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17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:55 pm
by Richard Marsden
17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes
Jan Chryzostom Pasek was a Polish noble whose diary covers 1658 to 1688. Each chapter covers a year.

The diary has several descriptions of foot-combat as we have been researching. I wanted to share the relevant parts, and my own interpretation of it, with the community at large.

Pasek is known to exaggerate numbers, and confuse dates, but otherwise gives a good account of life in the 1600's in Poland. This isn't my take on it, but the translator/editor's observations, one Catherine S. Leach.

Pasek describes national weapons. He notes Swedes and their rapiers, though in one instance his own retainers have rapiers, Poland and their sabers, Russians and their battleaxes, though in one instance he refers to using a Russian battleaxe to wound/kill a fellow Pole, and Turks and their scimitars. Nearly all the combat is on horseback. In sieges, Pasek doesn't describe much beyond, "cut!". Below are more intimate examples. Polish 'duels'.

1660 "Drunken Brawl in Camp with Three Men"
Pasek is with the army and drunk at a party. He is provoked by two other equally drunk men. They desire to fight, but Pasek doesn't have his sword and he notes that dueling while in camp is forbidden. The two nobles can't be dissuaded, Pasek gets his saber and they fight.

The first assailant swipes at Pasek, Pasek delivers two or three thrusts, wounding the man's fingers. The man continues fighting, so Pasek keeps fighting him. Blood ends up on the assailant's face, but Pasek doesn't explain if it is from the wounded hand, or a fresh cut to the face. Pasek ends the first duel with a slice across the man's wrist described as "across the pulse". He collapses.

The second assailant, brother to the first, flies at Pasek. Slicing and clashing they do battle, but Pasek wins quickly and, "both his hand and sword dropped", indicating Pasek cut the man's hand right off, but later it is revealed he is only wounded, so this may be an exaggeration, or something lost in translation.

Seeing the damage done, the host of the party, Marcyjan wants to duel Pasek. He too is drunk. He escorts Pasek away from the camp so they can duel properly (never mind the two dead/wounded men still in camp). While crossing a narrow river, the host strikes Pasek from behind across the head. Pasek's hat saves him. Across a narrow stream they have at it. They clash a dozen times, neither striking the other. Pasek tries to call a hold to the fight, but Marcyjan keeps at it. Pasek, "cut across his cheek with the tip of his sword, and leap away from him." Still, Marcyjan presses the attack. Pasek wounds him in the head, and Marcyjan loses his footing. Going nutz, Pasek grabs his saber with both hands, and using the flat, bludgeons Marcyjan until men from the camp tell him to quit it.

In the aftermath, Pasek pays some money for the "wounds and pain they suffered" in reference to the brothers. There is no mention of anyone dying or being made lame. As for Marcyjan, as host of the party, he takes the blame for letting things get out of control in the first place.

1660 The Non Duel
Pasek is challenged to a duel by an unnamed grand gentleman. Pasek, rather than wait for them to agree on a time or place, rides right up to the man's house and demands satisfaction. The noble apologies for any insults, and no duel is had.

1662 Punch to the Face -Non Duel
Pasek sucker-punches a rival while in the presence of the King's courtiers. Mazepa tries to draw his sword, but is stopped. Such violence is punishable by death since the King is nearby. Pasek refuses to flee and states his claims about Mazepa. No duel occurs and Mazepa leaves in near-tears over the affront. The King is amused.

1662 Fight over Lodging
Pasek and his men end up in a fight on foot with other Poles over who gets to sleep in a barn of some sort. The fight is unusual in that Pasek's men and his opponent are armed with rapiers, in which most of his accounts everyone Polish uses a saber or for giggles a looted Russian battleaxe.

A fellow charges Pasek and, "slashing with all his might; I withstood it, then having deferred, I slashed him across the pulses (wrist); nothing, onward to cut and thrust."

The fellow noble keeps at Pasek who, "I slice across his fingers again; the rapier drops, he takes to his heels."

