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Ambroise Paré and his times, 1510-1590 online

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where the streets crossed, every hundred paces,
which would have been as bad friends to them as
the first, or worse, and would have made many
widows and orphans. And if fortune had been so

68 Ambroise Pare

hard on us that they had stormed and broken up our
strongholds, there would yet have been seven great
companies, drawn up in square and in triangle, to
fight them all at once, each led by one of the
princes, for the better encouragement of our men to
fight and die all together, even to the last breath of
their souls. And all were resolved to bring their
treasures, rings, and jewels, and their best and rich-
est and most beautiful household stuffs, and burn
them to ashes in the great square, lest the enemy
should take them and make trophies of them. Also
there were men charged to set fire to all the stores
and burn them, and to stave in all the wine-casks ;
others to set fire to every single house, to burn the
enemy and us together. The citizens thus were all
of one mind, rather than see the bloody knife at
their throats, and their wives and daughters ravished
and taken by the cruel savage Spaniards.

Now we had certain prisoners, who had been made
secretly to understand our last determination and
desperation ; these prisoners M. de Guise sent away
on parole, who being come to their camp, lost no
time in saying what we had told them ; which re-
strained the great and vehement desire of the ene-
my, so that they were no longer eager to enter the
town to cut our throats and enrich themselves with
the spoils. The Emperor, having heard the decision

"Journeys in Diverse Places" 69

of this great warrior, M. de Guise, put water in his
wine, and restrained his fury ; saying that he could
not enter the town save with vast butchery and
carnage, and shedding of much blood, both of those
defending and of those attacking, and they would
be all dead together, and in the end he would get
nothing but ashes ; and afterward men might say it
was a like destruction to that of the town of Jerusa-
lem, made of old time by Titus and Vespasian.

The Emperor thus having heard our last resolve,
and seeing how little he had gained by his attack,
sappings, and mines, and the great plague that was
through all his camp, and the adverse time of the
year, and the want of victuals and of money, and
how his soldiers were disbanding themselves and
going off in great companies, decided at last to
raise the siege and go away, with the cavalry of his
vanguard, and the greater part of the artillery and
engines of war. The Marquis of Brandebourg was
the last to budge from his place ; he had with him
some troops of Spaniards and Bohemians, and his
German regiments, and there he stopped for a day
and a half, to the great regret of M. de Guise, who
brought four pieces of artillery out of the town,
which he fired on him this side and that, to hurry
him off: and off he went, sure enough, and all his
men with him.

JO Ambroise Par6

When he was a quarter of a league from Metz, he
was seized with a panic lest our cavalry should fall
upon his tail ; so he set fire to his store of powder,
and left behind him some pieces of artillery, and a
quantity of baggage, which he could not take along
with him, because their vanguard and their great can-
nons had broken and torn up the roads. Our cav-
alry were longing with all their hearts to issue from
the town and attack him behind ; but M. de Guise
would never let them, saying on the contrary we
had better make their way smooth for them, and
build them gold and silver bridges to let them go ;
like the good pastor and shepherd, who will not lose
one of his sheep.

That is how our dear and well-beloved Imperials
went away from Metz, which was the day after
Christmas Day, to the great content of those within
the walls, and the praise of the princes, seigneurs,
captains, and soldiers, who had endured the travail
of this siege for more than two months. Nevertheless,
they did not all go : there wanted more than twenty
thousand of them, who were dead, from our artillery
and the fighting, or from plague, cold, and starva-
tion (and from spite and rage that they could not get
into the town to cut our throats and plunder us) :
and many of their horses also died, the greater part
whereof they had eaten instead of beef and bacon.

"Journeys in Diverse Places" 71

We went where their camp had been, where we found
many dead bodies not yet buried, and the earth all
worked up, as one sees in the Cemetery of the Holy
Innocents during some time of many deaths. In
their tents, pavilions, and lodgings were many sick
people. Also cannon-shot, weapons, carts, waggons,
and other baggage, with a great quantity of soldier's
bread, spoiled and rotted by the snows and rains
(yet the soldiers had it but by weight and measure).
Also they left a good store of wood, all that remained
of the houses they had demolished and broken down
in the villages for two or three leagues around ; also
many other pleasure-houses, that had belonged to
our citizens, with gardens and fine orchards full of
diverse fruit-trees. And without all this, they would
have been benumbed and dead of the cold, and
forced to raise the siege sooner than they did.

