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Thread: A different view on traversing in Fiore

  1. #1

    A different view on traversing in Fiore

    Hi!

    I wrote a short essay on my blog about translating the term traversare in Fiore. You can read it here, but feel free to comment and discuss on this board.


    Yours,
    Ilkka

  2. #2
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    Ilkka,

    nice post - something to think about and I see a lot of merit to your logic. That said, hopefully Tom Leoni or others with a better handle on the usage of the term will comment on this.

    I will certainly think about it - which takes me a long time!

    Murph
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    Hello Ilkka,

    Thanks for posting this discussion. I cannot add anything to the language discussion it is well beyond me. I am interested to see where it goes though.

    From looking at the images I have thought for a while that the pass seemed to be more straight in, once the initial step has been made with the front foot off the line.

    Using this thought process, how do you see traversing the sword being different to crossing the sword?

    Regards,
    Dan.
    Context is everything

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    Hello Ilkka,

    I think there's definitely some merit in pursuing this line of thought. Unfortunately, my Italian is French-based, so I can read most of it, but the subtleties are sometimes lost on me. I'll have to think on this one for a bit.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Sellars View Post
    Using this thought process, how do you see traversing the sword being different to crossing the sword?
    Hi Dan - while I'm not Ilkka, I don't think there is necessarily a difference. To traverse means simply to cross. Relying on my French once again, "traverser la rue" means to "cross the street." I suppose we could traverse the street, but that sounds odd to our ear. The root is the same in Italian, and since I don't have my Italian dictionary handy, I can't look it up, but using the internet as a stopgap, I get:

    http://www.wordreference.com/iten/traverso

    with the first definition being "to cross."

    Cheers!
    ... above all, you should feel in your conscience that your quarrel is good and just. - Le Jeu de la Hache

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  5. #5
    Well I don't read Italian either, though it looks like French sometimes

    But I wouldn't equate traversing and crossing, at least not in French. In (current) French it wouldn't make any sense to say ' traverser l'épée', it would mean to go through the sword, breaking it in pieces. 'Croiser l'épée' would mean make a figure like a cross with the swords, which seems more likely

    There is a difference, and I would be surprised if it did not exist in Italian too. 'Traverser' something means being in that thing during the action, while 'croiser' is less specific and just means forming a cross shape. I'm unsure of how it plays out in English actually.

    As for the translation/interpretation I don't know, I get the feeling the confusion might stem from word order and lack of punctuation. A few commas in there wouldn't hurt...

    Regards,

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    Agreed, "traverser" generally means to go through, or across something, but "en travers" is "across " or "crossways." Semantics, I know, but fun to discuss nonetheless.

    So it could go something like "mettre l'épée en travers", thus crossways...

    Cheers,
    Last edited by J. G. Smith; 04-26-2010 at 09:19 AM. Reason: grammar
    ... above all, you should feel in your conscience that your quarrel is good and just. - Le Jeu de la Hache

    Jason Smith
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    Quote Originally Posted by J. G. Smith View Post
    Hi Dan - while I'm not Ilkka, I don't think there is necessarily a difference. To traverse means simply to cross. Relying on my French once again, "traverser la rue" means to "cross the street." I suppose we could traverse the street, but that sounds odd to our ear. The root is the same in Italian, and since I don't have my Italian dictionary handy, I can't look it up, but using the internet as a stopgap, I get:

    http://www.wordreference.com/iten/traverso

    with the first definition being "to cross."

    Cheers!
    This may be a bit of a stretch but I was wondering if 'traverse' could imply sliding along the blade (in contact), and perhaps 'cross' could imply a more instantaneous crossing or bind. (I hesitate to say 'static' ). Just a thought.
    Context is everything

  8. #8
    Dan, there may be an intented difference, but pinpointing it down might not be possible. It is just as likely that Fiore was using the terms synonymously.

