Also many other good and profitable Precepts and Counsels for the managing of Quarrels
And ordering of thy selfe in many other matters.
Written by Ioseph Swetnam
Printed by Nicholas Okes. 1617.
TO THE HIGH AND
MIGHTIE PRINCE CHARLES,
PRINCE OF WALES,DUKE OF CORNE-
Wale, Earle of Rosse, and Baron of Armanoch, high
Seneschal of Scotland, Lord of the Isles,
And Knight of the most Noble order of the Garter.
Most Gracious and Noble Prince, the many great and kinde favors which I received from the hands of your late Brother deceased, unto whom I was tutor in the skill of weapons, to my no little credit, which makes me now turne backe to shew my love in a small measure unto your Princely selfe, and yet it is much as I am able, a bunch of graphes is but a small present, and yet King Philip of Macedon did receive them, and accept them, and the rather, because a poore man presented them, and therefore I trust your Highnesse will more esteeme the good-will of the giver, than the value of the gift.
Three things did chiefly encourage me to publish it under the glorious name of your gracious Highness: The first is, in regard of your Highnesse deep desire to gaine experience in all Arts and Sciences, the which is seene by your Graces favouring and furthering any man which is endued [embued] with any good quality, therein rightly resembling a brance of the same Stocke from whence your Excellency sprang, of whom in my next Epistle to the Reader I will speake more at large: But at this time, for doubt of beeing offensive, with the renewing of old griefes, I stand in a maze, like unto that childe, who asked whether he loved his father or his mother best, stood mute as doubting how to answer for feare of displeasing the one of them: even so in this place will I. Now the second cause of this is my Dedication unto your Excellency is, in respect of my vehement love wherto in duty I am bound unto your Princely selfe: and thirdly, that it may passe under your Highnesss protection, the better to shroud it selfe from backe-biters and fault-finders, least amongst such it be taken up like a friendlesse vagarant: Oh therefore let it find favour, I humbly intreate your Highesse, although it can little pleasure your Princely selfe, yet it may stead many others, and so doubting least I have troubled your Highnesses over long. I will therefore heere draw the Curtaines, and commit your Highnesses to the Protection of the Almighty, who ever blesse, preserve and keepe your Highnesses with long life, and prosperous health, and happinesse to the worlds end.
By your Highnesses to be
Commanded so long as
An Epistle unto the common Reader.
In setting out of a booke, friendly Reader, this I know, that there is no better a thing to be observed than order, for except there be an order in all things, all runneth to confusion, but what doe I meane to talke of orders, which am no Scholler, nor have no learning; but only a little experience, which God and Nature hath bestowed upon me. As it is unpossible to build a Church without lyme or stone, no more can a workman worke without tooles, yet to avoid idlenesse, something I will make of it, although I cannot make it sound to so good a tune as I would, for want of learning, for I was never at Oxford but while I baited my horse; nor at Cambridge but while one Sturbridge faire lasted: wherefore if you doe examine mee concerning learning, I shall answer you as the fellow did the gentleman, who asking him the way to London, a poke full of plumbes sir said he; or as he which came from a Sermon was asked what he heard there; he said it was a good Sermon and the Preacher spake well, but he could not tell one word what hee said, no more can I answer one word scholler-like or according to learning; yet both at Oxford and Cambridge I looked upon the Schollers, and they looked upon me, and so I became a little the older, but never the wiser; wherefore if I should continue tempering this booke so long till I had put it in order, I should resemble those, which doe make their apparell so long of the newest fashion, until they are quite out of fashion, or like as the fidlers doe their strings, who wrest them and temper them so long, until they bring them out of all time, tune, and reason, least I should doe so I will let it goe with this drafte as it is: but gentle Reader looke not here to gather grapes of thornes, nor figs of thistles: nor of a wild and a barren tree, nothing else but wilde and barren fruit, yet amongst dust, sometimes there are pearles found, and in hard rockes gold and stones of great price, I have here as it were mixed wheat and rye, barlye and oates, Beanes and Pease altogether, now take a little paines to separate that graine which thou likest best for thine owne benefit. I give thee here a friendly caveat, to prepare thy selfe in a readines, for although thou art at quiet now, yet dost thou not know how soone thou shalt be urged to take weapons in hand, as my selfe and many others have been, when I least thought upon it, therefore to have judgement and skill in weapons is good, although thou never have occasion to use it. The Proverbe saith cunning is no burden, the same mouth which at one time saith, I will live quietly, for I will make no brawles with any, yet at another time he again will say, oh that I had skill, for then wold I bee revenged on such a one that hath injuriously wronged me. Therefore for such a cause be prepared before hand, for if the King were sure that he should never have wars, what neede had he then to provide armour and weapons, but in the time of peace hee provideth himself; the wise Mariner provides in a calme for a storm, for things doubtfull are to be dreadfull. It is better to live in feare then in security, and to this purpose Tully hath a pretty saying which goeth thus; hee which desireth peace let him provide for wars, but I feare mee that the tyde will be spent, before I can double this point, and therefore here I will cast anchor, and will ride in this rode something longer than I would, for feare least I cast my barke away on a lee shore, for want of water; these words of warinesse doe I use because there are many which no sooner out of the shell, but are cast away like an addle egge.
