Here is the quintain in the form of a Saracen, from Pluvinel.
This drawing represents two men, equipped in martial habits, and each of them armed with a sword and a shield, engaged in a combat; the performance is enlivened by the sound of a horn; the musician acts in a double capacity, and is, together with a female assistant, dancing round them to the cadence of the music; and probably the actions of the combatants were also regulated by the same measure.
In the Additional MS. 11,695, in the British Museum, a work of the eleventh century, there are several representations of warriors thus fully armed, very rude and coarse in drawing, but valuable for the clearness with which they represent the military equipment of the time. At folio 194 there is a large figure of a warrior in a mail shirt, a conical helmet,[Pg 316] strengthened with iron ribs converging to the apex, the front rib extending downwards, into what is called a nasal, i.e., a piece of iron extending downwards over the nose, so as to protect the face from a sword-cut across the upper part of it.
The archers of the castle found shelter behind the merlons of the battlements, and had the windows from which they shot screened by movable shutters; as may be seen in the next woodcut of the assault on a castle. It would have put the archers of the assailants at a great disadvantage if they had had to stand out in the open space, exposed defenceless to the aim of the foe; all neighbouring trees which could give shelter were, of course, cut down, in order to reduce them to this defenceless condition, and works were erected so as to command every possible coigne of vantage which the nooks and angles of the walls might have afforded. But the archers of the besiegers sought to put themselves on more equal terms with their opponents by using the pavis or mantelet. The pavis was a tall shield, curved so as partly to envelop the person of the bearer, broad at the top and tapering to the feet.
Saxon freemen seem to have universally borne arms. Tacitus tells us of their German ancestors, that swords were rare among them, and the majority did not use lances, but that spears, with a narrow, sharp and short head, were the common and universal weapon, used either in distant or close fight; and that even the cavalry were satisfied with a shield and one of these spears.
Saxon Soldier, in Leather Armour
Saxon soldier in armour
Knight of the Fifteenth Century
The cut is a spirited little sketch of a mounted knight. The horse, it may be admitted, is very like those which children draw nowadays, but it has more life in it than most of the drawings of that day; and the way in which the knight sits his horse is much more artistic. The picture shows the equipment of the knight very clearly, and it is specially valuable as an early example of horse trappings, and as an authority for the shape of the saddle, with its high pommel and croupe.
The cross-bowman is winding up his weapon with a winch, his shield is slung at his back.
The Germans had brought with them over the Rhine none of the heroic virtues attributed to them by Tacitus when he wrote their history, with the evident intention of making a satire on his countrymen. Amongst the degenerate Romans whom those ferocious Germans had subjugated, civilisation was reconstituted on the ruins of vices common in the early history of a new society by the adoption of a series of loose and dissolute habits, both by the conquerors and the conquered.