“To the Two Hand Sword”

Analysis of a 15th Century English Fencing Poem

By J. Clements

Among the sources for study of Renaissance martial arts there is a short 15th century English fencing text.  This document serves as a rare source of period swordplay from the British Isles. Previously referred to as the “Man Who Wol”, or just “the Harleian”, the manuscript has remained rather cryptic due to its arcane vocabulary.  The material should more accurately be referred to simply as MS 3542 (its full title is: British Museum manuscript #3542, ff 82-85). A better modern title however, would be, “To the two hand sword”, rather than “The Man Who Wol”. Based on the word usage, the Oxford English Dictionary dates the text to c.1430.

The MS 3542 document presents a glimpse of one of the few historical examples of an English method of using a long blade. Written in the 1400s, the work very likely reflects a method of fighting going back a century earlier somewhat adapted to using larger blades and changing armors. The text itself consists of three short sections: “The Use of the Two-hand Sworde”; “To Incounter wih the Two Hand Sworde”; and the third portion, “The Play with the Two Hand Sword in Verse”, a short instructional poem analyzed here below.

Unfortunately, the approximately 1500 words of the prose section of MS 3542 are nearly indecipherable and open to considerable interpretation. However, the second part is the more intriguing portion and is what concerns us here.  The final portion is a brief 46-line poem entitled, “The Play with the Two Hand Sword in Verse.  This poem section has not been very closely studied by students of the subject and is worth reconsidering as a valuable source for understanding the practice of historical swordplay. Many of the terms in the poem section are contained in the larger prose portion of MS 3542, but are used so enigmatically that their meaning and context is obscured.   The poem in contrast uses several of them more clearly. At the time, rhyming verse was a common means of remembering lessons in all subjects.  The use of verse as well as metaphor combined with the abstract nature of describing fighting concepts gives the material a cryptic quality.  Nonetheless, the lines offer some intriguing ideas worth consideration.

The Poem

The 19th century historical fencing practitioner-researcher, Captain Alfred Hutton, offered a version of MS 3542 in his 1901 book, The Sword and the Centuries (Barnes & Noble reprint, 1997, p. 39-40).  In my recent research though, I came across the version now presented here for analysis for the first time. This version is an earlier published edition of the poem from an 1841 source: Reliquiae Antiquae, an obscure text featuring scraps from early English manuscripts.

The poem is not nearly as cryptic or obscure as either the larger portion of MS 3542 or the other known 15th century English fencing text, MS 39564.  This clarity is where a great part of its value lies. While not quite a “Rosetta Stone” for 15th century English fencing, it offers some clues into deciphering the larger text of MS 3542 and the MS 39564.  The poem differs from the remainder of MS 3542 in that it is in rhyming verse (and quite good verse at that), as well as not mentioning any numerical techniques in the way MS 39564 does. Tantalizingly, the poem may only be a partial scrap of a larger work. Additionally, terminological links to the other surviving English text (MS 39542) would seems to suggest a more systematic “method” of 15th century English fencing than previously considered may have existed. On the other hand, several apparent similarities to 15th century German fencing terminology could imply a connection to the their systems.

The verses are presented here below in three forms with each line numbered for convenience.  They appear to be concerned with practicing alone against an imagined rather than real opponent. As stated at the end, the approach to swordplay in the poem applies equally to teaching, to playing, and to fighting. 

The first rendering below is the 1841 version from Reliquiae Antiquae, the second is a new interpreted translation into modern English.  This is followed by a short working glossary defining several key words and offering comments. Finally, Hutton’s 1901 version, which appears to keep to the original document’s format and textural style, is presented for comparison.  Hutton gave a few definitions for some of the obscure words, but they differ from those of the 1841 version and also reflect his own interpretation based on his assumptions of Medieval swordplay.

The question arises as to which version is more accurate: Hutton’s, which retained the original style and was interpreted by an experienced, albeit Victorian fencer; or the earlier Reliquiae Antiquae text, transcribed by antiquarian experts in both Old English and historical manuscripts?  One thing is clear though, the Reliquiae Antiquae version, examined here for the first time, is more coherent and easier to read. Most intriguing are the seeming double meaning of some lines and the depth of action or understanding they appear to convey.

