Some people should not go jousting!

Jousting might be fun, but not everyone should do it. You can learn that from this story, written in the 14th century by Franco Sacchetti.

It comes from Sacchetti's Novelle, a series of 300 short stories he made. Mostly taking place in and around Florence, is difficult to know which tales are real and which are made-up, but often they are very funny and offer a look at the daily lives of medieval people that we rarely see.

Agnolo di Ser Gherardo, being seventy years old, goes to the joust at Peretola

Not long ago there was in Florence a strange fool whose name was Agnolo di Ser Gherardo, a man who, like a poor jester, desired to imitate everything. He consorted with many citizens, who diverted themselves with him; and it being the fashion to go jousting, he went to Peretola with certain men who went there for that purpose, and he jousted likewise. And he had borrowed from the Tinta in the street Borg' Ogoissanti one of those miserable horses, which was a wretched beast, tall and thin, the very semblance of hunger. Being arrived at Peretola, the old rascal caused himself to be armed, and he stood upon the further side of the square, so that he would gallop towards Florence.

Jousting Fail! A scene from the Codex Manesse, created in the 14th century

And to put his helmet on his head, and give his lance into his hand, and place a thistle beneath his horse's tail was but the work of a moment. The saddle was very high, so that there was nothing to be seen of Agnolo, save, as it were, a helmet upon the saddle, so that in truth he appeared to be the odd figure of whom he made mock unto his friends. As soon as the great hack started, with Agnolo upon his back, and felt the thistle, it began to kick and to throw Agnolo to and fro in the saddle, so that his lance fell to the ground, and the horse, plunging and pulling, started galloping towards Florence. All who were there burst out laughing.

Agnolo did not laugh, because he was being so badly knocked about in the saddle, and thus bruised at every step and shaken, he came to the Porta del Prato and entered the city. Galloping and bumping, so that the tax-collectors at the gate were astounded, all along the Prato he went, and men and women marvelled, saying. "What does this mean?"

And so he came into Borg' Ognissanti. And, oh! here there was a rushing away, and a jumping, and a kicking of horses! Every one escaping and crying, "Who is it? What’s happened?”

And the horse never stopped until he reached the Tinta, where his stable was, and there he was taken by the bridle and led inside. And when they asked Agnolo, "Who are you?" he only panted and lamented. When they began to unlace his helmet he cried out with pain, "Alas! Go gently!" and when the helmet was lifted off, Agnolo's head appeared like unto a skull of a man dead many days. He was taken out of (the saddle with great difficulty by others and with great pain to himself, and he continued to lament and to cry and was in no ways able to stand upon his feet; therefore they laid him upon a bed. And when the man to whom both the house and the horse belonged came back home, and had heard everything, he burst out laughing.

And when he came into the room where Agnolo was, he said: "I did not know, Agnolo, that you were Gian di Grana and that you could joust — at least, you should have told me when you borrowed my horse, which you have surely spoiled for me, seeing that be was not a horse for jousting."

Agnolo replied: "It is he who has spoiled me, he was so restive; it I had a good horse I would have given my opponent a good beating, and I should have been honoured instead of being abused. I pray thee, for the love of heaven, that you send someone to Peretola to fetch my clothes, and tell those youths that I have received no hurt whatsoever, for that good armour saved me."

And so they sent to fetch his clothes, and there came with them all those persons who had taken delight in him over this adventure. And when they came to Agnolo, they said: “How now, Ser Benghl" (for so he was called), "are you still alive?"

“Oh, my brothers!" he answered, "I never thought that I should see you again! I am all bruised, that cursed horse nearly killed me! Never did I ride upon a worse beast; when I was on him I felt like the boiler of the Vasgellai. I must have broken the saddle and the breast-plate; of the helmet it is useless to speak, for it was so much knocked about upon the saddle that of a certainty it is all broken."

It is needless to say how the company laughed.

Then late in the evening they dressed him and conducted him to his own house, leaning upon their arms. And arrived there, his wife came running to the door and began to weep, as though he had been dead, crying :

"Alas, my husband! Who has hurt you?" Agnolo said nothing, and his wife continued asking; "What has happened?"

Said his companions: "It is nothing for which you need to weep," and then they left him and departed. And the woman embraced Agnolo and began to ask: "Oh, my husband! Tell me what ails you." But Agnolo asked that he might get into bed. So the woman undressed him, and seeing him all black and blue, she said: "Who has beaten you thus?" for his body was all
mottled, as though of marble, so sorely had he been shaken.

When at last Agnolo had regained his breath, he said: "My wife, I went with a company to Peretola, and it was agreed that each one should joust; and I, that I might not be behind the others, and remembering my past days at Cerretomaggio, desired to joust also. And if the horse, which was restive and knocked me about as you see, had been a good horse, I should have obtained the greatest honour that any man could have, who has not carried a lance this many years past."

The woman, who had much wisdom and was well acquainted with the follies of Agnolo, replied : "Have you, then, lost your wits altogether, you naughty old man! Cursed be the day when I was given to you for wife, for I wear out my arms working for your children, while you, a wicked old thing seventy years old, goes to the joust. And what could you do there, for surely you weigh not ten ounces! And if you are called Ser Benghi, are you then a notary? You silly man, know you not who you are? And even if you were a notary, how many notaries have you ever seen jousting? Have you lost your memory? Don’t you not remember that you are but a wool- worker and have nothing save that which you didn’t earn? Are you mad? There now, lie down again, you poor thing! Of a certainty the children will run after you in future and fling stones at you!"

Then, in a faint voice, Agnolo said: “Oh, wife! You do bid me lie down again; truly am I sorrowful that I am compelled to go to bed at all. But now I pray you that you hold your tongue, if you desire not that I die outright."

She replied, "It were better for you to die than to live so greatly shamed! "

Said Agnolo: " And am I the first who has met with misfortune in deeds of arms ? "

"Now a plague on you!" said his wife. " Go you and beat wool as you are supposed to do, and leave arms to those who know how to use them! "

And the quarrel continued until it was night, and only then did they make peace together.

Agnolo never jousted again.

This woman was much wiser than her husband, for she knew her own condition in life and that of her husband, and he did not even know himself until his wife told him so much that was profitable for him to hear.

You can read more of the Tales from Sacchetti from a 1908 translation available on Archive.org.

If you want to read about jousting done the right way, check out our latest issue of Medieval Warfare magazine.

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