Therefore I would not have yong sprigs spoiled in the blosome, I mean I would not have yong branches or young entereres into the world imbarke themselves in the ship of fooles, for feare least they cast themselves away in a manner, before they have had any beginning, for I have knowen many basted in the budding in a manner, before they came to know cheese from chalke:onely for want of instruction, and likewisesome againe have perished, and yet not for want of instruction, but they have knowen what was good for them, and yet would not seek it, but have delaid the meanes, as many delay their repentance, till the latter day, or till it be too late, not much unlike a sluggard, which rowsing himself, and looking abroad in the morning, he seeth that it is high time to rise, yet sluggishly he lyeth downe againe to sleepe, and so forgetteth himself; even so many perish, some for want of good counsel, and some for lacke of forecasting a mischief before it doe light upon them. It is said that we must not tempt God, Math.4. but I hold it a tempting of God to presume wholly upon him for all occasions what soever, without seeking other meanes which is commonly known, and by God prepared for us: as if we were sicke men we ought to take the Physicians counsell, and if wounded we must seeke for helpe of a Chyrurgian, if our house be on fire we must powre on water, and if we fall in a ditch, we must lye still without using other meanes besides, saying God helpe us, but for this and all other things God hath appointed meanes, we must seek and then no doubt God will give his blessing with it, but wee must not presume how carelessly soever we live, or how desparately soever we dye, nothing can hinder us of our salvation, but so far deceived I feare me are such, that there is a thunderbold of mischief prepared for their ignorace herein. Our Savoir Christ would not presume so much of the mercy of God the Father, as when he was upon the pinnacle to cast himself downe, but hee came downe by other meanes, for the stayres were made for the purpose; God the father might otherwise have saved Noah without any Arke if it had pleased him, but Noah had warning that such a thing should be, whereupon he fought a meanes to save himselfe by making the Arke, therefore he that will not be prepared beforehand with oyle in his Lampe, or with skill in his weapons, when there is meanes to be found, he may be shut out of heaven as the five foolish virgins were if hee chance to bee slaine suddenly, as many a man hath been, by dying without repentance.
Indeed if there were no meanes then if we did with humblenesse come unto God, no doubt then I say but God would miraculously defend his servants, as hee did the children of Israel when their enemies were behind them, and the red sea before them, then there was no meanes nor helpe left them, but only in the Lord, but then the Lord stopped not his eares nor shortened nor his armes, but gave them passage with his outstretched arm thorow the red sea, and then again they being in the wildernesse, there was neither meate nor drinke, and then and there againe the Lord sent them foode from heaven, and he also made the hard rockes gush foorth rivers of water. The Mariner in distresse throweth over boord the Marchants goods which are in ship, and yet then finding small hope of life he cutteth down the masts of the ship, and so he throweth them and the sayles overboard, which should be the onely meane to bring them to land, but then these Mariners being bereft of al hope, they rely wholly upon God, which never leaveth in distresse those which trust in him, but then he miraculously doth defend them, and bring them into a safe harbor contrary unto mans expectation.
So not onely here in this place, but as I goe on I will shew some examples out of the booke of God and from the Philosophers and other Schoole men, and the application to be applied unto our selves, for there is nothing written but hath beene written for our learning, and of those we are to learne counsell of which have runne through the brambles, briers, and the mischiefe of the world.
Then be not wise in thine own conceit, for S.Iohn and Paul saith that the wise are catched in their owne craftinesse. Iohn 9.1 3.1 Cor.3.19. If the wise are catched what then will become of the ignorant and foolish, not onely of this profession, but of all others; for there are many of all trades which doe thinke their owne wit best, and hating to bee reformed, but I wish such to take heede of ignorance pitfall, least they fall into the springle with the woodcocke; for who is so bold as blind bayard. But as some men of all trades with small skill doe goe on and live by their trades and yet in a manner but botchers, even so I have often hard many a many say, that with a little skill they have saved their lives being put unto tryall, for those which are in danger of drowning will catch at a straw to save their lives, but for the most part it so falleth out, that if the father or the master be a coward, or unskillful in his weapons, then the sonnes of that Father or the servants of that Master, seldom proove good soldiers, not much unlike that saying of the prophet when the mother is a Hitite and the Father an Ammorite, the child seldome prooves an Israelite. Ezekiel .45. Then we must not follow or goe on being led on blindfoldly, by a cowardly sort of people, which will say that a good eye or a good heart is all that belongs until the defense of a mans body, these are they which professing themselves to be wise, are become fooles. Rom.I.22. Or they may be compared unto those which talke of Robin hood and yet never shot in his bow, so this trumpe have I cast in your way, for loath am I to leave you any starting holes to wind out at, but that you may keepe the high beaten way, least in seeking by-wayes you wanter quite out of the way, yet mistake me not in thinking that hereby I seeme to hale thee on for thy owne good, like a beast, for I doe but lead thee with the cords of love, and with thee to taste of this my opinion which I have new broached.
[Right Margin note: Then shew not thy selfe worse than a beast, for beast have whit to find out remedies to cover their griefe.]