There are two changes in the Reliquiae Antiquae version that do prove less sensible than Hutton’s.  In line 23 the word “clean” is incorrectly used in place of the obvious “cleave” (written as “cleue” in the original manuscript –“v’s” often appeared as “u’s” in old writings).  While in line 33 the word “Fle”, meaning flee or to fly out, is perplexingly changed to “He”, thereby significantly altering the meaning. Although they have suggested definitions, several key words, such as “cantle”, “sory”, and “lythy”, still remain enigmatic in context. Noticeably, nowhere does the poem (or the full document) state exactly what kind of two-hand sword is to be used, neither its length nor whether it is sharp, blunt, steel, or wood.  Perhaps a clue comes from the ending.

The Reliquiae Antiquae version of the poem contains several changes in the spelling, slight changes in grammar and punctuation, and combines some lines separated in the Hutton.  The result makes the meaning of the lines easier to interpret and much more obvious to grasp.  This earlier transliteration also rhymes better and reads better as poetry. It is interesting to notice the alterations made by the editors in 1841 compared to those Hutton made himself 50 years later. However, it is from studying the modern interpreted translation that the real value of the poem comes out for modern students of Renaissance martial arts.

On Fencing With the Two Handed Sword

(Reliquiae Antiquae, 1841)

1.             The man that wol to the to hond swerd lere bothe close and clere,

2.             He most have a goode eye bothe fer and nere,

3.             And an in stop, and an owte stop, and an hawke quartere,

4.             A cantel, a doblet, an half for hys fere

5.             Two rowndys an an halfe with a goode chere.

6.             This ys the ferst cowntere of the too hond swerd, sere.

7.             Bynde hem togedere and sey god spede,

8.             Two quarters and a rownde a stop thou hym bede

9.             A rake with a spryng there thou hym abyde,

10.        Falle in with an hauke and stride nogte too wyde

11.        Smyte a rennyng quarter owte for hys side,

12.        Fal apon hys harneys yf he wole abyde,

13.        Come in with a rake in every a side,

14.        An hole rownde and an halfe wath so hit betide,

15.        iiij. quarters and a rownd and a venture stroke with.

16.        Bere up hys harnes and gete thou the gryth

17.        Dobyl up lygtly and do as y seye,

18.        Fal in with an hauke and bere a goede eye.

19.        A spryng and a rownde and stap in with,

20.        Spare nogth an hauke yf he lye in thy kyth ;

21.        Smyte a rennyng quarter sory owte of thy honde,

22.        Abyde apon a pendent and lese not thy londe

23.        Smyte in the lyfte foote & clene rygt doune,

24.        Geder oute of thy rygte hond and smyte an hauke rounde,

25.        Fresly smyte thy strokis by dene,

26.        And hold wel thy lond thath hyt may be sene,

27.        Thy rakys, thy rowndis, thy quarters abowte,

28.        Thy stoppis, thy foynys, lete hem fast rowte.

29.        Thy spryngys, thy quarters, thy rabetis also,

30.        Bere a goode eye and lete thy hond go.

31.        Fy on a false hert that dar not abyde,

32.        Wen he seyth roundys and rakys rennyng by his side.

33.        Fle not hastly for a lytil pryde.

34.        For lytil wote thy adusary wath hym shal betide.

35.        Lete strokys fast folowe aftr hys honed,

36.        And hauk rounde with a stop and stil that thou stond,

37.        Greve not gretly tho thou be tochyd a 1yte,

38.        For an aftr stroke ys betr yf thou dar hym smyte.

39.        A gode rounde with a hauke and smyte rygt doune,

40.        Gedyr up a doblet and spar not hys croune.

41.        With a rownde and a rake abyde at a bay,

42.        With a rennyng quarter sette hym oute of hys way.

43.        Thys buthe the letters that stondyn in hys sygte,

44.        To teche or to play or ellys for to fygte;

45.        These buthe the strokys of thy hole grounde,

46.        For hurte or for dynte or ellys for depys wonde.

Analysis and Interpretation

The poem itself comes across as both literal and metaphorical in its instructions.  There are several particularly intriguing lines that suggest aspects of technique and training.  The verses begin with instruction that learning the two-hand sword requires understanding both “close and clear” followed next by the necessity of a “good eye both far and near”.  This seemingly would express the idea of fighting both at farther range and close-in. It could also refer to knowledge of the concepts of close-in striking techniques and farther-out cutting and thrusting range techniques.  Another possibility is that close and clear means knowledge of in-fighting and grappling (e.g., Gioco Stretto or Schwertnemen) as opposed to blade action (e.g., Gioco Largo or Zuefechten).  Added to this, the next line advises to have an “in stop and an out stop”. These can be interpreted as either the act of stepping in and stepping out as necessary to hit or avoid hits, or alternatively, as “stop-hit” techniques at different ranges.

