Henri de Sainct Didier’s General Essay

This is a translation of the essay at the front of Henri de Sainct Didier’s The Secrets of the Single Sword (1573). I have not translated the epistolary verses or any more of the text at this stage. This is a task for someone with more time available than I currently have available to me.

The translation is based on the transcription of the copy in the Library of the city of Blois (available at Bibliotheque Virtuelles Humanistes) made in 2010 by Olivier Depuis for l’Association pour la Recherche et le Développement des Arts Martiaux Historiques Européens. All amendments to the text made in the transcription have been assumed and are not noted here.

Translating Sainct Didier is heavy going. Not only am I not a professional (or even really an amateur) French interpreter, making sense of a text more than 400 years old in a language which I understand well enough but in which I’m not particular fluent is very difficult. Add to this Sainct Didier’s writing style, which can be charitably described as excruciatingly complex. I’m used to reading in Middle English and Early Modern English and was once quite well read in Latin (although I’ve forgotten plenty of it). However, Sainct Dider often defeated me. I’m sure that he was trying hard to sound more educated than he actually was.

The general essay condenses the information in the rest of book into a list of the six pillars on which his swordplay is founded. These will come as no surprise to anyone:

  • Knowing how to stand
  • Knowing the guard positions
  • Knowing the strikes
  • Knowing the targets on the opponent’s body to aim for
  • Understanding how to attack and defend using the strikes
  • Understanding how to tell what the opponent will do next

After this, he spends some time arguing with and mocking mercilessly an Italian fencer named Fabrice. Whether or not this may be the famous Salvator Fabris is entirely open to question.

I may translate more of the text when I can find the time and if there is sufficient interest from other to spur me on.