Vizetelly, Branston and Co.
Fleet Street, London
Was a forester good,
As ever drew bow in the merry green wood;
And what eye hath e'er seen
Such a sweet maiden-queen
As Marian, the pride of the forester's green ?
RCHERY was formerly one of the chief pastimes, and the greatest defence, of the people of England against their enemies. Many statutes were made for its encouragement; and even after the bow was superseded by other arms as a warlike weapon, the people were enjoined by parliament not only to keep bows and arrows, but also to practise shooting at the target: the City of London was compelled by the legislature to erect butts for this purpose. We have not met with any well-authenticated record of the first introduction of the longbow to this country; but there is sufficient evidence to be found in the works of the old historians, to shew that it was adopted as a weapon for forest and field in very early times. Richard the First was killed by an arrow, in the year 1199. In the reign of Edward the Third, precepts were issued to the sheriffs, commanding them severally to provide a certain number of bows and bundles of arrows for the then intended war against France ; and in the battle of Creasy, which was fought shortly after, the English had a body of two thousand archers, to whose exertions the victory has, by some writers, been mainly attributed. The same long also directed the sheriffs of shires to see that the people exercised themselves with bows and arrows, instead of such other unprofitable games as foot-ball, hand-ball, &c In the time of Edward the Fourth, every Englishman was compelled to keep a bow; and butts were ordered to be set up in every township, at which the people were directed to shoot, on feast-days, under a certain penalty. Sir Christopher Morris, Master of the Ordnance to Henry the Eighth, by command of the king, established a society of archers, for the express purpose of encouraging the use of the bow; and in Edward the Sixth's time, a sermon was preached before the king in favour of the sport, as an admirable exercise, by the famous Bishop Latimer. That monarch also records in his journal, that a hundred archers of his guard shot before him at an inch board of well-seasoned timber, which was completely pierced through with the heads of some of the arrows. An act of Henry the Eighth, by which every man was compelled to have a bow and three arrows, not being generally complied with, in the reign of Elizabeth, the bowyers petitioned that queen for authority to put them in force; during her reign, also, the price of bows was expressly regulated by statute. The London Archers (for whose use several gardens had been levelled, in 1498) petitioned James the First to put a stop to the encroachments made upon their grounds by the inhabitants of the outskirts; and a commission was directed to several persons of eminence, to inquire into the circumstances, and restore the archery-field to its former state. On a former occasion (in 1514) the people of Hoxton, and neighbouring villages, having committed a similar trespass, the citizens of London took the law into their own hands, and, assembling in great numbers, with spades and pick-axes, proceeded at once to remove all the obnoxious enclosures and ditches. Charles the Second was not only an archer himself, but so much disposed to encourage the sport, that he knighted a man for excelling Sir William Wood, a celebrated archer, at shooting with the long-bow. From the death of Charles, archery gradually declined, until towards the close of the last century, when it was revived in various parts of England. A number of societies have, since that time, been established, and this excellent pastime has now, for some years past, been patronized and practised by ladies of the first rank. Meetings of archers, of both sexes, occur frequently in the course of every season: they are attended by many of the female nobility, and form, perhaps, the most brilliant and attractive rural fêtes which are enjoyed throughout the year.
Ladies usually shoot at a distance of about fifty yards: two targets are placed opposite each other, and the archers shoot from one to the other; that is, when all the party have shot at one target, they walk up to it, gather their arrows, and shoot back to the one they came from, to which they again return when their arrows are expended; and so on, shooting from one to the other in rotation; so that, not merely the arm, but the whole frame, enjoys the benefit of salutary exercise in the open air, while the mind is interested, and the spirits elevated, by the sport. The attitude of an accomplished female archer, —of one who has studied and practised the art in a proper manner (for archery is not to be acquired without a little application),—at the moment of bending the bow, is particularly graceful; all the actions and positions tend at once to produce a proper degree of strength in the limbs, and to impart a general elegance to the deportment For these and other reasons that might be adduced in its favour, as a healthful and agreeable pastime, Shooting at the Target is equalled by few, and scarcely excelled by any recreation in which propriety permits young ladies to indulge.