And I make no doubt but in tryall it will be no whit distasting unto thee, for by experience I speake it that above all, skill is the key of the worke, as the eye to the body, or as the Captaine to the soldiers, or the Piolet to the Ship; If the eye bee darke in walking, the body falleth, if the Captaine be ignorant, then doe the Souldiers march disorderly, or if the Pilot bee unskilfull, the ship sailes in danger, but as I was about to tell you of a sort of logger-headed asses which further more will perswade their familiar friends, by telling them that skill will doe them no good, for when they have learned skill and afterwards when they shall have occasion to use their weapons, then such dunces will say that skill will be forgoten & little thoughtupon. Also they say that a man with a sword will cut off thy rapier at one blow, but I say this is a most cowardly kind of ignorace, for if a skilfull man doe hold the rapier, it is not a hundred blows with a sword can doe a rapier any harme, no although they light upon him. Therefore those which will perswade any from learning skill with weapons, for the defence of their bodies, may fitly be compared unto the false Prophets amongst the Iewes, which perswaded them that they should not feare nothing, but peace, peace, peace, when the Assyrians were in readinesse to cut their throats as in the 6 of Ieremy the 14, there you may read it, therefore a provident care ought to bee had, as Iehosaphat did when he feared the Moabits to come upon him, 2 Chron. 20.3 David lived securely in Jerusalem, and without feare, which made him forget God as in the 2. Sam I I. the whole Chapter is worth the reading; doth not the wisest man that ever wrote say, that there is a time of war and a time of peace, Eccl.3.8. If a man did know what howre the theefe would come, he would surely watch, wherefore be advised to deale wisely, but not like unto Pharaoh for he said, let us deal wisely when he dealt most foolishly, Exodus I.10. and so we will goe on.
In reading over divers Hystories I thereby understanding the noble acts, and also noting the manly mind of these who lived many hundred yeeres agoe, whose fame shall never dye, whereas cowardly dastards which never bent their studies in marshall exploits, such I say at their death their fame dyeth with them, and so they are quickly raked up in the ashes of forgetfulnesse, and buried in the valley of oblivion. So that if a man wold goe search for the pedigree of their gentility, they shall finde it laid up in a beggars box, or as the Charter of a City written in dust, whereas on the other side the valiant and gallant minded men, although they dye, yet in their lifetime their manly acts and valiant deedes which they worthily performed, some in the warres and some at single combat, and some at other honorable and laudable exercises, whereby they merited to themselves immortall fame for ever, for to some no exercise nor weapon came amisse as in stead of many examples these two out of the book of God shall be sufficient, David with his sling, (as Hercules with his Club) and Sampson with his Iaw-bone or any other weapon which came next to his hand, but loth am I to trouble you with so long an Epistle or Preface, yet for an Introduction to the rest something I must say and most of that which I have and with say is so necessary as the rest, although it be longer than I would, but we will now to the matter.
Then thus, by reason of divers errors which are in sundry mens teaching of this noble arte of defence, I therefore being pricked forward by the earnest request of some of my friends, to describe the rules of weapons, which I by my study have invented, and by practice brought to perfection, and likewise for my countries benefit, I meane to better the unskillful in knowledge, I have thought it good to open plainly the best grounds, which belongeth to our English weapons, that are now in use, so far as my simple invention by great practice hath attained unto. Another reason which moved me hereunto was where some doe find out many hidden secrets which they bury in the earth again with their bodies, or else if they make it known, it shall bee to such a faithfull friend as they love and affect dearely, all writers that ever wrote did write either for profit or pleasure: some to profit others, and some to pleasure themselves; and some have wrote common and necessary things for their owne posterity after them; I write but of common things, yet not so common as necessary, and therefore my meaning is to make my secret study known so plainly as I can unto all the world, for the benefit of many thousand yet unborne, for every man hath or should have skill in his weapons, the reasons shall follow, as occasion shall serve hereafter more at large; but as yet I know the greatest number are blinded in an ignorant conceit, I meane such as doe thinke to overcome their enemies if occasion doe serve by quicknesse of the eye, or by a kind of valorous resolution, which for the avoiding of this and such like abuses, I have here and there put downe sundry reasons in this booke, although they be not in order, yet take a little paines to seek them out, for I wrote this booke at such leasurable fits as time would permit me; now for affection sake some will say it is well done, and others againe will say it is reasonable and indifferent, and so I pray you let it passé, for if I should perceive it shold goe for starke nought, then should I account my time and labor very ill bestowed; but yet this I know, if it were ten times worse then it is, yet would it be welcom to a number of my old friends and familiar acquaintance, such as were the cause of this my idle time spending, who were ernest with me for the setting foorth of this worke. Lo this is the anchor whereon my hope dependeth, but yet I make a doubt least that my booke may light into the hands of some envious mates, who never knew me, yet will not sticke to say upon the very first fight, oh this is such a mans worke, I know well enough what hee could doe, and yet will not fully give up their verdit, but onely shake the head, with a wry mouth and a smiling countenance, throwing it from them, and so seeming by their silence that they could further disgrace mee, but will not. Indeed it is more easier matter for such to find fault with a part of my booke then to amend the whole, but I could wish such learne before they take upon them to controule, but those which are wise and kind, will accept of my good will, for I have given out this but as a theame; let a wiser then I rime upon it, and although it seeme but as it were a glimpse of the noble Art of defence, in regard of the substance, yet some will perceive day at a little hole; wherefore travell further in