Line 3, “And an in stop, and an owte stop, and an hawke quartere”, makes the first of 6 mentions of a hawk and 8 mentions of a quarter. A “hawk” evidently refers to a diagonal or vertical downward cut, perhaps as in the swooping down of a bird of prey. The “quartere” in line 3 logically refers to striking at one of the four “quarters” or target openings (of high or low, left or right) akin to the 4 Blossen of Liechtenauer or the varco of Fillipo Vadi.  Quarters are mentioned 8 times in total, with the “four” quarters (written as “iiij”) specifically mentioned in line 15.

Line 4, “A cantel, a doblet, an half for hys fere”, is especially interesting. We read of three distinct actions: a cantle, a double, and a half.  These can be interpreted differently depending upon the definition applied.  A 14th century definition for cantel (cantle) can be either a segment cut off or out of something, a corner piece, or even the upward projecting rear part of a saddle. Another perhaps more appropriate definition could be a crafty device, or something cunning or cautious.  The word Doublet in line 4 however, does not refer to a garment or shirt but to a “double” or something consisting of two identical or similar parts.  The word is used again in lines 17 and 40 in, “Dobyl up lygtly” and “Gedyr up a doblet”.  Each is consistent with meaning to do a double action, which could very well be similar to the technique in German texts, Doppelrundtstreich (double round-strike).  A “half” could seemingly mean a quicker shorter cut made from the “half-arm”, i.e., from the elbow as opposed to a “full” one from the shoulder.  When practiced with a blade, this analysis is consistent with the instructions.  The term “stroke” is mentioned 5 times throughout the poem, which is sensible as it essentially means to deliver a blow. 

The term “rake” (rakys) however, mentioned 5 times, is interesting since it ostensibly refers to a slicing blow –something not typically considered all that effective with a straight blade and something not commonly associated with Medieval swords.  It also would be another similarity to the German school with its Schnitt or Abschneiden slicing cuts. Just possibly, it may offer an intriguing connection to the Krawthacke, or “garden hoe”, a movement so named for its “raking” action.

In line 5, “Two rowndys an an halfe with a goode chere”, we read the instruction to strike two round blows. This is the first of 8 mentions of rownds and can again be compared with confidence to the Rundtstreich (round-strike) of the German school.  Rounds, or “rowndys”, are mentioned 7 times, and line 14 cites, “A hole rownde and an half”.  The action evidently consists of delivering a descending blow by first dropping the point of the weapon down and then bringing it up and around to generate the strike.  When practiced with a weapon, this interpretation is again consistent with the instructions.  Lines 24 and 36 each instruct a “hawk rownde”.  This is intriguing as it would suggest a downward round as opposed to an upward one and sure enough, a round can be made where the sword point is pulled back and the blade brought under and up to strike.  In line 5 we also read to do this  with a good cheer. This could be a reference to loud vocalization in striking (e.g., the helo of the later Italian school). 

Line 6 curiously refers to the prior sequence of actions as being, “Thy first cowntere”.  The first counter then would logically be those of the three earlier lines that describe action: an “in stop”, an “out stop,” and a “hawk quarter,” followed by a “cantle,” a “double,” and a “half,” then ending with “two rounds” and a “halfe”.  This is a total of 9 actions –assuming the “stops” are actual sword movements and not just referring to footwork. Whether or not the word “cownter” means a series of “counter-attacks” or only “to encounter” an opponent, the following 40 lines oddly do not refer to a “second” or any other counter after this “first” one.  Perhaps then, the 9 evident actions of the first counter are in essence basic foundational actions?  This is a distinct possibility since the two “stops” may be general concepts, with the hawk quarter being any downward strike and the other actions being round and half strikes. All of these can reasonably be interpreted as general actions familiar within 15th century swordsmanship. Again, this is consistent with the instructions when they are performed live with a replica great-sword.