The fight ends, but Pasek learns later the noble he wounded may have died. Pasek is very worried over the possible lawsuits, which had only just started to hound him. At one point in his life he was dealing with 5 lawsuits at once!

1669 Yet Another Drunken Brawl. Non-Duel
During a party, Pasek and his friends draw swords over a perceived insult. Pasek's opponents don't put up a fight, and after Pasek puts the point of his sword in the offender's belly (but doesn't thrust him). The offender is confused, but apologies and gives Pasek greater respect.

And so ends all the fights on foot Pasek gets involved in.

Overview and Insights
On horseback, there are plenty of others, but he describes this in chaotic terms of 'slash here, cut there!'. He is consistent about one thing though. When killing the wounded or a prisoner, which happens a shocking amount of times, the point of the saber is used. Otherwise, cuts to the hand and wrist are uniform as well as the cheek. Was Pasek not trying to kill his opponents? Hard to say, given he was drunk during his more exciting duels!

Of training, Pasek only discusses the need to do military drill, and not so much swordsmanship. The only man Pasek ever meets who actively practices his swordsmanship is a dark and brooding noble, who wears old-fashioned clothing, ignores his wife, and does not drink. The gloomy noble hosts a party for Pasek and company. When Pasek asks the noble why he will not make merry, (he does not drink nor dance) and why his wife is sad, the noble tells Pasek that his true wife is the sword. The wife tells tales of how her husband will spend hours practicing his cuts and parries until he passes out from exhaustion. Pasek and his fellow nobles are disturbed by this very martial man, and keep their distance. Pasek never outright describes fear of anything except perhaps this man and lawsuits.

Pasek spends more time talking about verbal duels. He spends a great amount of time detailing how, before the King of Poland, he defended himself with a long speech against the ill-words of many others. The speech is detailed in the diary. Pasek uses Latin phrases throughout the memoir, and in his speeches as well. It was apparently a sign of good-breeding and education to do such in Poland. Pasek is amused, on more than one occasion, how non-Poles and commoners don't speak one bit of it!

Pasek marries a widow, and he spends as much time talking about her, and their letters to one another, as he does about a pet otter he kept that gains more fame in Poland than he does! The otter is written about with more compassion and love than anything in the entire memoir. It's a sad end for the creature on the account of the King.

Sprinkled throughout the memoirs are other non-duels, in which men planned to fight, but for some reason or another do not. Violence between Polish nobles is kept in check by lawsuits. Pasek killed or mortally wounded a man and for it was sued by the man's brother. The lawsuit lasted for years and near the end of the diary, Pasek woefully describes how his time and purse is eaten up by various legal battles. The only thing as costly as legal battles, according to Pasek, is clothing. He describes how expensive fashion rolls into Poland, but soon as the common-folk adopt it, the nobles need to get entirely new wardrobes.

For a diary, it is fairly descriptive and covers major events sweeping Poland during the 17th century. A good and entertaining read, very much adventurous in nature. Missing, however, is his early years. We don't know what happened at school, how he trained and so forth.

I had some translation help from
Daria Izdebska
Michal Wozniak

Daria and Keith worked on this, a later account that ties in well with the above. ... itions.pdf

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:43 am
by Jeffrey Hull
And here I thought the Poles were a peaceful people. That brooding fencing-fixated noble should have made merry. Even Talhoffer advised courting beautiful women. :)

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:53 am
by Ben Floyd
Thanks for the sum up. Pretty interesting.

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:49 pm
by John P
a good read. It is fun to read how bro-tastic history can be.

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:16 pm
by Rafal Szwelicki
My first post here so hello to everyone. I want to introduce other guy from 17th century - Jan Władysław Poczobut Odlanicki. He was a Lithuanian noble man. Born in 1640 and died in 1703. In 1658 in age of 18 years he enlisted to an army. First as a soldier of cossack style cavalry banner of levy of nobility. After few years and buying equipment from his older brother he became wing hussar companion (in a Lithuanian Field Hetman banner). So we can say he was an elite soldier. He foght various enemies between 1658 and 1671 when he decided to quit military career. During his life he fought in about 14 duels:

1. He was 18 years old and have quarrel with Mr Hołobucki. He says that his enemy proved to be poor swordsmen so the duel ended and Poczobut sheathed his sabre and walked away. His enemy attacked from the rear and wounded his back.