it, till you find out the substance, like a good Surgion search the wound to the bottome before thou lay a plaster, I meane reade it over before thou give judgement; and then play the wise mans part which is to speake little, although he thinke much; indeed I must confesse a vanity in my selfe and that I have deserved blame, because so bluntly I have set foorth such an unperfect peece of worke, but my reasons in the latter end of the book may a litle excuse me, but in the mean while let it be never the worse welcome untothee, for that it hath my poore name unto it, I speake this because I know there are some will speake they care not what, to disgrace they know not whom, without rendering any reason at all, but onely out of a dogged humor, or an idle braine, some finding fault with the gards, and some because I have written of things which belongeth not to the matter or the ground of this worke, and some because it is a booke of pictures, accounting a book of pictures fit for children and foolks; to answer such I say when a child or a foole doth looke in a glasse, he doth think there is a baby on the other side, but when men of discretion looke in a glasse, they do not thinke so; therefore as by the Heathen we may learne many good lessons, even so a man of understanding may learne wisedome, and gaine experience of a foole; I wrote not this altogether to pleasure those that are skilfull already, for this booke can steed them but little, for the whole and found need not a Physition, but the ignorant and unskilfull may profit by this booke as much if with discretion they take regard in their practice according to my direction, as if my selfe were in person to teach them, but both the skilfull, and the unskilfull, the wise and the foolish may here learne one lesson or other, which they never learned before; Yet I know not how every one will take this my presumption, in adventuring to set out a booke having no learning, yet I pray you reade it over first, then judge, but yet be slow in condemning mee, for I have done my good will, now he which can make a simple thing better, he ought so to handle the matter, that although he get credit himselfe, yet condemne not me for shewing the best I could, therefore so judge of mee behind my backe as you would have others judge of you, but if you judge well and like well of it, then shall you have the second part with six weapons more, but I will first see what will become of this first part, let it commend or condemne it selfe, for great braggers cannot better it, nor dissembling speeches impaire it, neither will I maintaine for well done, all that I have done, but if you accept it then I have all my desire, if otherwise good will shall beare the blame for my presumption: but why doe I make a dought of any evill speeches, which deservs no blame, again this I know that there is none which standeth in so much need of good words as those which goe about to cover dishonest deeds, wherefore I may say as that great Captaine Marius who having occasion to use a speech before the people of Rome, in his conclusion hee said, although my words are not well set in order I waigh not so much so that my deeds be good.
I have made this of bricke and stones, as Augustus said of Rome at the first, but now Rome is built with marble: even so I wold with that some expert and learned person or other would pull downe this rude begun worke of mine and build it up with marble, for the worke it selfe if it were workmanlike handled, deserveth to be written in leters of gold, and to remain for ever, but first it must be twice or thrice distilled as they doe their Rosasolis, for first it is Aquavitae, & then in the second and third distillation, there is bestowed greater charge and more excellent matter ariseth of it.
I have but roved at skill in weapons, yet I am sure that I have shot so neere the marke that some will account me for a good Archer, other wise they would never have beene so important with me to have me put my directions in writing, and when it was in writing so many desired Copies, that amongst so many friends I knew not which to pleasure first, but especially and above all the late high and might Prince Henry whom I well hoped that he should have lived to have been the ninth Henry and the tenth worthy of the world, for what did any of the other nine worthies doe, but this good Prince was as likely, if he had lived to have performed as much as any of them ; for what hath beene done but may be done again. But as I was about to say, this good Prince had the perusing of this book and earnestly perswaded me to print it, but I had not leasure to finish it before death untimely tooke him away to my griefe and many more, for all the whole kingdome was nothing but mourning. Death were kind if he tooke none, but those which offended, but oh most unkind death, for thou in taking away that good yong Prince, hast taken away him which never offended, for there was never the like seene in one so yong, for his wisedome, learning, and kind curtesie, to all which came to see his Princely selfe, talking so mildly and familiarly to every one which did so rejoyce and glad the hearts of all true and loving subjects, and also caused him in his fame to be spoken of, for Kings and Princes are talked of at poore mens tables, and good words he deserved, as ever any earthly creature did. For besides his skill in Musicke, he was able by his learning to discourse with any forraine Prince whatsoever, also his admirable and well riding of a great horse, and his excellent running at tilt or ring; likewise his cunning in weapons, for the fight on horsebacke or on foote, and for tossing the pike never so many feates seene in any Prince, insomuch that it made strangers stand amazed to behold himl at a word hee had experience in all artes or sciences, thereby seeming as it were desirous to trust more to his owne valour, if occasion served, then to the goodnesse of his horse. And so to make an end least of the ignorant I get the name of a claw-blacke, and also another doubt I have, and being not able to discharge it according unto the dignity and worthinesse thereof, the which I cannot doe, and therefore I will not wad so far in so dangerous a river, but that I may easily escape out, wherefore like the finger of a diall I will point, it must be the clocke which telleth you the just time of the day, I have drawne his Highnesses in bare colours, and so I leave the oily colours to those which are learned, you may see by a tast what whine is in the butte, and so to our matter againe. Now he which will practice after my direction, thou maist a little the rather attaine unto that perfect knowledge in the Art or skill with thy weapons having an able body by agility