In the selection of a bow, the young archer must confide in an experienced friend, or the bowyer from whom it is purchased. The chief point to be attended to is, that it is not so much above her strength as to prevent her using it with sufficient ease.
|Figures 1 and 2.|
The weight of the arrow should be proportioned to the power of the bow; the nock (Fig. 1, a), which ought to be cased with horn, should exactly fit the string: it is to be observed, that of the three feathers with which arrows are furnished, the one which is of a different colour from the other two, or which, if all three are alike in this respect, is placed upon the horn, is denominated the cock feather, and must always be uppermost on the string. A difference of opinion exists among archers, as to whether the arrow should taper from the feathers (Fig. 1) to the pile (Fig.2), from the pile to the feathers, or in each direction from the middle. Arrows may be obtained in either of these forms, according to the fancy of the archer; but those which taper from the pile to the feathers are generally reputed to be the best.
|Figures 3, 4 and 5.|
The brace (Fig. 3) is made of stout leather, with a smooth surface, and is buckled round the bow arm, just above the wrist, to prevent the string from hurting it A shooting-glove, consisting of three fingerstalls, back-slips, and a cross strap buttoned round the wrist, is also worn on the right hand, to protect the fingers from being injured by the string. The tassel (Fig. 4) is necessary to wipe away any dirt that may adhere to the arrow when drawn from the ground. The grease-box (Fig. 5) contains a composition, with which the brace and the finger-stalls are occasionally anointed, so that the string may more easily quit the latter and pass over the former. The belt is buckled round the waist; the tassel is hung on the right side of it, and the grease-box from its middle. To the belt is also suspended the pouch, in which two or three arrows, for present use, are contained; as the quiver is not worn in target shooting,—it being placed a few yards aside, with other arrows in it to replace those in the pouch, when necessary.
Bow-strings, when purchased, have a loop or eye at one end; and a noose is made at the other, on which the string is fastened to one end of the how. To carry the eye of the string into the nock at the end of the other limb of the bow, or, technically speaking,. to string it, is a matter of some difficulty to the inexperienced. For a bow of five feet long, the distance between the centre of the bow and the string, when the bow is properly strung, should not exceed five inches, and in the same proportion for a greater or lesser length. The bow is always to be bent with the round part inwards; notwithstanding, the flat part, or back of the bow, should be inwards when it is unstrung: they are manufactured in that manner to increase their power in shooting. In order to string the bow (see fig. 6), it must be taken, by the right hand, exactly in the centre of the handle: its flat part, or back, should be turned towards the archer; the right arm must rest against the side; the lower end of the bow, which has the shortest horn, is then to be placed on the ground against the inside of the right foot, which should be slightly turned inward, to prevent the end from slipping away; the left foot should be advanced; the centre of the left wrist placed just below the eye of the string, in the upper part, or limb of the bow, with the end of the thumb upon one edge, and one of the knuckles of the forefinger upon the other: the other three fingers must be stretched out, as they are useless in the operation, and are in danger of getting under the string and being seriously hurt, if the eye of the string be not properly carried into the nock of the bow (Fig. 7, a, the nock of the bow; b, the eye of the string). With the bow in the position above described, the centre of it is to be pulled smartly upwards by the right hand; the upper limb, at the same time, being pressed downward with the left wrist, and the hand carried upward until the eye of the string is received into the nock. When the archer is satisfied that it is correctly placed, and not before, she is to remove her left hand from the bow, which will then be perfectly strung.
The operation of stringing the how is to be performed calmly and patiently; and it should be practised until it becomes easy of execution. Should the right foot slip, on account of the pressure of the lower limb of the bow, the outside of the foot may be placed against a wall, or some other fixed object; and if the string should get under the thumb or finger of the left hand, they must be pressed more closely against the edges; as it is to be observed, that the eye of the string must be carried up above the finger and thumb, and not between them and the edges of the bow.