2. Still being 18 he had a duel with Mr Ussakowski while guarding a camp (sic!). He wounded enemy in a nose - luckily as he writes because his enemy was apparently older and better.

3. Duel with Mr Kazimierz Jurewicz. They were fighting for the place on conscription list (sic!). Poczobut hit enemy cross-guard and apparently disarm his opponent because he writes that if not friends of Jurewicz he would give him a good lesson

4. This duel I had translated:
30th of November 1661, the day of st. Andrew, Mr Christopher Szumski, left-hander, our companion [soldier from the same banner of cavalry] challenged me for a duel. thou he was guilty. As we were cutting each other, I gave him such a good blow in a head, that his eyes rolled back [he fainted] and he was pulling bones from his head. And if he had no felt in his skewed hat surely his brain would splatter.

5. Brawl between 2 parties in which Poczobut lost a sabre. Fortunately his friends saved him. One person was killed, 17 were wounded.

6. Duel with guy named Jałosza - Poczobut wounded him in a hand.

7. This duel is very interesting. He is fighting with some minor noble man - Nowicki. Poczobut writes that he could easily killed his enemy because he pushed him between fences and under roof so that his enemy could not deliver him blow (apparently they used quite wide sweeps). Poczobut stopped cut and friends of Nowicki rushed and drag him away ('cos they thought that their friend is dead). Poczobut than attacked one of those guys - Snarski and cut of his finger, but than he received unexpected blow in a head from Nowicki who get out of those fances and atacked from the flank without any warning. Poczobut fainted and later pulled out 30 bone shreds from head (fortunately he survived this blow).

8. Few weeks later he fight with Rajecki - a winged hussar. Poczobut wounded his enemy in a hand.

9. Another duel with another winged hussar - Mr Strawiński. Poczobut wounded his enemy 3 times - 1 time in one hand and 2 in the other.

10. Quarrel in an inn with Mr Unichimowski. During fight Poczobut hit his enemy in a hand and a head, so that he fainted. But while cutting Poczobut hit his friend - Zabuski in left hand so that he almost completely cut it of. Poczobut was also wounded in a hand - because of a thrust

11. Duel for a woman with Mr Brzuchański. First Poczobut punched his enemy so that he went sleep with bruises under eyes. Next morning they were fighting again. Poczobut hit his enemy with a flat and was preparing to cut him across the face but enemies friends stopped him. He says he was lucky because he was alone against many, but they were confused and didn't attacked him.

12. Fight with many opponents that attacked him in an inn. Poczobut prayed and with God's help he not only defended against their assault, but than he started to cut so fast that he could kill them all. At the end he decided not to because of fear of offending God.

13. Drunken duel with another hussar - Mr Zalewski. Poczobut draw back his hand and cut his opponent in a head so hard that everyone thought he killed him.

14. Duel after quitting military service - first Poczobut quarrel with apparently young guy - Mr Hrehorowicz. Hrehorowicz wants to fight and Poczobut gets so angry that he wins a duel with one strong cut that wounded enemy's head, hand and disarmed him.

That's just a brief description. Texts as You can see from duel no 4 are rather short. I can translate some of them if You are interested.

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:58 am
by Richard Marsden
We are indeed! Feel free to post here and I can clean up the English as needed. Thanks so much!

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:18 am
by Rafal Szwelicki
Ok - I'll try to translate sth. and for now an ilustration of church brawl from 1734:

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:59 am
by Richard Marsden
That is so epic. I love the priest waving his hands around in a panic!

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:27 pm
by John P
Good stuff thanks for sharing it.

Re: 17th Century Polish Diary- Fight Scenes

Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:24 pm
by Richard Marsden
John, we need to turn that image into a shirt. Or use it as a promotional for any class we run!