to preserve that skill which I have here in this booke laid open unto thee, for I did understand many things which my body was not able to performe; now because many at this first will waxe weary in their practise, yet because many at the first will waxe weary in their practise, yet such wearinesse is overcome by often exercise, and that new skill once obtained will be such a pleasure to thee, that it putteth all wearinesse out of thy remembrance, now until thou hast skill thou must not thinke it a toyle, but strive continually to overcome wearinesse; resolve this with thy selfe, that the paine will be nothing so wearisome as the gaine of skill will be delightfull and comfortable until thee, and commendable amongst others: I have made it as plaine and laid it as open as I can expresse by words, because I would have every man expert in weapons, considering that skill in weapons is so honorable and so precious a thing, that in my mind it may be preferred next unto divinity, for as divinity preserveth the soules of those which follow it, from hell and the divell, so doth this noble and worthy art of defence defend the body from hurts and skars of those which learne it, but those which neither follow the one nor learne the other, the first sort for ought I know may goe throw fire brands in hell, and the second sort may fit in an alehouse, and there shew how many hurts, and likewise tell how many wounds he hath about his body; for I have known wany brag of their hurts, and in my conveit they take a pride in that they have stood so neere the point of a weapon, whereby to recieve wounds, therefore they are willing that the world should know how ventnrous they have been, but now in my minde if they had skill they need not bee hurt; wherefore skill is not onely availeable to preserve and keep the body without hurts and wounds, but also the use and practise with weapons, doth drive away all aches, griefes, and diseases, it remooveth congealed blood, and breaketh impostumes, it maketh the body nimble, and plyant, it sharpneth the wit, it increaseth the fight, and procureth strength, and expelleth melancholy and cholericknes, and many other evil conceits, it keepeth a man in breath, in perfect health, it makes him to be of longe life which useth it, it is unto him which hath the perfect skil in weapons, a most friendly, & comfortable companio, when he is alone, having but only his weapons about him, it putteth him out of all feare, and in the wars and places of most danger it maketh a man bold, hardy valiant, and venturous, wherefore they that are once experienced in the skill of weapons will afterwards to the end of their lives enconrage the unskilfull to learne still, considering how necessary a thing skill in weapons is, insomuch that God and nature tolerates the practise of this skill in weapons, which is here ment for the defence of mans body, it also preserveth many from murder, also in the wars it may likewise stead a King, gentlemen, or any other private soldier; for if in the wars a single combat is desired, as that of Golias, there started out of the army a David who with a godly valour stood in the gap, for the good and preservation of many mens lives, which no doubt else had parished in that great and dangerous battell. Therefore it behooveth Kings being challenged by their equals for the safegard and good of their subjects and country, to adventure and hazard and good of their subjects and country, to adventure and hazard their owne lives in hope of a conquest, so that thereby the wars may cease.
[Right margin note: Give not over practice nor reject not skill because thou canst not be a master of art, or a doctor at the first day, for time must worke and bring all things to passe, for that is well done which is done by leisure, for hast many times makes wast.]
Some there are which take delight to talke of the arte of defence, and yet have no insight nor judgement therein, the proverb is verified in such which goeth thus, there are some which talke of Robin-hood which never shot in his bowe, I speake this because a gentleman on a time came to my Schoole and would not play by no meanes, yet he was busie with his tongue in teaching others, and in discoursing of serverall weapons, and severall guards, but by his words he bewraied his small judgement, for his speech sounded to no sence nor reason, and so I being weary with hearing him talke so long, and far from the marke which he aimed at, so at length I rounded him in the eare, thus, hold your peace, or else speake softly, for my usher laughs you to skorne. But we will to our matter againe, and draw to a conclusion of this Epistle, for the necessary use of weapons. In Luke the twelve there the the Lord as it seemeth did thinke them to be more better than a coate upon a mans backe, he therefore bade his Disciples generally, goe said he, sell your coates and buy you swords, he spake not to this one of them alone, but unto them all.
Now the Kingly Prophet David teacheth you where to weare your swords, saying gird they sword on thy thigh, he doth not bid thee weare it about they necke in a string, even so as the Lord in many places of the Bible is said to be of many professions, for he is called a shepheard, a husband-man, a Physition, and David in his 1.44. Psalm, in a manner he calleth him a fenser, for there he saith that the Lord did teach his hands to war, and his fingers to fight; He also saith in another of his Psalmes, I am a worme and no man, and yet I eare not what man can doe unto me. Other examples bending to this purpose hereafter shall follow more at large, some in one Chapter, and some in another, as they come in my mind, and although it hath been my study and practise this twenty yeeres, yet now I have unfolded every place, and shewed every wrinkle of these few weapons, so far as my invention hath attained unto, and I have set them downe so large and made them so plaine, as by words I could any way expresse them, so that thouh maist learne them in twenty days and lesse, if not all, yet enough for the sure defence of thy body, and the rest shall follow in a second booke hereafter, if thou dost friendly accept of this.
In the meane time arme thy mind to these weapons here following, for they are sufficient for thy defense at the single combat, also here thou shalt find other lessons no lesse profitable then delightfull, if thou with content peruse them, and so I will hinder thee no longer from that which ensueth, and therefore ending my Epistle with these words of the Frier, who often in his Sermon said the best is behind, so he that readeth but the beginning of a booke, can give no judgement of that which enueth; then read it over, and thou shalt not be deluded with the best is behind.