    Describing defensive blade actions Fiore uses at least the terms

    traversare (traverse, cross)
    rebattere (beat)
    covrire (cover)
    incrociare (cross)
    pigliare (catch)

    Going into too much detail on their exact differences is worth studying, but many of them might be used simply for variety. After all, it is possible that none of these are used as technical terms but rather just to describe the nature of the action. That said, "to catch" and "to beat" definitely have a different ring to them.

    I have found some consistencies, like for example Fiore calling the defenses raising from the opposite side of the attack (dritto against dritto) covers, and those arising from the same side (roverso against dritto) beats, which would make sense. This would perhaps leave us with

    covrire -> leads to a crossing
    rebattere -> avoids crossing beating the oppoent's sword further into its original direction
    traversare -> any blade action (as it is used together or to denote with catching, beating and covering)
    incrociare -> perhaps to form a crossing, as with covrire, or to remain in the crossing
    pigliare -> denotes perhaps the alignment of the blades when crossed, or at least is different from a beat!

    But this, of course, is just speculating. I can not say anything conclusive on this to one direction or the other, but it is worth considering.

    Then, on the other hand, in the following century we have Marozzo, who calls his horizontal cuts not just tondi but also alternatively traversi, and the anonymous Bolognese who not just affirms the use of traversare to denote direction, but goes as far as to actually define its direction as follows:

    A pass on the traverse (il passare di traverso) is, if you are in Coda Lunga Stretta with the right foot in front and you pass with the left a great step toward the enemy's right side. That is called passing on the traverse and if you pass the said foot a half a brazzo more behind, deeper toward his left side, it is called triangular and not traverse.
    Yours,
    Ilkka

  9. #9
    Just a feeling that traversare / traverse may be related to travail / travel (in the sense that travel is work); so potentially a movement across the (path of?) the blade?

    This might explain the fact that sometimes you traverse, sometimes you traverse the blade and cross it (as you might if crossing the path).
    Last edited by Alan E; 04-27-2010 at 02:28 AM.
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  10. Hi Ilkka,

    I don't have better linguistic tools than you to investigate this, and I will speak under correction of our more knowledgeable colleagues, but I think that you're over-thinking this one a bit. I'm going to refer to Tom Leoni's translation. Here are the two relevant sentences from the original at 20 recto:

    Io acresco lo pe' ch’è denanci un pocho fora de strada e cum lo stancho io passo ala traversa. E in quello passare incroso rebattendo le spade ve trovo discoverti e de ferire vi farò certi.

    Tom joins these with a semicolon, because they are closely-related independent clauses and joining them works well in English:

    I’ll step with my front foot a little off the line, and with the left foot I’ll pass at an angle; as I do so, I’ll cross and beat away your swords, find you open and strike you for sure.

    So Fiore's first sentence is solely about the movements of the feet, but is closely related to the second, which describes the movements of the sword. The fact that he here traverses lines with feet and later traverses swords with swords just indicates that words can be used somewhat flexibly. Think of the verb "tirare," which both pulls and throws, and is often used in Italian fencing to describe the act of attacking.

    Cheers,

    Sean
    Sean Hayes, Maestro d'armi
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    One should never confuse the rules of a competition with the rules of an art.

    People talk a lot about speed, but not very much about control, safety, tactics, and trying to get close to the reality of sharps. When simulating sharp fights, how fast one charges in depends on how quickly one would like to die.


  11. #11
    Hi Sean,

    I am perhaps overthinking, and I know that Tom's translation reads very nicely - in my opinion better than the original Italian - but then again that may be due to my English being better than my Italian.

    What I'm after is the mere possibility, that Fiore would be using the word "traversa" similarly to "coverta" at times, so not as an adverb but a noun. It is worth considering, and something that I couldn't answer definitely if someone asked the question from me. I'm sure however that we will get a more definite answer about this in the near future!

    Yours,
    Ilkka

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    In a Toyama-ryu Iaido class, I was taught to move my forward foot slightly off to its own side (e.g. right foot towards the right), then the rear foot moves grossly in the same direction, pivoting on the forward foot.