M. de Guise had their dead buried, and their sick
people treated. Also the enemy left behind them in
the Abbey of Saint Arnoul many of their wounded
soldiers, whom they could not possibly take with
them. M. de Guise sent them all victuals enough,
and ordered me and the other surgeons to go dress
and physick them, which we did with a good will ;
and I think they would not have done the like for
our men. For the Spaniard is very cruel, treacher-
ous, and inhuman, and so far enemy of all nations:

72 Ambroise Pare

which is proved by Lopez the Spaniard, and Benzo
of Milan, and others who have written the history
of America and the West Indies : who have had to
confess that the cruelty, avarice, blasphemies, and
wickedness of the Spaniards have utterly estranged
the poor Indians from the religion that these Span-
iards professed. And all write that they are of less
worth than the idolatrous Indians, for their cruel
treatment of these Indians.

And some days later M. de Guise sent a trumpet
to Thionville to the enemy, that they could send for
their wounded in safety : which they did with carts
and waggons, but not enough. M. de Guise gave them
carts and carters, to help to take them to Thionville.
Our carters when they returned told us the roads
were all paved with dead bodies, and they never got
half the men there, for they died in their carts : and
the Spaniards seeing them at the point of death, be-
fore they had breathed their last, threw them out of
the carts and buried them in the mud and mire, say-
ing they had no orders to bring back dead men.
Moreover, our carters said they had found on the
roads many carts stuck in the mud, full of baggage,
for which the enemy dared not send back, lest we
who were within Metz should run out upon them.

I would return to the reason why so many of
them died ; which was mostly starvation, the plague,

"Journeys in Diverse Places" ^2)

and cold. For the snow was more than two feet
deep upon the ground, and they were lodged in pits
below the ground, covered only with a little thatch.
Nevertheless, each soldier had his camp-bed, and a
coverlet all strewed with stars, glittering and shining
brighter than fine gold, and every day they had white
sheets, and lodged at the sign of the Moon, and en-
joyed themselves if only they had been able, and paid
their host so well over night that in the morning they
went off quits, shaking their ears : and they had no
need of a comb to get the down and feathers out of
their beards and hair, and they always found a white
table-cloth, and would have enjoyed good meals but
for want of food. Also the greater part of them
had neither boots, half-boots, slippers, hose, nor
shoes : and most of them would rather have none
than any, because they were always in the mire up
to mid-leg. And because they went bare-foot, we
called them the Emperor's Apostles.

After the camp was wholly dispersed, I distributed
my patients into the hands of the surgeons of the
town, to finish dressing them : then I took leave of
M. de Guise, and returned to the King, who received
me with great favour, and asked me how I had been
able to make my way into Metz. I told him fully
all that I had done. He gave me two hundred
crowns, and an hundred which I had when I set out :

74 Ambroise Pare

and said he would never leave me poor. Then I
thanked him very humbly for the good and the
honour he was pleased to do me.

The Journey to Hesdin. 1553.

The Emperor Charles laid siege to the town of
Theroiienne ; and M. le Due de Savoie was General
of his whole army. It was taken by assault : and
there was a great number of our men killed and
taken prisoners.

The King, wishing to prevent the enemy from
besieging the town and castle of Hesdin also, sent
thither MM. le Due de Bouillon, le Due Horace, le
Marquis de Villars, and a number of captains, and
about eighteen hundred soldiers : and during the
siege of Theroiienne, these Seigneurs fortified the
castle of Hesdin, so that it seemed to be impregnable.
The King sent me to the Seigneurs, to help them
with my art, if they should come to have need of it.