I hope I may cal this booke a booke without any offence, for the collier he calleth his horse a horse, and the Spanish Jennet is but a horse. Now as this art is called a Noble arte, and not so named unfittingly, being rightly understood, for there is no art nor science more to bee preferred before this, for that there is none that jumpeth in equality, nor that matcheth in singularity or that hath so many sundry subtill devices and ingenious inventions, as this noble art of defence hath. Now hee that doth but read of this art, yea although he read never so much, yet without practise and by experience in trial, it will be unperfect, for how can perfection be attained but by practise, and therfore it also behooveth thee to use practise with sundry men, and so to make use of the diversity of each mans skill, and then for thy benefit like the wise physition who of many simples maketh one compound, or as the bee which by her serious industry gathereth vertue from sundry sorts of hearbs and flowers, & therof maketh her hony, she is not therefore to be condemned of envy, but rather to be commended of all.
Neither doe I write this booke altogether to profit those in learning that which they before wanted, but only to set them and other willing minds a work which by arte and learning can better swim through such a deepe river then I can, it should have been better if my learning had been answerable to my wil, and yet hoping the wise will rather winke at small faults, then rashly reprove that which may profit the simple, for all have not skill and cunning alike, I am perswaded that some will the rather passé it over with patience, although it be but only for affection to the arte, and so hoping that this my worke may bee profitable to all, for so it can no way be hurtfull to none, but if you chance to meete with this booke after he hath served out the apprentiship of seaven yeeres, if God grant me life so long you shall see him in double apparel, and then you shall have just cause to say that his master hath fulfilled his covenants, for I wish all men well, and every one an increase of skill in all laudible and profitable arts or sciences, and so with this long entry into a little parlor, I leave you to him whose seate is in heaven, and whose foot-stoole is the earth. And rest,
Thine in the Lord,
Unto all Professors of the Noble and
Worthie Art of Defence I
Most noble brethren by profession, and brethren in Christ by Religion, wishing all health and happines to all them of the noble Art or Science of Defence; and as your profession is noble, so in brotherly love, I doe earnestly request you all to use it in that noble fashion, as the name or title requires, the rather, & forbecause you are men, not onely noted and talked of, but often looked on and more pointed at, then any other ordinary men are, of what profession soever. Also it is the worlds wonder, to see a man of civill government using this profession, therefore I pray you consider with me alittle, that we are as a Beacon set on a hill, or like a candle in a candlesticke; then let not your candle be made with a great wike, and no tallow, but let him be so mixt with both, that your light may so shine before men, that they seeing your discreet government and good behaviour may (by your good examples) reforme many ill infirmities which they see in themselves. Alas, I pray you consider and remember, that as the tree growth, so he falleth; we are not borne for our selves, but for our Countrie; and if we doe no good, though wee do no harme, then better it were that wee had never beene borne. The figge tree in the Gospell, is said to trouble the ground, because he bare no fruite, and therefore better an addle Egge than an ille Bird; for a good and a godly life, hath a good and a godly end, and an ungodly life hath an ungodly end; and therefore most happie dieth that man, of whom the world doubteth not of his salvation, although the world is given to speake well and charitably of the wicked when they are dead, and yet it may be they thinke in their mindes they are gone to hell; then call to minde, and wisely consider of this, and also of yourend, and in what great jeopardie your lives stand; for he that to day is well, lustie, and strong, may the next day, nay, the next houre, have his life taken sodainely from him at unawares, when he least thinketh on it, for many of this profession doe not live out halfe their daies, for there is many waies to bring a man to his end, some by quarrelling when they have no cause, and so are stabbed sodainely, and some by drunkenesse, as you shall heare anone; for I could write of many which came to their ends, and yet died not all in their beddes, nor all in the warres, nor all at the gallowes, and yet many of them have gone these waies; for there are wicked and evill angells which are the wayters, and doe attend upon an ungodly life, for Death respecteth no manner of person, for he doth assault the skilfull so well as the ignorant, the wise so well as the foolish, and therefore it is good for everie man to bee prepared and in a readinesse, and then hee neede not to feare to say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickely; today or tomorrow, or when thou wilt, and with what manner of death soever, so it come by thine appointment.
And now (for examples sake) I thinke it not amisse to renew your remembrance with the death of some few of the Noble Science, because I have knowne their ends; and first, to beginne with that one of the Master Turner, which should be the last, he did not so speedily kill John Dun, with a thrust in the eie, but he was as soone murthered afterwards, with a shotte of a Pistoll; for neither of them, after they had their deaths wound, spake one word; loe, by this you may see, that some hawkes are but a flight, and some horses are killed with a tournie, and a man is but a shotte; but now, by reason that Maister Turner, by his unluckie hand, thurst out two or three eies, and because none others are knowne to doe the like, it hath therefore bred an admiration in the ignorant and vulgare sort, insomuch, that generally they doe applaude him with this commendation, saying that he hath not left the like behinde him, nor never will be the like againe : But this is a great errour in thinking so, and farre deceived are they; for I well knew Master Turner by familiar acquaintance, and therefore (to speake the right) he was a worthy fellow and deserved well, but yet I know many which can goe so neare the eie as ever he could doe, if they solisted, as in this booke you shall see many false thrustes at several weapons, which may endanger any mans eies, if those which learne them doe carry envious mindes, or if they were desirous to worke a man such a mischiefe, but God forbid that any man should be so ill minded. I will not say, but that by chaunce such a thing may be done, and so it may bee that Maister Turner did it more by chaunce, without an intention, for so some do judge of it : but if a man choppe a thrust at the face, yet, by chaunce, he may hit the eye : for no man is certaine, that with the first thrust he will hit the eie, but with proffering man, by chance he may : now the use which we ought to make of this, is, to advise all men to take heed that they beare not a killing heart, for then we shall have no killing hand, as that example more of Henry Adlington for killing his Maister John Devell, was hanged : Furlong he drunke a pinte of Aqua vita at one draught, and he fell downe and died presently : Westcoat, for some unkindnesse received of his owne daughter, he went into a wood neare Perine in Cornewall, and there hanged himselfe : Richard Caro, hee died most miserably of the French Disease in an olde house neare Plimouth, although he had a new suite of clothes from toppe to toe, yet hee was so loathsome a creature, that no bodie would let him harbour in his house, for part of his body was rotten and stuncke above ground : also old Carter of Worcester lay a long time sicke of a lingering disease, and being worne away to nothing but skinne and bones, hee died in his bed : and so of many more I could write, but it is not my intention to write a Chronicle, and therefore these few shall serve for this time, I wrote it but onely to put you in minde, that you may so leade your lives daily and hourely, as if Death were even at your heeles, and so to live as though you should live for ever, always keeping something for a rainie day, as saith the Proverbe, that is to say, for sickenesse, if God doe send it, and for olde age when your aking bones doe refuse to performe that labour which the heart is willing to set them to.