    This matched so closely that which Brian Price and Bob Charron had taught me, that I had blinked twice and asked my Iaido instructor where he got that movement from.

    I don't worry too much about the translation, past the point where it starts to work. When the forward foot is lifted just slightly, you start falling. When you place the front foot in its new position, that slight fall's momentum continues. When you pivot on the forward foot, it allows the rear foot to swing over without expending extra energy. It can be very quick.
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  13. Quote Originally Posted by Ilkka Hartikainen View Post
    What I'm after is the mere possibility, that Fiore would be using the word "traversa" similarly to "coverta" at times, so not as an adverb but a noun.
    Hi Ilkka,

    I may have misunderstood you, then. I'll have a fresh look at your blog post and see.

    Cheers,

    Sean
    Sean Hayes, Maestro d'armi
    Northwest Fencing Academy

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association
    San Jose Fencing Masters Program Examination Board

    One should never confuse the rules of a competition with the rules of an art.

    People talk a lot about speed, but not very much about control, safety, tactics, and trying to get close to the reality of sharps. When simulating sharp fights, how fast one charges in depends on how quickly one would like to die.


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    I have given my thoughts on email to a number of people about this topic. Ilkka's analysis is as always smart and provocative (and keeps us all on our toes), but I think we may be overthinking the issue. I'll simply say that I stand by my translation.

    One of the difficult things about analyzing a language with which we are familiar chiefly on paper is that it is easy to fall into traps set by our own rationality. For languages grow and evolve often irrationally, propelled by custom and popular usage rather than by a rational, logical authority. Why does the Romance word ingenuita' not translate exactly into ingenuity, rather meaning its opposite? Why, in Italian, do we address letters to our betters as to the Egregio Signore such and such, while addressing one in English to the Egregious Mr. such and such would likely result in making an enemy for life?

    Why do I refer to Swiss and Viennese music as schweizer and wiener Musik, but to Austrian music I have to refer as oesterreichische Musik? Why does the German expression "look after yourself" call for the preposition "auf" twice? Why is notoriety good, while being notorious not so much?

    Answer: "because."

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Leoni; 04-30-2010 at 04:34 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Leoni View Post
    I have given my thoughts on email to a number of people about this topic. Ilkka's analysis is as always smart and provocative (and keeps us all on our toes), but I think we may be overthinking the issue. I'll simply say that I stand by my translation.

    One of the difficult things about analyzing a language with which we are familiar chiefly on paper is that it is easy to fall into traps set by our own rationality. For languages grow and evolve often irrationally, propelled by custom and popular usage rather than by a rational, logical authority. Why does the Romance word ingenuita' not translate exactly into ingenuity, rather meaning its opposite? Why, in Italian, do we address letters to our betters as to the Egregio Signore such and such, while addressing one in English to the Egregious Mr. such and such would likely result in making an enemy for life?

    Why do I refer to Swiss and Viennese music as schweizer and wiener Musik, but to Austrian music I have to refer as oesterreichische Musik? Why does the German expression "look after yourself" call for the preposition "auf" twice? Why is notoriety good, while being notorious not so much?

    Answer: "because."

    Tom
    Tom,
    That was a wonderful post that applies to so many fields beyond WMA.
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  16. #16
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    Thanks, Bill - I'll expand a bit on the linguistics, since a few of you have written me privately about this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkka Hartikainen View Post
    Hi Sean,

    I am perhaps overthinking, and I know that Tom's translation reads very nicely - in my opinion better than the original Italian - but then again that may be due to my English being better than my Italian.

    What I'm after is the mere possibility, that Fiore would be using the word "traversa" similarly to "coverta" at times, so not as an adverb but a noun. It is worth considering, and something that I couldn't answer definitely if someone asked the question from me. I'm sure however that we will get a more definite answer about this in the near future!

    Yours,
    Ilkka
    This is not directed to Ilkka, but to all who have asked me the same question.

    There is no possibility, short of a linguistic fluke that would revolutionize the understanding of Italian semantics, that would turn the adverb "alla traversa" into something meaning "for the cover/crossing."

