Knights of the Pain Table

A Camelot for Sufferers of Chronic Pain

Medieval Lesson 101 – Duellum

A Lesson for Thee

I wilcume thee to University of Camelot ( U of C) dear Knights of the Pain Table and all ye visitors to Camelot.    Take a seat and I will dispense instructions gradually,  in a manner commensurate with your power of assimilation.    On this day of Thursday, our journey will begin.    We will travel to the past to breathe new life into the present and the future.    Be not afraid,  for we will all ride together.   The purpose of the school is to learn together so that we understand this world and Camelot a little better. 

Thou art my teacher as I am yours. 

On this day we will begin with our Latin lesson.  But do not fear dear students.  Latin is merely at the root of all that we say so it is practically in our genes.  So open your books and lend me your ear.  (I mean that figuratively !)

Medieval Lesson 101     Duellum

A Duel is a prearranged combat with deadly weapons between two people following a formal procedure in the presence of seconds and traditionally fought until one party was wounded or killed, usually to settle a quarrel involving a point of honour

Duel was from the Medieval Latin Duellum, a poetical variant of Bellum (war).

Duellum was the final recourse of two sides unable to resolve an argument. (A dual between champions).  It was believed that in this solution, God would not permit the party with justice on its side to lose.  Hence, the duellum was a “judicium De”, an ordeal subject to God’s judgement. 

Bellum is Latin for War.

An armed contest between nations and the state of war between those who are in conflict against each other. A term which is the root of the idea of Jus Belli, the law of war.

Jus ad bellum (Latin for “Justice to War”) are a set of criteria that are consulted before engaging in war, in order to determine whether entering into war is justifiable.

To hear how to pronounce duellum click here.

This is the English translation of the poem Duellum (The Duel) by Charles Baudelaire.


Two fighters rushed together: sabres bleak 
With crimson blood-gouts lit the air above. 
That clinking swordplay was the tender squeak 
Of youth , when it’s a prey to bleating love.

The swords are splintered, like our youth, my darling,  And now it’s teeth and talons are the fashion. 
 The clash of swords is child’s play to the snarling 
Of hearts adult in ulcerated passion.

In the ravine by lynx and leopard haunted, 
Our heroes, wrestling heroes, roll undaunted. 

Rags of their skin flower red upon the gorse.

This gulf is hell, and peopled by our friends. 
Here, hellcat! Come, let’s roll without remorse 
To celebrate a feud that never ends!

Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

Click  to read the original poem Duellum

Thou art a fine student.  May we continue to ride on this road of knowledge.   

With Great Respect and Compassion,

Merlin,    Magister of U of C
Camelot and The Knights of the Pain Table
 Read  Medieval Lesson 102 –  Herberger

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