To unstring the bow, the archer places herself in the attitude for stringing it; but the left wrist must be placed so near the top of the upper limb, that the fore-finger may reach round the horn, and its tip be inserted in the eye of the string: in this position, the centre of the bow is pulled upwards with the right hand; its upper limb pressed downward with the left; and, when the string is sufficiently slackened, the eye of the string is removed by the fore-finger.
The bow being strung, its handle is grasped with the left hand, and held, horizontally, with the string upwards, while the arrow is taken, by its middle part, from the pouch, and carried under the string to the left of the bow, until its pile reaches the. left hand, the fore-finger of which then receives it, and the right hand is removed from its middle to the nock: the arrow is next to be drawn down the bow, and the string placed in the nock, with the cock feather uppermost, and exactly opposite the centre of the handle: the fore-finger is then removed from the arrow and placed round the bow (Fig. 8). To pull the string up, in order to discharge the arrow, the thumb is not used: the string is drawn (and the arrow with it) by two or three fingers only; it should be taken about midway between the tips and first joints, so that when drawn, it may be easily and instantly disengaged.
The attitude in shooting is a matter of much importance: the heels should be a few inches apart; the neck slightly curved, so as to bring the head a little downward; the face, but no part of the front of the body, is to be turned towards the mark. The left arm must be held out quite straight to the wrist, which should be bent inwards; the bow is to be held easy in the hand; and the arrow, when drawn, should be brought, not towards the eye, but the ear (Fig. 9). The right hand should begin to draw the string as the left raises the bow: when the arrow is three parts drawn, the aim is to be taken; in doing this, the pile should appear to the right of the mark} the arrow is then drawn to its head, and immediately loosened. On account of the handle being placed rather below the centre of the bow, in order to equalize the resistance to the pull, the lower limb is made shorter and stronger than the upper. As the young archer will be in danger of breaking her bow if she draw it with the weak limb downward, she should carefully observe that it is in its proper position. As that part of the string which receives the nock of the arrow, is always whipped round with sewing silk, to prevent it from wearing, the archer may be sure that the bow is upside down if there be no silk on the string, where it receives the nock of the arrow when properly placed.
To draw the arrow from the mark or ground, it should be taken by the hand, as near to the pile as possible, and extracted in the same direction as it entered. If these instructions be not attended to, the young archer will break many arrows in drawing them from the ground, or the mark when she is so successful as to hit it.
A person at the targets should be furnished with a card, having proper divisions (Fig. 10) for the insertion of the archers' names, and to register the hits made by each as they occur. This is usually done with a pin, suspended from the card, as the holes made by it are more proof against accidents than the marks of a pencil; and ink in the archery-ground is very inconvenient.
The face of the target contains four circles and a gold centre: the inner-circle is red; the next, white; the third, black ; and the outer is white, bordered with green. The mode of ascertaining the value of the hits, which is increased in proportion as they reach the centre, will be seen by the following example:—It appears by the card (Fig. 10), that A has one in the gold, three in the red, seven in the inner-white, eleven in the black, and fifteen in the outer-white, making, in the whole, twenty-eight: the real value of these is to be ascertained by multiplying the hits in the gold by nine; in the red, by three; in the inner-white, by two; by adding a fourth to those in the black, and leaving the number without alteration of those in the white: by this process it will appear, that A.'s numbers according to the value of each circle, amount to sixty-three. B.'s total number of hits (Fig. 10) are twenty-five only; but calculated in the same manner, they surpass A.'s by seven. At grand meetings there are frequently two prizes contested for: one, the prize for numbers, computed in the manner we have described; and another for the hit nearest the centre of gold. Different opinions have been entertained, as to hits on the edge of a circle: the best mode, perhaps, is to reckon them as falling in the outer circle.