Note on the e-text: this Renascence Editions text was provided by Ben R. Schneider, Lawrence University, Wisconsin. It is in the public domain. "Florio's Translation of Montaigne's Essays was first published in 1603. In 'The World's Classics' the first volume was published in 1904, and reprinted in 1910 and 1924." Content unique to this presentation is copyright © 1998 The University of Oregon. For nonprofit and educational uses only.
T is a vitious, fond, fashion of the Nobility and Gentry of our age, and full of nice-tendernesse, never to betake themselves to armes, except upon some urgent and extreme necessitie: and to quit them as soone as they perceive the least hope or apparence that the danger is past; Whence ensue many disorders, and inconveniences: For, every one running and calling for his armes when the alarum is given, some have not yet buckled their cuirace when their fellowes are already defeated. Indeed our forefathers would have their Caske, Lance, Gantlets, and Shields carried, but so long as the service lasted, themselves would never leave-off their other peeces. Our troopes are now all confounded and disordered, by reason of bag and baggage, of carriages of lackies, and foot-boies, wh ich because of their masters armes they carry, can never leave them. Titus Livius, speaking of the French, saith, Intolerantissima laboris corpora vix arma humeris gerebant (LIV. Dec. i. 10.). 'Their bodies most impatient of labour could hardly beare armour on their backes.' Divers Nations, as they did in former times, so yet at this day, are seene to goe to the warres, without any thing about them, or if they had, it was of no defence; but were all naked and bare.Tegmina quas capitum raptus de suber e cortex. -- VIR. Æn. 1. 742.Alexander, the most daring and hazardous Captain that ever was, did very seldome arme himselfe: And those which amongst us neglect them, doe not thereby much empaire their reputation. If any man chance to be slaine for want of an armour, there are as many more that miscarry with the over-heavy burthen of their armes, and by them are engaged, and by a counterbutte are brused, or otherwise defeated. For in truth to see the unweildy weight of our and their thicknesse, it seemeth we but endevour to defend our selves, and we are rather charged than covered by them. We have enough to doe to endure the burthen of them, and are so engived and shackled in them, as if we were to fight but with the shocke or brunt of our armes, and as if we were as much bound to defend them as they to shield us. Cornelius Tacitus doth pleasantly quip and jest at the men of war of our ancient Gaules, so armed, only to maintaine themselves, as they that have no meane either to offend or to be offended, or to raise themselves being overthrowne. Lucullus seeing certaine Median men at armes, which were in the front of Tigranes Army, heavily and unweildily armed, as in an iron prison, apprehended thereby an opinion that he might easily defeat them, and began to charge them first, and got the victory. And now that our Muskettiers, are in such credit, I thinke we shall have some invention found to immure us up, that so we may be warranted from them, and to traine us to the warres in Skonces and Bastions, as those which our fathers caused to be carried by Elephants. A humour farre different from that of Scipio the younger, who sharply reprooved his souldiers because they had scattered certaine Calthropes under the water alongst a dike, by which those of the Towne that he had besieged might sally out upon him, saying, that those which assailed should resolve to enterprise and not to feare: And had some reason to feare that this provision might secure and lull their vigilancy asleepe to guard themselves. Moreover he said to a young man, that shewed him a faire shield he had, 'Indeed good youth, it is a faire one; but a Roman souldier ought to have more confidence in his right hand than in his left.' It is onely custome that makes the burthen of our armes intolerable unto us.
Whose caske to cover all their head,
Was made of barke from Corke-tree flea'd.L'usbergo in dosso haveano, e l'elmo in testa,The Emperour Caracalla in leading of his Army was ever wont to march afoot armed at all assaies. The Roman footmen caried not their motions, sword, and target only, as for other armes (saith Cicero) they were so accustomed to weare them continually, that they hindered them no more than their limbs: Arma enim, membra militia esse dicunt: for they say, armor and weapon are a souldiers limbs; but therewithal such victuals as they should need for a fortnight and a certaine number of stakes to make their rampards or palisadoes with, so much as weighed three score pound weight. And Marius, his souldiers thus loden, marching in battal array, were taught to march five leagues in five hours, yea six if need required. Their military discipline was much more laboursome than ours: so did it produce far different effects. Scipio the younger, reforming his army in Spaine, appointed his souldiers to eat no meat but standing, and nothing sodden or rosted. It is worth there membrance how a Lacedemonian souldier being in an expedition of warre, was much noted and blamed because hee was once seene to seeke for shelter under a house. They were so hardened to endure all manner of labour and toyle that it was counted a reprochfull infamy for a souldier to be seene under any other roofe than that of heavens vault, in what weather soever. Were we to doe so, we should never lead our men far. Marcellinus, a man well trained in the Roman wars, doth curiously observe the manner which the Parthians used to arme themselves, and noteth it so much the more by how much it was far different from the Romans. They had (saith he) certaine armes so curiously enter-wrought as they seemed to be made like feathers, which nothing hindered the stirring of their, bodies and yet so strong, that our darts hitting them did rather rebound, or glance by, than hurt them (they be the scales our ancestors were so much wont to use). In another place they had (saith he) their horses stiffe and strong, covered with thick hides, and themselves armed from head to foot with massie iron plates so artificially contrived that where the joynts are there they furthered the motion and helped the stirring. A man would have said they had been men made of yron, for they had peeces so handsomly fitted, and so lively representing the forme and parts of the face, that there was no way to wound them but at certaine little holes before their eyes, which served to give them some light, and by certaine chinkes about their nostrils by which they hardly drew breath.
Due di quelli guerrier dei quali io canto.
Ne notte o di dopo ch'entraro in questa
Stanza, gl'haveano mai messi da canto;
Che facile a portar come la resta
Era lor, perche in vso l'havean tanto. -- ARIOST. Orl. can. xii. stan. 30.
Cuirasse on backe did those two warriors beare,
And caske on head, of whom I make report,
Nor day, nor night, after they entred there,
Had they them laid aside from their support
They could with ease them as a garment weare,
For long time had they usde them in such sort.Flexilis inductis animator lamina nembris,Loe-heere a description much resembling the equipage of a complete French-man-at-armes with all his bards. Plutarke reporteth that Demetrius caused two armours to be made, each one weighing six score pounds: one for himselfe, the other for Alcinus, the chiefe man of war that was next to him: whereas all common armours weighed but three score.
Horribilis visu, credas simulacra moveri
Ferrea, cognatoque viros spirare metallo.
Par vestitus equis, ferrata fronte minantur,
Ferratosque movent securi vulneris armos. --CLAUD. in Ruf. l. ii. 358.
The bending plate is hook't on limbes orespread,
Fearefull to fight, steele images seem'd lead,
And men to breathe in mettall with them bred,
Like furniture for horse, with steeled head,
They threat, and safe from wound,
With barr'd limbs tread the ground.