The first Paradoxe.
That a Squadron of Reistres should beate a Squadron of Speares.
THE learned do knowe that Paradores are sentēces or propositions repugnant to common opinion, and in ould time there were Philosophers which pro∣pounded some that they had gathered in the doctrine of the Stoickes, were it to shewe that men might gather fruite of that which seemed vnfruitfull, or for exercise of their wittes. Howsoeuer it is, I haue thought good, imitating their examples (to set downe to sundrie braue Captaines matter whereon to discourse) to pro∣pound these, thinking that when they haue bene well examined, some may peraduenture giue as much credite to them as to com∣mon opinion. Among those that professe armes, it is so assured a principle that a troope of Speares should beate and ouerthrowe a troope of Pistols, that who so seemeth to doubt thereof is taken to be but a meanly practised souldier. The Spanyards & Italians doe also make lesse doubt thereof then the French. And although they be such men as with iudgement can alowe or disalowe whatsoeuer is set before them, yet doe I thinke that herein they leane rather to some small experience, then to any other ground of reason. But in this as in many others matters, it oftentimes manifesteth such ef∣fects, that when we haue throughly considered their causes we find that they should fall out otherwise. The Reistres should rather thē any other, be the defenders hereof, for yt their reputation consisteth herein: & peraduenture if they had at all times shewed themselues firme and diligent to doe it with their hands, they might now with lesse difficultie haue defended it with their tongues.
Page 199 We must yet grant them the honor of being the first yt brought * the Pistols into vse, which when a man can well handle I take to be very daungerous. They are a discent come from the harquebu∣ziers, and to say as it is, all these instruments are deuilish, inuented in some mischieuous shop to turne whole realmes and kingdomes into desolatiō, & replenish the graues with dead carcases. Howbeit mans malice hath made them so necessarie that they cannot be spa∣red. To the end therfore to profite by them it is requisite to haue a merueisous care, which no nation doth approach any thing so nere vnto, I meane for Pistols, as the Germaines, & that is the cause that I wil speake of thē, as of those who amōg all sorts of horsmen that vse this weapon, do carie away the prize. I will not stand per∣ticulerly to describe al the sorts which the Reistres vse, for they are but too well knowne. It is enough to say that the offensiue are as good as the speare mens, but the offensiue do farre passe them. For the man of armes vseth his speare but for one blow, where ye Rei∣stre carieth 2. pistols wherwith he may shoot 6. or 7. times, which if he doe it in season, doth great hurt. Euery man likewise carieth his sword, whose effects may be equal. Sith then ye pistol can pierce the defensiue armes, which the speare cannot, we may cōclude that the Reistre hath ye aduantage in the offensiue & is equal in ye defensiue.
In fauour of the speare man, it may be said that he is better hor∣sed, * and hath his seate surer then the other: also yt the speare, when it is seene a farre of with the banderoll wauing & shaking, doth ter∣rifie: whereto I aunswer, that the massiue & close order of the Rei∣stres doth supplie the weaknesse of their horse & stayes. As for the terror of the speare, it is not of so great efficacie as is the astonish∣ment that the pistoll bringeth at the cracke. Let vs, will some man say, bring these two champions to fight one against an other, and he that getteth the better shall teach which of the two Squadrons shall so be. This obiection beareth some faire shewe, but it may be false. For herein perticuler reasons doe differ from the generall. It is as if a man should say, that because in the field one harquebuzier may kill a pike man armed with his corcelet, it followeth that in pitcht fieldes the harquebuziers should ouerthrow the battailes of pikes: which neuerthelesse falleth out cōtrarie, for it is certaine that for the most part those battailes do giue the victorie. But admit the speare man and the pistoll doe ioyne, the issue will be doubtfull, al∣though I thinke if the pistoler can keepe himselfe frō ioyning head to head with the speare man he may haue the aduantage of him, by Page 200 reason of the great offence growing of his weapon. If any man re∣ply, that among the gentrie it is houlden for a principle, that a good man of armes may easely beate a Reistre, I will aunswer, that the Germaines thinke the contrarie: namely, that a braue Reistre should s•ay the man of armes that commeth to assaile him, and ca∣rie away his horse: for they must still catch at somewhat. Thus we see that on both sides euery one will keepe his honor, yea euen to priuate combats.
Howbeit, the principall poynt consisteth in shewing what the e∣uents * of them in grosse should be. For the better iudgement wher∣of, we are first to consider of the valour of the men. Herevpon the speares will say, that their companies being better furnished of Gentrie then the others, must likewise be more valiant: but withall wee must note, that in the cornets of Reistres there bee some fewe gentlemen and a number of trayned souldiers: and for the Cap∣taines, because they haue bene often employed by diuers Princes, they must needes bée skilfull in the arte of warre. Wherefore to make the quicker dispatch, I presume that in courage, experience and number both the squadrons are equall. Let vs then see which of them best keepeth order: for that obserued as it ought at the go∣ing to charge giueth a great gird to the victorie. Herein wee must say, that the Germaines exceede all other nations, because they seeme to bee not onely close, but euen glewed each to other: which proceedeth of an ordinarie custome that they haue to keepe alwaies in bodie, as hauing learned as well by naturall knowledge, as by profe, that the strong alwaies carie away the weake. Also the more to testifie that they sieldome fayle in this, whensoeuer they be bro∣ken, in their retire and flight they still remaine vnseperate and ioy∣ned together: which the speares do not, but rather for the most part euen in the shocke doe bring themselues out of aray, which procéed of that that they must haue some small carrier to strike with their speares: but they take it too long, especially the Frenchmen, whose heate is such, that when he commeth within 200. paces he begin∣neth to gallop, and within 100. to runne amaine, which is an ouer∣sight, for they neede not so much ground. Sith therefore that it is one principle that squadrons doe breake with the vyolent shocke which they susteyne, may we not therevpon inferre, that those that keepe themselues closest and doe strike with the whole bodie con∣ioyned, doe worke the greatest effect: It is hard to denie it: and who doe better practise those rules then the Reistres?