In line 7 we read the interesting phrase, “Bynde hem togedere”. The immediate interpretation is that it refers to a simple binding action (Binden, in the German school) where the opponent's blade is forced back or down or simply controlled by pressure.  Another possibility is to close and trap his sword (using the weapon or second hand). Line 8 speaks of, “Two quarters and a rownde a stop thou hym bede.”  The ostensive meaning is three blows will prevent him from acting or outright defeat him. Curiously, in the German school they taught Drey Hewe, or the “three cuts” –a foundation of basic quick strikes made up of a diagonal downward cut, a reverse rising cut with the back edge, and then a downward vertical cut.

In line 9, “A rake with a spryng there thou hym abyde”, may refer to a technique known in the German school as Das Gayszlen, or “the spring”, in which a strike is thrown out where the sword is held by only one hand. To extend the range the arm can stretch out and the handle can slip through the hand so the pommel is grabbed.  A spring is again instructed in lines 19 and 23.  Line 11 interestingly reads, “Smyte a rennyng quarter owte for hys side”.  Again, to reference the German school of fencing, an action known as “running through” (Durchlaufen) has a similar meaning of traversing diagonal past the opponent while warding his blow and then cutting him from the side.

In line 12 we are told, “fall upon hys harneys”, which undoubtedly is an instruction to close and grapple.   This is significant in several ways. It is the first apparent reference to the opponent as wearing armor and it signifies the inclusion of close grappling techniques while still armed.  There is no indication that the weapon is dropped or discarded during this.  If it follows directly from line 11, it would mean the attempt is made from a position diagonal toward the opponent and perhaps even while passing him on the side –a reasonable element in grappling as it would allow for leverage. Line 16 later says to, “bere up hys harness”, which would mean to grab hold and perhaps try to thrown or trip him.  Swordsmanship of this time is certainly well documented to have integrally involved grappling actions (for example, the German concepts of Schwertnemen and Ringen Am Schwert, as well as the Italian Gioco Stretto).

Line 17 states, “Double up lightly and do as you see,” and seems to suggest to redouble your grappling attempt or try again. The remark to “do as y seye” suggesting the instructions are a lesson from an experienced teacher.  Correspondingly, Hans Liechtenauer from the 14th century referred to a technique known as a Doppelhau or “double-cut”.  Joachim Meyer in 1570 described a Duplieren or “Doubling” as instantly following up a parried true-edge strike with a false edge strike around the opponent’s blade.

Line 18 is one that stands out as not following as directly from the prior one as do the others.  While line 17 refers to grappling, line 18 suddenly shifts back to striking a cut.  It states to “Fal in with an hauke and bere a goede eye” and to bear a good eye appears again in line 30.  One interpretation of this is that bearing a good eye means to use careful judgment of range and timing to spot an opening.  It also invites speculation it may again relate to a German concept, that of the Schielhau, or “squinter” (a downwards cut with the false edge at the adversary’s shoulder or neck) so named because in making it the head is ostensibly turned so that only one eye is kept on the opponent.  Perhaps the seeming discontinuity between lines 17 and 18 reflect that, rather than grappling, line 17 may only mean a technique of releasing one hand from the sword and pushing or slapping the opponent’s arm, weapon, or face (an action done in conjunction with leverage from the hips, thighs, or feet).  However, since line 12 would also appear to refer to a grappling action with line 13 then reverting to an instruction to cut, the issue of seeming discontinuity may be irrelevant.

In line 22, we encounter the advice "Abyde apon a pendent." During the Middle Ages a pendant was an object worn or "hanging" around the neck and pending meant "waiting" while to "pend" meant to "hang" (while in the 16th century, a "pendant" could also be a teacher or technician). Thus, the pendant is very likely an English name for the equivalent Hengenorte of the German school. The first is any placing of the blade against one of the opponent's four openings. The second is a type of defensive position with the hilt raised and the blade sloping downward on an angle. While this "hanging guard" was known in later 16th century English swordplay, this is the first such reference to a hanging technique outside of the German schools of the 15th century. Line 22 and 26 also mentions "lond", which the Oxford English Dictionary gives as meaning "ground", thus possibly implying stance or position.