Soon after the capture of Theroiienne, we were
besieged in Hesdin. There was a clear stream of
running water within shot of our cannon, and about
it were fourscore or an hundred of the enemy's
rabble, drawing water. I was on a rampart watching
the enemy pitch their camp ; and seeing the crowd of
idlers round the stream, I asked M. du Pont, com-
missary of the artillery, to send one cannon-shot

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"Journeys in Diverse Places" 75

among this canaille : he gave me a flat refusal, say-
ing that all this sort of people was not worth the
powder would be wasted on them. Again I begged
him to level the cannon, telling him, " The more
dead, the fewer enemies " ; which he did for my sake :
and the shot killed fifteen or sixteen, and wounded
many. Our men made sorties against the enemy,
wherein many were killed and wounded on both
sides, with gunshot or with fighting hand to hand ;
and our men often sallied out before their trenches
were made ; so that I had my work cut out for me,
and had no rest either day or night for dressing the

And here I would note that we had put many of
them in a great tower, laying them on a little straw :
and their pillows were stones, their coverlets were
cloaks, those who had any. When the attack was
made, so often as the enemy's cannons were fired,
our wounded said they felt pain in their wounds, as
if you had struck them with a stick : one was crying
out on his head, the other on his arm, and so with
the other parts of the body : and many had their
wounds bleed again, even more profusely than at
the time they were wounded, and then I had to run
to staunch them. Mon petit maistre, if you had
been there, you would have been much hindered
with your hot irons ; you would have wanted a lot

76 Ambroise Par^

of charcoal to heat them red, and sure you would
have been killed like a calf for your cruelty. Many
died of the diabolical storm of the echo of these en-
gines of artillery, and the vehement agitation and se-
vere shock of the air acting on their wounds ; others
because they got no rest for the shouting and crying
that were made day and night, and for want of good
food, and other things needful for their treatment.
Mon petit maistre, if you had been there, no doubt
you could have given them jelly, restoratives, gravies,
pressed meats, broth, barley-water, almond-milk,
blanc-mange, prunes, plums, and other food proper
for the sick ; but your diet would have been only on
paper, and in fact they had nothing but beef of
old shrunk cows, seized round Hesdin for our pro-
vision, salted and half-cooked, so that he who would
eat it must drag at it with his teeth, as birds of prey
tear their food. Nor must I forget the linen for
dressing their wounds, which was only washed daily
and dried at the fire, till it was as hard as parchment :
I leave you to think how their v/ounds could do well.
There were four big fat rascally women who had
charge to whiten the linen, and were kept at it with
the stick ; and yet they had not water enough to do
it, much less soap. That is how the poor patients
died, for want of food and other necessar)^ things.
)V One day the enemy feigned a general attack, to

"Journeys in Diverse Places" ^"j

draw our soldiers into the breach, that they might
see what we were like : every man ran thither. We
had made a great store of artificial fires to defend
the breach ; a priest of M. le Due de Bouillon took
a grenade, thinking to throw it at the enemy, and
lighted it before he ought : it burst, and set fire to
all our store, which was in a house near the breach.
This was a terrible disaster for us, because it burned
many poor soldiers ; it even caught the house, and
we had all been burned, but for help given to put it
out ; there was only one well in the castle with any
water in it, and this was almost dry, and we took
beer to put it out instead of water ; afterward we
were in great want of water, and to drink what was
left we must strain it through napkins.

The enemy, seeing the explosion and violence of
the fires, which made a wonderful flame and thun-
dering, thought we had lit them on purpose to
defend the breach, and that we had many more of
them. This made them change their minds, to have
us some other way than by attack : they dug niines,
and sapped the greater part of our walls, till they
came near turning our castle altogether upside down ;
and when the sappers had finished their work, and
their artillery was fired, all the castle shook under
our feet like an earthquake, to our great astonish-
ment. Moreover, they had levelled five pieces of

78 Ambroise Pare

artillery, which they had placed on a little hillock, so
as to have us from behind when we were gone to de-
fend the breach. M. le Due Horace had a cannon-
shot on the elbow, which carried off his arm one
w^ay and his body the other, before he could say a
single word ; his death was a great disaster to us,
for the high rank that he held in the town. Also
M. de Martigues had a gunshot wound which pierced
his lungs : I dressed him, as I shall tell hereafter.

Then we asked leave to speak with the enemy;
and a trumpet was sent to the Prince of Piedmont,
to know what terms he would give us. He an-
swered that all the leaders, such as gentlemen, cap-
tains, lieutenants, and ensigns, would be taken
prisoners for ransom, and the soldiers would leave
the town without their arms ; and if we refused this
fair and honest offer, we might rest assured they
would take us next day, by attack or otherwise.