Page 201 Many there are that will not graunt this, but doe obiect that if * there had bene so great vertue in the Reistres order, they would not haue suffered themselues to haue bene so often beaten. Hereto I say, that the fault proceeded not of their order, but rather of some euill demeanour which some of them, comming to the combate, haue vsed. The first is, that comming within twentie paces of the enemie they haue turned their flanckes to them, and so discharged their volee of Pistols vppon them: for thus (say they) more may shoote then if they runne on front: And then if the enemie turneth his backe, vndoubtedly they vse him badly: but if he abide it, they fetch about a great circuite either to charge a newe, or to take newe Pistols. Whereof it hath often come to passe, that they haue not had leisure so much as to turne their heads: for their turnes and returnes haue bene taken for a flight: wherevpon they haue bene so hotly pursued that they haue taken their carrier out right. This * euill inuented maner is more fit to play at base then to fight. And I merueile that their leaders could neuer remember that the Pi∣stoll worketh almost no effect, vnlesse it bée discharged within three paces: as also that the troopes doe neuer breake vnlesse they bee sharply assailed. An other custome by them obserued is, that when the first ranckes of the squadron begin to shoote, all the rest doth likewise discharge, and most of them in the ayre. Peraduenture they imagine their great noyse should terrifie the enemie, which perhaps it would doe if they were sheepe or crowes. But French men and Spanyards are not so easely daunted. The inconuenience that riseth hereof is this, that the last ranckes which should thrust forward the first, seeing that they haue discharged in vayne, doe in liew of going forward, stand still, and are sooner amazed then they that be at the head and in all the daunger: wherefore it is nothing straunge that these euill kindes of fight haue engendred euill suc∣cesse. But who so list to marke the other Reistres that haue ioyned as they ought, shall finde that they haue made slaughters and ouer∣throwne the speares, whereby their Captaines haue learned wit, and doe now make them to keepe better orders.
Now let vs speake of the meeting of two squadrons: whervpon * I will say, that although the squadron of Speares doe giue a va∣liant charge: yet can it worke no great effect: for at the onset it kil∣leth none, yea it is a miracle if any be slayne with the speare: onely it may wound some horse, and as for the shocke it is many times of small force, where the perfect Reistres doe neuer discharge their Page 202 Pistols but in ioyning, and striking at hand they wound, ayming alwaies either at the face or thigh. The second ranck likewise shoo∣teth of so as the forefront of the men of armes squadron is at the first meeting halfe ouerthrowne and maymed. Also although the first rancke may with their speares doe some hurt especially to the horse, yet the other ranckes following cannot doe so, at the least the second and third, but are driuen to cast away their speares & helpe themselues with their swordes. Herein wee are to consider two things which experience hath confirmed: The one, that the Rei∣stres are neuer so daungerous as when they bee mingled with the enemie, for then be they all fire. The other, the two squadrons mee∣ting, they haue scarce discharged the second pistoll but either the one or the other turneth away. For they contest no lenger, as the Romaines did against other nations, who oftentimes kept the field two houres fighting face to face, before either partie turned backe. By all the aforesaid reasons I am driuen to aduowe that a squadron of pistols, doing their dueties, shall breake a squadron of speares.
It may hereto bee replied, that the man of armes carieth also one pistoll which he vseth when his speare is broken. It is soone sayd, but coldly practised: for the most of them scarce caring to charge, doe referre that to their men, who haue no greater vse of it then themselues, and when they come to fight the one halfe doe faile, as hath bene oft enough tryed, or at the least through euill charging doe no hurt. He that will haue any vse of those weapons, must bee as carefull of them as of a horse: whereto it is hard to bring other nations, which accompt this a base and seruile occu∣pation. Some man may in the fauour of the men of armes say, that they may in such sorte ioyne the squadron of Reistres that they may ouerthrowe them. That is, that comming within 80. paces they may sende foorth their three last ranckes of speares gallantly to assaile their flancke, so shall they open it, breake the force therof, and bring such a feare vpō them that-the squadron of speares may the better deale with them. Hereto I aunswer, the obseruation is good, though not greatly in vse. Neuerthelesse, it is a matter com∣mon as well to the one as to the other. For teach it to the Reistre, and he will pay you in the same coyne, by sending foorth parte of his troope to strike into your sides: so shall your inuentions be a re∣medie to him, and peraduenture he shall preuaile more therewith then your selues. Now, notwithstanding whatsoeuer I haue here∣in Page 203 discoursed, my entent is not to bring the French nation in dis∣like with the speare, which I take to be wonderfull proper wea∣pons for them so long as their mindes are no otherwise disposed then yet they bee. And vntill they haue learned more stedfastly to keepe order, and to be more carefull of their weapons, they will ne∣uer worke the like effects with the pistoll, as the Reistres. Such as imagine the pistoll to bee such a terrible and offensiue weapon, are not greatly deceiued: neither will I gainsay them, in case it come in valiant hands.