Lines 27 to 29 list a host of basic techniques, including “Thy rakys, thy rowndis, thy quarters” and “Thy stoppis, thy foynys,” and “Thy spryngys, thy quarters, thy rabetis”.  The reference to “stops” (stoppis), when analyzed in terms of what has not been mentioned, could suggest closing or stifling actions to bind the opponent’s blade on the ricasso.  The use of the term “rabetis” (presumably, “rabbits”) is something of a mystery. It has been pointed out that “rabbet” is a term used to refer to parries or defensive actions by the 15th century knight and chronicler/poet, Olivier de la Marche. Thus, just as “hawks” means attacks or downward strikes, “rabbits” might then refer either to warding strikes or upward blows.  Each would appear consistent with the instructions.

Line 35 states to “Let strokes fast follow after his hand”.  This could refer to the concept of attacking after, or Nachreissen in the German schools, a major component of fighting.  You take advantage of the vulnerability caused by the attacker extending and exposing himself.  Lines 37 and 38, “Greve not gretly tho thou be tochyd a 1yte, For an aftr stroke ys betr yf thou dar hym smyte”, are worth noting.  The implication is that the swordsman should not worry (“grieve”) if hit lightly (“touched a little”) because hitting the opponent back hard with a counter-strike is better if you do so strongly.  The interesting part here is the acknowledgement that a fighter might be struck with a minor wound that should be ignored in order to deliver a more serious one in return.   The use of the “aftr stroke” is again similar to and consistent with the idea of Nach, or “after”, in the German school, whereby a follow-on blow takes advantage of the opponent over reaching or leaving themselves vulnerable. 

There are several other terms and techniques that bear close examination in the remaining lines of the poem.  For example, in 28 we see one foynys or foyn (thrust) mentioned.  Line 41 refers to the opponent “at bay” or held off, stationary and on guard. 

Line 43, “Thys buthe the letters that stondyn in hys sygte”, is somewhat remarkable in that it would appear to be saying that the earlier descriptions of strikes and actions are the tools or elements you need to beat an enemy. The “letters” being the techniques that defeat him or “stand in his sight”. The use of the phrase “thy hole grounde” in line 45 states, meaning apparently enough, that the poem’s content presents the foundation of fighting. The earlier prose portion of the text itself also begins with a statement this is “ye ferst gronde”, implying foundations of the art.

Most interesting of the forty six lines are undoubtedly the last three (44-46), which state that “To teach or to play or else for to fight; these be-ith the strokes of thy hole ground, for hurt or for dint or else for deep wound.”   This arguably sums up the purpose of the verses and their guidance. They are for hurt (serious but non-lethal practice), for dint (mock combat or tournament), or deep wound (earnest real combat to the death).  One method of consistent principles and concepts for all three. The prose portion itself begins with the line, “The ferste pleyng & begnyng of the substansce of ye too honde swerde”.  From the use of the word “playing” we might derive the seeming indication the instructions are meant as martial practice exercises –not ritual, and not sport.


While this initial analysis is far from conclusive, over all, the impression the MS 3542 poem offers is one of solo “shadow practice,” or a descriptive example of lone practice sequence of freely employing strikes and steps and counters. In trying to teach a student such things in a memorable and simple way, such a poem would be useful. The poem gives the impression of a dynamic exercise of assorted aggressive techniques but consistent with manuals. Taken in context with the larger text portion of instructions, it would seem to be a condensed general lesson.

Finally, there are a number of familiar terms which also appear in another 15th century English sword manuscript (MS. 39564), such as “rakys”, “rownde”, “duble rounde”, and additionally includes the phrases “rakys”, “doubil rake”, and “spryng”. The MS 3956 also uses the terms “sprynys”, “quarters”, and “rabetis”.  This would suggest a continuity or connection between the material presented by each manuscript.  While likely written decades apart in different locations, they might have been produced by students of a related teacher or school.

The brief 15th century English manuscript fragment, “The strokez off ij hand swerde” (Cottonian Titus A. xxv, Fols. 105r-v), also contains terms similar to those of the MS 3542 and MS 39564 documents. The text refers to a striking at “quarters” and delivering “rowndes” and “dowbylls” (doubles). The terms “rake”, “spring,” and “Voyding” also appear.  The Cottonian Titus further contains the terms “florysh.” “fowne” (foyne), and “hawkes”. Once more, the relationship to concepts and techniques from known Germanic fencing texts is too close to be coincidence, with the use of a “break”, a spring, doubles and rounds.  Interestingly, as with the other English fencing fragments from the era, it again uses the metaphor of animals again, referring to actions made like a large male deer and to a movement like a “wype,” a bird known for its flowing unpredictable flight. It concludes by suggesting familiarly that the foot, hand, eye, and heart must all be in “accord.”