    Traversa as a noun is an extremely rare word, only used to refer to physical structures bridging two elements such as beams, poles and cross-bars. For instance, a traversa is the cross-bar of a soccer goal. Its diminuitive, traversina, is something like a sleeper in rail tracks.

    Much, much, more commonly (and as used by Fiore), traversa is accompanied by an articled preposition turning it into an adverb meaning, quite literally, "obliquely," as it is also defined by dictionaries first of which the most authoritative--the Vocabolario degli Accademici della Crusca, which, besides defining words in Italian, gives the "set" Latin translation (oblique) as a sort of hedge against the constant evolution of the language.

    As I said, it was (and to an extent still is) a very common expression found not only in fencing treatises, but in Italian literature and speech. And it always means "obliquely."

    Let's not forget that, unlike Renaissance fencing as an art, Italian is not a dead language. It is still spoken today (very little changed, actually), and its historical literature is studied in great depth. Moreover, the tens of thousands of extant historical Italian works have been scrutinized, analyzed and footnoted by some of history's most eminent philologists--like Pietro di Dante and Vellutello in the Renaissance to Sapegno and Pazzaglia in more recent times.

    When Italians who have taken a Classical-studies vocation study literature, we must be able to explain every word in a given Canto of the Divine Comedy, reference it with the writings of prominent philologists, clarify the allusions to Latin and Greek works (better yet if quoting from the originals) and there is simply no room for gross misinterpretations.

    In other words, for an educated Italian, there is zero excuse not to know what his language means or meant (although, of course nobody is infallible).

    This is why I think that for us in WMA, the greater difficulty is not--or should not be--understanding the semantics; it should be translating the semantics into actions. So, if "alla traversa" means "obliquely," how big should the step be? By what degree should it diverge from the line (fuori da strada), and depending on what cut or thrust from the opponent?

    As such, I therefore think that the biggest breakthroughs are made and will continue to be made in *how* the language's (rather plain) meaning is applied to the physical performance of the art. The exception is, of course, language that is strictly technical (e.g. what is a stramazzone?)--but this is fairly easy to spot and is definitely not the case with alla traversa.

    I hope this made some further light on the subject.

  17. #17
    [double post]
    Last edited by Ilkka Hartikainen; 05-02-2010 at 10:19 PM. Reason: Double post

  18. #18
    Tom,

    thank you so much for your insightful answers! Your help in clearing out questions such as this is greatly appreciated and of extreme value to someone like myself who is perhaps keen, but lacks the education and experience in making the right calls in these sort of situations.

    Not only do your posts clear this issue, but the advice on reading the language and in interpretation are valuable as well - and true!

    Once again, thank you for the answer - I will update my blog as well with answers to the questions I asked.

    Yours,
    Ilkka

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkka Hartikainen View Post
    Tom,

    thank you so much for your insightful answers! Your help in clearing out questions such as this is greatly appreciated and of extreme value to someone like myself who is perhaps keen, but lacks the education and experience in making the right calls in these sort of situations.

    Not only do your posts clear this issue, but the advice on reading the language and in interpretation are valuable as well - and true!

    Once again, thank you for the answer - I will update my blog as well with answers to the questions I asked.

    Yours,
    Ilkka
    It was a joy reading this thread, and Tom's reply, to mix metaphors (reasonable considering the reference to iaido above), it is good to have folks here who are exemplars of "Bun Bu Ryo Do" (Sword and Pen in accord).
    Steve

  20. #20
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    Ilkka, your open-mindedness is one of the reasons why you have become such a solid source for the styles you study.

    Incidentally, I was thumbing through a few pieces of 1200s poetry, and I ran into this passage by Brunetto Latini, one of the most erudite poets of his time and an intellectual mentor to Dante. This is from the Tesoretto, II:

    Certo lo cor mi parte
    di cotanto dolore,
    pensando il grande onore
    e la ricca potenza
    che suole aver Fiorenza
    quasi nel mondo tutto;

    e io, in tal corrotto
    pensando a capo chino,
    perdei il gran cammino,
    e tenni a la traversa
    d'una selva diversa.

