Statement of Record

Götz von Berlichingen


Nuremberg was the Silicon Valley of the Late Middle Ages
precisions toolmakers built the first pocket watches
technical apparatuses shipped all over the world
in Nuremberg even a marauder has to pay
no one talks to Götz like that
he settles his score with his iron fist
that’s Nuremberg craftsmanship for you

it was Goethe who attributed to him the famous phrase “You can lick my ass” which was for the most part historically accurate though in actuality he is believed to have said “You can lick my behind” which all admit is slightly less vulgar but also slightly less memorable

after one of his many feuds in which he assaulted the city of Nuremberg he was stripped of his arms and armor by the Emperor, the singular low point of his long illustrious life

tournaments were not for him he did not fit into this new world the Emperor Maximilian was creating so after the ban was lifted he announced to all that he was henceforth a righter of injustices that he would serve as a legal advocate without of course the authorization of any court a ghost is by definition a disembodied consciousness and we were hoping he was a soulless puppet none of you does anything you leave your hands in your pockets there is nothing to wipe away have it your way just wait until the Turks come again the Emperor will then feel his mistake to have been grave indeed more than any of his titles Maximilian liked to be known as the last of the knights though he was what we would today call a reenactor lance points were blunted lances designed to shatter on impact it was a marketplace for ideas but also for human vanity books of heraldic arms showed who was who among the nobility and tournaments had brought Maximilian unparalleled admiration among knights the emperor himself having won seventy engagements in the list and having caused the deaths of several opponents though the fix was no doubt in in all cases though he was a firm believer in settling disputes via single combat between rulers as opposed to drawn out wars tournaments were also about displaying new technology we ask scientists what might happen to a knight in a tournament a dummy is dressed as a knight a fall was likely to snap a spine that is the knight would be dead serious injury and death both likely outcomes but social prestige the other possibility a modern analogy to be found in Formula One racing perhaps also the start of an arms race that will last decades the tournaments a kind of trade show ironic then that a man with an automatic hand was of no interest the tournaments not yet having bent towards the carnival fully still bathed in the pseudo religious languor of law and court all vestiges of ancient Roman cults most everything a vestige of ancient violences a man with a metal right hand that could clasp a shield when a button was depressed which arm now sits in a museum in Vienna was his sigil when he was forced under threat of death to command a peasant army for a month along the way enriching himself all this under the guise of duress which was at least partially a reality and historians debate still whether or not he really could have done anything more than he did to curb the outrageous and horrific outbursts of peasant violence peasants using the revolt to seek revenge for every sort of grievance imaginable this leading to a string of horrific murders and burnings and gouging and rape under the nominal command of the iron handed righter of injustices and though today few people fit the profile of a medieval archer it was not always so in fact all of the peasants with a little bit of training were converted into a powerful foot force under Götz’s brief tenure in command and thereafter the general balance of military power within the states of the Holy Roman Empire shifted to pikemen and an amassing of many many many easily and quickly trainable men instead of investing huge amounts of money and training in individual knights such as Götz with his iron hand had been for this was no longer practical but Götz did not mind and lived on to die peacefully in his 80s having recorded his life’s adventures in poems for posterity and leaving enough material for him to be immortalized in a slightly fictional fashion by that so-called greatest of German playwrights Goethe who anyone knows is in almost every conceivable way surpassed by Schiller when it comes to the production of stageable plays

About the author

Stu Watson is a writer, artist, and teacher living in Brooklyn. He is a founder and editor of Prelude, a Pushcart Prize winning journal of poetry and criticism. His work has appeared or is forthcoming at Denver Quarterly, inter|rupture, Powder Keg, PANK, The Collapsar, Queen Mob's Teahouse, White Wall Review, and in the Brooklyn Poets Anthology. His manuscript 'Communicatingroups' was a finalist for the 2016 and 2017 National Poetry Series contests. A PhD candidate in English Literature at The Graduate Center, CUNY, he teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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