Some license must surely be granted to the anonymous poet for room in having to make the verses rhyme.  So, we cannot take the poem at complete face value for instructions since in order to be memorized it had to have some metaphorical mnemonic content.  Seeing through this then is the real challenge.

Some 14th & 15th century definitions:

Bede = bid or command
Beeth / Buthe = to make good, amend, mend, heal, correct
Betyde = happened/befall
Abyde / A Byde = (abide) bear, allow, withstand, put up with
Cantel (cantle) = crafty device, cunning, cautious, or a corner piece / 14th century definitions are a segment cut off or out of something, and the upward projecting rear part of a saddle.
Dene = to condescend, to give or offer (deign)
Dynte = (dint) deep wound, to hurt by a blow
Fle = (flee) to run away often from danger or evil, fly
God-spede = with success
Hym shall betide = whatever happens to him
Kyth = to make known, to become known
Wath = What
Wath so hit be tide / What it so betide = what it causes/whatever happens
Wole = will/would
Wote = knows, know/learn

Following below is the poem provided with an interpreted meaning for each line.  Consider the analysis tentative and ongoing.

To The Two Hond Swerd

(Modern translated text)

1.             The man that would to the two hand sword learn both close and clear, *
[understand techniques at all ranges, close and far]

2.             He must have a good eye both far and near, *
[understand in fighting and out fighting]

3.             And an in stop, and an out stop, and a hawk quarter, *
[have proficiency in thrusts & cuts to all openings]

4.             A cantle, a doublet, and half for his fear
[single or double attacks and cuts from the half-arm will intimidate the opponent]

5.             Two rounds and a half with a good cheer.
[deliver two round strikes & cut from the half-arm while vocalizing]

6.             This is the first counter of the two-hand sword, sire.
[use these actions as your first counter-attack practice]

7.             Bind him together and say god speed,
[quickly trap or stifle his weapon]

8.             Two quarters and a round, a stop thou him bede *
[cut twice and then around  and you will stop his action]

9.             A rake with a spring there thou him abide,
[slice at him then slash your blade out with one hand]

10.        Fall in with a hawk and stride not too wide
[step in and cut down without making large steps]

11.        Smite a running quarter out for his side,
[strike a blow as you quickly traverse forward past him]

12.        Fall upon his harness if he would abide,
[close and grapple with his armor if he leaves the opportunity]

13.        Come in with a rake in every aside,
[close the distance so you can slice left or right]

14.        A hole rownde and an half, wath so it betide,

[make a round strike and a half round strike and see what happens]

15.        Four quarters and a round and a venture stroke with.

[strikes to any of the 4 target areas, use a round, and strike any opening]

16.        Bear up his harness and get thou the girth

[grab hold of his armor and gain leverage]

17.        Double up lightly and do as you see,

[try repeatedly and attempt whatever will work]

18.        Fall in with a hawk and bear a good eye.

[strike a downward blow and be watchful]

19.        A spring and a round and step in with,

[use a spring attack and then bring it around while closing distance]

20.        Spare not a hawk if he lye in thy kyth;

[attack forcefully when he tries to move into range]

21.        Smite a running quarter sory out of thy hand,

[make an attack while traversing]

22.        Abide upon a pendent and lose not thy land

[use a hanging technique defense]

23.        Smite in the left foot and cleave right down,

[stomp forward and attack –or strike his foot]

24.        Gather out of thy right hand and smite a hawk round,

[go to a half sword position]

25.        Fresly smite thy strokes by dene,

[renew your attacks]

26.        And hold well thy land that hit may be seen,

[wait to move out of his attack]

27.        Thy rakes, thy rounds, thy quarters about,

[use these attacks]

28.        Thy stops, thy foynes, let hem fast route.
[parries then thrusts will force him off]

29.        Thy springs, thy quarters, thy rabbets also,

[use these as necessary]

30.        Bare a good eye and let thy hand go.

[hit with proper timing and judgment]

31.        Fie on a false heart that dare not abide,

[do not be cowardly]

32.        When he sees rounds and rakes running by his side.

[do not fear being struck at]