    Here's my 11:53 PM off-the-cuff translation. (While on a voyage as an ambassador to Spain, the poet learns that the Guelphs--his faction--had been forced into exile from Florence after their ruinous 1260 defeat at Montaperti by the Ghibellines.)

    My heart surely failed me
    from such pain,
    as I thought of the great honor
    and the rich power
    Florence has
    almost over the whole world.

    And I, so pained
    and with my head bowed,
    strayed off the main road
    and took an oblique path
    into a frightening woods.

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Leoni; 05-04-2010 at 08:58 PM.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Leoni View Post
    ... and an intellectual mentor to Dante. ...

    e io, in tal corrotto
    pensando a capo chino,
    perdei il gran cammino,
    e tenni a la traversa
    d'una selva diversa.
    Hmm.

    Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
    mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
    ché la diritta via era smarrita.

    Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
    esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
    che nel pensier rinova la paura!

    Off topic, off topic. I shut up now.

  22. #22
    Actually, upon further thought, I realize that this isn't off topic. It's right on topic.

    Tom translates "una selva diversa" as "a frightening woods." Why didn't he translate it as "a different woods," since in studying Italian one learns the meaning of "diverso" as "different?"

    I read period fencing treatises in Italian, and now Spanish, simply because, if I waited for competent translations to appear of all that I'm interested in reading, I'd be dead. Since that isn't an option for me, I pick up the treatises in the original languages. But I need prostheses to help me do this: competent grammars, dictionaries, and if I'm lucky, translations. I use a competent translation the way I would a grammar or a dictionary, applying much the same methodology Tom describes he used as a student:

    "When Italians who have taken a Classical-studies vocation study literature, we must be able to explain every word in a given Canto of the Divine Comedy, reference it with the writings of prominent philologists, clarify the allusions to Latin and Greek works (better yet if quoting from the originals) and there is simply no room for gross misinterpretations."

    In other words, in cases of doubt, I'm not satisfied till I figure out why the translator chose that particular word. For me this often means hunting it down in the right dictionary.

    In this case, I look up "diverso" in the Vocabolario degli Accademici della Crusca (available online, so there is no excuse for not using it), and see this as the first meaning:

    DIVERSO.
    che non è simile, vario, differente. Lat. varius, dissimilis, dispar, diversus.

    No surprises there, so I keep reading. However, further down there is another meaning:

    ¶ Per istrano, crudele, orribile. Lat. crudelis, ferus, inhumanus, orribilis.

    and something I noticed just now:

    Dan. Inf. c. 5. Cerbero, fiera crudele, e diversa, Con tre gole caninamente latra. E can. 7. Entrammo giù per una via diversa [cioè aspra].

    Anyway, now not only does the metaphorical use of "path" bring the first Canto of Dante's Inferno to mind, but what drives it home is that this is a frightenting path:

    Midway in the journey of our life
    I came to myself in a dark wood,
    for the straight way was lost.
    Ah, how hard it is to tell
    the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh --
    the very thought of it renews my fear!

    (Translation from the Princeton Dante Project, online.)

    So how come I happen to have read the first Canto of Dante's Divine Comedy in Italian? I thought perhaps by reading it I could improve my understanding of the language. But to do that, I had to have some faith in the competence of the translation I was reading (not the one above, another one), and I recall using the method I described to hunt down the meaning of a word I thought I was familiar with, but not completely, as it turned out. That is another, personal, point of contact for me between the two passages.

    Anway, Tom is a linguistic resource for this community, and his translations should be used like other competent resources: to learn from. Now dictionaries are not infallible, neither are people; they're both compendia of sorts, and stubborn people like me will want to do their own research. But I think that if one wants to argue with a resource, one needs to be able to back oneself up with a resource of equal or greater validity. Then it's like a card game: the stronger hand wins, or it's a draw.

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