Sunday, January 25, 2015

George Silver and John Smythe Did Not Like Rapiers at All

In his Paradoxes of Defence, George Silver wrote:
…when the battles are joined, and come to the charge, there is no room for them to draw their bird-spits, and when they have them, what can they do with them? Can they pierce his corselet with the point? Can they unlace his helmet, unbuckle his armour, hew asunder their pikes with a stocata, a riversa, a dritta, a stramason, or other such tempestuous terms? No, these toys are fit for children, not for men, for stragling boys of the camp, to murder poultry, not for men of honour to try battle with their foes.
Sir John Smythe, in his Certain Discourses Military of 1590, didn't care for them either:
 … our such men of war, contrary to the ancient order and use military, do nowadays prefer and allow that armed men pikers should rather wear rapiers of a yard and a quarter long the blades or more than strong, short, arming swords… a squadron of armed men in the field, being ready to encounter with another squadron, their enemies…being in their ranks so close one to another by flanks, cannot draw their swords if the blades of them be above the length of three quarters of a yard or little more. Besides that, swords being so long do work in a manner no effect, neither with blows nor thrusts, where the press is so great as in such actions it is. And rapier blades, being so narrow and of so small substance, and made of a very hard temper to fight in private frays, in lighting with any blow upon armour do presently break and so become unprofitable.
Of course, Smythe was something of a crank, an unreliable ranter overly quick to dismiss changes in military technology since the 15th c. It's just as well he couldn't post on the internet.

Say what you will, Mr. Silver had a gift for invective.

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