33.        Flee not hastily for a little pride.

[do not run away]

34.        For little will thy adversary [know] what him shall betide.

[the opponent does not know what will happen]

35.        Let strokes fast follow after his hand,

[strike after he strikes]

36.        And hawk round with a stop and still that thou stand,

[strike down and around and end waiting]

37.        Grieve not greatly though thou be touched a little,

[don’t worry if you get slightly wounded]

38.        For an after stroke is better if thou dare him smite.

[sometimes the chance for return hit is worth it]

39.        A good round with a hawk and smite right down,

[strike around and downward]

40.        Gather up a doublet and spar not his crown.

[hit twice and aim at his head]

41.        With a rownde and a rake abide at a bay,

[strike around and slice and be on guard]

42.        With a running quarter set him out of his way.

[make a passing attack to force him to shift]

43.        This be the letters that standing in his sight,

[these techniques are what will oppose him]

44.        To teach or to play or else for to fight;

[it is good for all three activities]

45.        These be the strokes of thy hole ground,

[it forms the basis of two-hand sword fencing]

46.        For hurt or for dint or else for deep wound.

[use it for lethal or non-lethal fighting]


The Play with the Two Hand Sword in Verse.

(Alfred Hutton’s, The Sword and the Centuries, 1901, Barnes & Noble reprint, 1997)

1.                              Man yt wol to ye to hond swerd lern bothe close

                                & clere /

2.                              He most haue a goode eye both fer & nere

3.                              & an in stop . & an owte stop . & an hauke

4.                                      qrter.  A cantel . a doblet . an half for hys


5.                              Too rowndys . & an halfe wt a goede cher .

6.                                      This ys ye ferst cownter of ye too hond

                                Swerd sere

7.                              Bynde h to gedere & sey god spede . Two

8.                                      qrters & a rownde a stop thou h bede

9.                              A rake wt a spryng yer thou h a byde . ffalle

10.                                   in wt an hauke & stride nogte to wyde

11.                          Smyte a rng qrter owte for hys side

12.                          ffal a p hys harneys yf he wole a byde

13.                          Come in wt a rake in euy a side

14.                          An hole rownde & an halfe .  Wath so ht be


15.                          . iiij. qrters & a rownd . & aueture stroke wyth

16.                          Bere vp hys harnes & gete thou ye gryth

17.                          Dobyl vp lygtly & do as y seye

18.                          ffal in wt an hauke & ber a goede eye

19.                          A spryn~ & a rownde & stap in wyth

20.                          Spar nogth hauke yf he lye in thy kyth

21.                          Smyte a rng qrter for owte of thy honde

22.                          A byde a pon a pdent & lese not thy londe

23.                          Smyte in ye lyfte foete & cleue rygt dovne

24.                          Geder ovte of thy rygte hond & smyte a hauke


25.                          ffresly smyte thy strokis by dene

26.                          And hold wel thy lond thath hyt may be sene

27.                          Thy rakys . thy rowndis . thy qrters a bowte

28.                          Thy stoppis . thy foynys . lete he fast rowte

29.                          Thy sprynys . thy quarters . thy rabetis also

30.                          Bere a goede eye & lete thy hond go

31.                          ffy on a false hert yt dar not a byde

32.                          en he seyth roundys & rakys rnyng by hs side

33.                          ffle not hastly for a lytil pryde

34.                          ffor lytil wote thy adusary wath h shal be tide

35.                          lete strokys fast folowe aftr hys honde

36.                          And hauk rovnde wt a stop & stil yt thou stond

37.                          Greue not gretly thov yu be tochyd a 1yte

38.                          ffor a aftr stroke ys betr yf thou dar h smyte

39.                          A gode rovnde wt an hauke & smyte rygt dovne

40.                          Gedyr vp a doblet & spar not hys crovne

41.                          Wt a rownde & a rake a byde at a bay

42.                          Wt a rng qrter sette h oute of hys way

43.                          Thys beeth ye lettr yt stond in hys sygte

44.                          To teche . or to play . or ellys for to fygte

45.                          These beeth ye strokys of thy hole grovnde

46.                          ffor hurte. or for dynte or ell~s for dethys


Appreciation to the ARMA Expert Consultants for assistance. If you would like to contribute comments or insights to this article feel free to email us. 

See Part I Analysis of the MS 3542 Text Section here.


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