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Thoughts on Archery
Part 3 of 5

Aristotle said that "shooting and virtue were alike," and that "shooting, of all other recreations, was the most honest and gave the least occasion to have naughtiness joined unto it." Therefore if only for the sake of the morals of the rising generation we should wish for a revival of archery.

In looking up the history of the bow and arrow what a field for research is open to us! Turn to the book of Genesis, and we find the aged Isaac speaking to his son Esau, saying, "Take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison." Then again, in Chinese history, in what appears to be countless ages ago, we find the bow mentioned. And here in our own land, in places where all other traces of the aboriginal have disappeared, are to be found quarries, with the remains of arrow-heads that have been fashioned from the flint. And at the present day the Indian may be seen in various parts of our continent still using these aboriginal weapons either in the chase or for amusement. One striking peculiarity of their shooting is the way in which they throw the body forward simultaneously with the discharge of the arrow, evidently with the intention of giving increased impetus to its flight. This is decidedly contrary to the usages of European nations.

There is an ancient tradition, dear to the hearts of many English bowmen, of one Prawn Bach, which fully illustrates this point. The story is told, that while he is sauntering through the woods in quest of game he is met by a bard, who tries to frighten him by telling of a powerful enemy he is likely to meet. Note his answer:-

"Suppose I were in yonder sloping wood, and in my hand a bow of red yew, ready bent, with a tough, tight string, and a straight, round shaft, with a well-rounded nock, having long slender feathers, of a green silk fastening, and a sharp-edged steel head, heavy and thick, and an inch wide, of a green-blue temper, that would draw blood out of a weather-cock, and with my foot to a hillock and my back to an oak; and the wind to my back and the sun towards my side, and the girl I love best hard by looking at me, and I conscious of her being there, I would shoot him such a shot, so strong and so far drawn, so low and sharp, that it would be no better, there came between him and me a breast-plate and a Milan hauberk, than a wisp of fern, a kiln-rug, or a herring net."

Mark how in his quaint phraseology, he emphasizes every little point, how every circumstance connected with either his weapon or the handling of it is noted; there is nothing overlooked, the favoring elements, the peculiar position of his own body, down to the encouraging smile of his lady-love. And thus it is, in order to become a good archer one must study all these apparently trivial details. Englishmen are, and always have been, considered adepts in the art of using the bow.