A council was held, to which I was called, to know
if I would sign the surrender of the town ; with many
captains, gentlemen, and others. I answered it was
not possible to hold the town, and I would sign the
surrender with my own blood, for the little hope I
had we could resist the enemy's forces, and for the
great longing I had to be out of this hell and utter
torture ; for I slept neither night nor day for the
great number of the wounded, who were about two

"Journeys in Diverse Places" 79

hundred. The dead were advanced in putrefaction,
piled one upon the other like faggots, and not
covered with earth, because we had none. And if I
went into a soldier's lodging, there were soldiers
waiting for me at the door when I came out, for me
to dress others ; it was who should have me, and
they carried me like the body of a saint, with my
feet off the ground, fighting for me. I could not
satisfy this great number of wounded : nor had I
got what I wanted for their treatment. For it is
not enough that the surgeon do his duty toward his
patients, but the patient also must do his; and the
assistants, and external things, must work together
for him : see Hippocrates, Aphorism the First.

Having heard that we were to surrender the place,
I knew our business was not prospering ; and for
fear of being known, I gave a velvet coat, a satin
doublet, and a cloak of fine cloth trimmed with vel-
vet, to a soldier; who gave me a bad doublet all torn
and ragged with wear, and a frayed leather collar,
and a bad hat, and a short cloak; I dirtied the neck
of my shirt with water mixed with a little soot, I
rubbed my hose with a stone at the knees and over
the heels, as though they had been long worn, I did
the same to my shoes, till one would have taken
me for a chimney-sweep rather than a King's surgeon.
I went in this gear to M. de Martigues, and prayed

8o Ambroise Pare

him to arrange I should stop with him to dress him ;
which he granted very wiUingly, and was as glad I
should be near him as I was myself.

Soon afterward, the commissioners who were to
select the prisoners entered the castle, the seven-
teenth day of July, 1553. They took prisoners MM.
le Due de Bouillon, le Marquis de Villars, de Roze, le
Baron de Culan, M. du Pont, commissary of the artil-
lery, and M. de Martigues ; and me with him, be-
cause he asked them ; and all the gentlemen who
they knew could pay ransom, and most of the sol-
diers and the leaders of companies ; so many and
such prisoners as they wished. And then the Spanish
soldiers entered by the breach, unresisted ; our men
thought they would keep their faith and agreement
that all lives should be spared. They entered the
town in a fury to kill, plunder, and ravage every-
thing: they took a few men, hoping to have ransom
for them.* ... If they saw they could not get
it, they cruelly put them to death in cold blood.*
. . . And they killed them all with daggers, and
cut their throats. Such was their great cruelty and
treachery ; let him trust them who will.

To return to my story : when I was taken from the
castle into the town, with M. de Martigues, there
was one of M. de Savoie's gentlemen, who asked me

* An account of the torture is here omitted.

"Journeys in Diverse Places" 8i

if M. de Martigues's wound could be cured. I told
him no, that it was incurable : and off he went
to tell M. le Due de Savoie. I bethought my-
self they would send physicians and surgeons to
dress M. de Martigues ; and I argued within myself
if I ought to play the simpleton, and not let myself
be known for a surgeon, lest they should keep me to
dress their wounded, and in the end I should be
found to be the King's surgeon, and they would
make me pay a big ransom. On the other hand, I
feared, if I did not show I was a surgeon and had
dressed M. de Martigues skilfully, they would cut
my throat. Forthwith I made up my mind to show
them he would hot die for want of having been well
dressed and nursed.

Soon after, sure enough, there came many gen-
tlemen, with the Emperor's physician, and his sur-
geon, and those belonging to M. de Savoie, and six
other surgeons of his army, to see M. de Martigues'
wound, and to know of me how I had dressed
and treated it. The Emperor's physician bade me
declare the essential nature of the wound, and what
I had done for it. And all his assistants kept their
ears wide open, to know if the wound were or were
not mortal. I commenced my discourse to them,
how M. de Martigues, looking over the wall to mark
those who were sapping it, was shot with an arque-