Therefore I would with every one, in his youth, to provide and get himselfe a homely home, and to settle in one goode towne or other, for a rowling stone gathereth no Mosse, the Grashopper cannot live but in the Grasse, and the Salamander dieth if he goe out of the fire : therefore, spend not thy time in travell from place to place, but keepe thy homely home, and there beginne thy spending as thouh maiest continue, cutting thy coate according to thy cloth, and not spending all at one time, and have nothing at an other to serve thy turne, as many of all Professions do.
Wherefore, you yong branches of this noble Art of Defence, of you I meane to speake, and unto you I doe make this earnest request, that you will bestow all your idle time, which too too many spend in idle companie, and in drunkenesse, such ill spent time, I could wish, that it were either bestowed in reading of good bookes, or in giving good counsell unto such yong men as doe frequent your company, teaching them besides skill with weapons, how to manage their weapons, and how, and when to appoint the field, but not upon every drunken quarrel, and chiefly of all, charging them from profaning the Sabboth day, drunkennesse, and all other vices belonging thereunto, which makes their white fouls so blacke as incke, stinking before god as it were the smoake of sulphure and brimstone: and thus doing will purchase you, not onely the love of God, but likewise of all the world, and your good report will be in every mans mounth, yea it will goe before yon in your travells, like as with an Herauld of Armes, or else like a speedy Poste, overtake you wheresoever you goe, whereas on the contrary side, those which doe spend their dayes in drunkennesse, and leading their lives lasciviously one misfortune or other happeneth unto them, eyther by the losse of a limbe, or by the losse of an eie, or by the losse of their lives.
For I have knowne many very skilfull men not only of this Profession, but likewise of others, which delight in ungodlinesse, drunkennesse; and being put to triall in their Art or Profession, they have received disgrace and lost the day, and they afterwards have thought that they made a good excuse, in saying that they were in drinke when they went about their businesse, and yet it may be it was not so, then is it meere madnes, that any man should be so foolish in taking too much drinke when before hand hee knoweth this is the day, wherein I am to stand upon my credite; now because I know, that many will reade this besides those unto whom it is dedicated : therefore I wish all men, of what Profession soever, to make this reckoning (as aforesaid) every day, and not to be forgetfull of that which hee should chiefly remember; for every day one time of the day or other thou mayst be put so to thy shifts, and thereby have an occasion to sommon up all thy wittes, and driven to use thy best skill, and yet all little enough to serve thy turne.
Wherefore unto you which this any way may concerne, I wish you to apply your selves unto your Profession, and still to be studying and practicing the true and perfect rules belonging both to the true and false play, especially unto such weapons as you are not growne unto the full perfection before hand, if they may serve eyther for the warres or for single combate.
Be not wise in thine owne conceit, in thinking that thou hast learned all the skill which is possible to be learned already, farre decieved art thou if thou thinke so, for if thou live till thou art olde, yet thou mayest learne still, for one guard crosseth another, and the false play crosseth the true play; there are many secret slippes and guards to be invented, and one guard or one tricke may more steade thee, and more prevaile against some men then another; for when with plaine play, thou canst not endanger thy enemy, yet with false play thou mayest hit him, for although thy enemy doe know the defence of some manner of false play, yet it may be he is not azquainted, neither with the defence nor offence of thine, for there is more wayes to the wood then one, and hee which knoweth many wayes, may goe the nearest.
Even so, he that knoweth many guards, and the true skill at many weapons may be the better able to answere any stowt bragging forreiner or stranger when they come with their challenges into our country, let them be of what nations soever, and at what weapons they will, and upon what tearmes they dare, as hither to they have beene sufficiently answered during my time, by Maister Mathews, Maister Turner, Maister Bradshaw, and Maister Yates; for these chiefly stoode to stake against all commers, and yet I can not chuse but remember Maister Church, and Maister Brentley, who of this latter time have deserved to be well reported of, and for aught that I could ever heare or see anie get at any of their hands, they have small cause to bragge of their winning, for they alwayes went away with shrewd shrubs and knockes, I meane with blacke eyes, broken shinnes, or cract pates; but of my selfe I will say little, because the world is sufficiently satisfied of more than at this time I meane to write of now, although the ignorant can not answer them for want of skill and judgement, yet they will rejoyce and clap their hands to see them answered by sufficient and able men of valour and judgement.