82 Ambroise Pare

bus through the body, and I was called of a sudden
to dress him. I found blood coming from his
mouth and from his wounds. Moreover, he had a
great difficulty of breathing in and out. and air came
whistling from the wounds, so that it would have put
out a candle ; and he said he had a very great stab-
bing pain where the bullet had entered. "^ . . . I
withdrew some scales_of bone, and put in each
Avound a tent with a large head, fastened with a
thread, lest on inspiration it should be drawn into
the cavity of the chest ; v/hich has happened vrith
surgeons, to the detriment of the poor wounded ;
for being fallen in, you cannot get them out ; and
then they beget corruption, being foreign bodies.
The tents were anointed with a preparation of yolk
of egg, Venice turpentine, and a little oil of roses.
. . . I put over the wounds a great plaster of
diach3'lum, wherewith I had mixed oil of roses, and
vinegar, to avoid inflammation. Then I applied
great compresses steeped in oxycrate, and bandaged
him, not too tight, that he might breathe easih,-.
Next, I drew five basons of blood from his right arm,
considering his youth and his sanguine tempera-
ment. . . . Fever took him, soon after he vras
wounded, with feebleness of the heart. . . . His

* Details of the case, here omitted, show that it was hopeless from
the first.

"Journeys in Diverse Places" 83

diet was barley-water, prunes with sugar, at other
times broth : his drink was a ptisane. He could lie
only on his back. . . . What more shall I say?
but that my Lord de Martigues never had an hour's
rest after he was wounded. . . . These things
considered, Gentlemen, no other prognosis is possi-
ble, save that he will die in a few days, to my great

Having finished my discourse, I dressed him as I
was accustomed. When I displayed his wounds,
the physicians and surgeons, and other assistants
present, knew the truth of what I had said. The
physicians, having felt his pulse and seen that the
vital forces were depressed and spent, agreed with
me that in a few days he would die. Then they
all went to the Due de Savoie, and told him M. de
Martigues would die in a short time. He answered
them, " Possibly, if he had been well dressed, he
might have escaped death." Then they all with one
voice said he had been very well dressed and cared
for altogether, and it could not be better, and it was
impossible to cure him, and his wound was of neces-
sity mortal. Then M. de Savoie was very angry
with them, and cried, and asked them again if for
certain they all held his case hopeless : they answered,

Then a Spanish impostor came forward, who prom-

84 Ambroise Pare

ised on his life to cure him ; and if he did not, they
should cut him in an hundred pieces ; but he would
have no physicians, nor surgeons, nor apothecaries
with him : and M. le Due de Savoie forthwith bade
the physicians and surgeons not go near M. de Mar-
tigues ; and sent a gentleman to bid me, under pain
of death, not so much as to touch him. Which I
promised, and was very glad, for now he would not
die under my hands ; and the impostor was told to
dress him, and to have with him no other physicians
or surgeons, but only himself. By and bye he came,
and said to M. de Martigues, " Senor Cavallero,
M. de Savoie has bid me come and dress your wound.
I swear to God, before eight days I will set you on
horseback, lance in hand, provided none touch you
but I alone. You shall eat and drink whatever
you like. I will be dieted instead of you ; and you
may trust me to perform what I promise. I have
cured many who had worse wounds than yours."
And the Seigneurs answered him, " God give you
His grace for it."

He asked for a shirt of M. de Martigues, and tore
it in little strips, which he laid cross-wise, muttering
and murmuring certain words over the wounds: hav-
ing done this much for him, he let him eat and drink
all he would, saying he himself would be dieted in
his stead ; which he did, eating but six prunes and

" Journeys in Diverse Places " 85

six morsels of bread for dinner, and drinking only
beer. Nevertheless, two days later, M. de Martigues
died : and my friend the Spaniard, seeing him at
the point of death, eclipsed himself, and got away
Avithout good-bye to any man. And I believe if he
had been caught he would have been hanged and
strangled, for the false promise he made to M. le Due
de Savoie and many other gentlemen. M. de Mar-
tigues died about ten o'clock in the morning ; and
after dinner M. de Savoie sent the physicians and
surgeons, and his apothecary, with a store of drugs to
embalm him. They came with many gentlemen and
captains of his army.

The Emperor's surgeon came to me, and asked
me in a very friendly way to make the embalment ;
which I refused, saying that I was not worthy to

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