Now if any should aske my reason, why some should have such good fortune, and other some disgraced, and yet by the worlds judgement their skill equall; because you shall not muse long about it, I will quickely tell you my opinion, good governement and good carriage is the maine point thereof, yet me thinkes amongst the vulgar sort I beare some say, because two or three famous fellowes are dead, that there will never be the like again: but farre decieved are they which thinke so, for there hath not beene so good, but there may come so good againe : for as yet I never knew any man but he hath mette with his match, and therefore I wish every one not to presume one steppe the higher, for any gift that God bestoweth on thee, neither to think thy selfe better then any man, though there are some which, for want of discretion, will disable others, onely to magnifie themselves, and thinking thereby to make the world beleeve there is none so good as they. Loe, this is the cause of many quarrells, and sometimes murtheres : Therefore speake not evill behinde the backe of anie man, nor dispraise no mans play nor workemanship, be it never so simple, doe not like other Tradesmen, which cannot live one by another, but with a kinde of grudging hatred, as the Hatter against the Hatter, the Shoomaker against the Shoomaker, and the Tailer would even hang the Tailer by his good will, and so of all Trades the like; but I would gladly wish it otherwise of all Trades, but especially of this Profession, to be loving and kinde one to another, meeting together in their travells, and like Birds of a feather holde together, and in brotherly love embrace one another, and let it not be from the teeth outward, but from the heart inward, for you shall have many others which will undermine you, and creepe into your secrets, and so runne betwixt one another with tattling tales, onelie to set you together by the eares, and then laugh at you when they have done : Loe, thus an evill tongue is the cause of many a mans death : wherefore leave and forsake all evill vices, though you feare not man in respect of your manhoode, yet feare to offend God for doubt of his judgements, which undoubtedly lighteth upon all those that carelesly forget him.
For, as the greatest honour that ever came to man, was through skill in weapons, and the greatest downe-fall that ever came to man, was through pride of his manhoode, and in neglecting his duety towards God : wherefore, as you worthily carrie the stile or title of Maisters of Defence by your Profession, thus be the same you seeme to be, I meane, never leave studying and practicing till you come to the ground, and untill you have sounded into the depth of your Art, for there are manie other principal points belonging to the warres, besides, march, troupe, charge, and stand; even so unto a Maister of Defense belongeth the skill of many other weapons, besides backe-sword, sword and dagger, rapier and dagger, and the staffe: for, if he bee not provided with the skill of many other weapons, hee may be to seeke of his defence, if he should be challenged unto some other weapons which hee is unacquainted withall.
Then hee is not worthie to be called a Maister of Defence, which cannot defend himselfe at all weapons, especially agianst everie ordinarie man not professing the Art of Defence, nor except hee can play with a Lyon, as well as with a Lambe, and sometimes againe to play the Lambe so well as the Lyon; for hee that can not tell when to spare, and when to strike; and hee which cannot defend himselfe, cannot teach others to defend themselves, nor is bee not worthy to be called a Maister of Defence, but he that can doe it is worthie of that title; and therefore greatly wronged of them which will call such a one a Fencer, for the difference betwixt a Maister of Defence, and a Fencer, is as much as betweene a Musician and a Fidler, or betwixt a Merchant and a Pedler; it will not well please a Merchant to be called Pedler, yet the Merchant selleth the like wares as the Pedler doth : Is therefore a Merchant and a Pedler all one? No more is every Fencer a Maister of Defence; nor everie Fidler hath not skill in Pricke song, and therefore no Musician ; if a man have but tenne shillings worth of Pinnes, Points, and [Inckle?], hee may then be called a Pedler, but hee that hath a hundred sortes of wares, shall scarce get the name to be called a Merchant, no more can hee which hath gotten a little more skill at three or foure weapons then everie common man, yet hee may be to seeke of the true skill of many other weapons which belong unto a Maister of Defence.
Yet one thing more, which I had almost forgotten; unto Scholers and unto [Ushers?] of Schooles of this Profession, proffer no wrong to your maisters neither in word nor deed, nor deny not your Tutors, but beare a heartie love unto him which hath brought you from nothing to something, from a shadow unto a substance; Let not the Priest forget that hee was a Clarke. I have Knowne many Schollers so good as their Maister, and (it may be) better, according to the Proverbe, A man may make his owne dogge bite him; but in my minde, such a dogge is worthy of a rope : make the application as you see occasion. For I have knowne many an ungratefull knave escape the gallowes, by the meanes of an honest minded man ; yet such a knave (upon small or no occasion) hath afterwards gone about to hang such a friend if he could, even so, some young lustie Schollers, when they have gotten perfect skill, for lacke of witte, would offer to wrong their aged Maister, if they could : It is not strange to finde one scabbed sheepe in a whole flocke; nor it is no newes amongst many honest men, to finde a treacherous varlet, voyde of all honestie, feare, and witte. Now having no warrant to force you to follow my counsell, but onely in brotherly love, I thought good to request you, and everie of you, to amend one; And God amend us all, he I meane, whose Seate is in Heaven, and whose Foote-stoole is the Earth.
Your well-willing friend,