Vol. I, No. 5, pp. 318-320. August 1831.
IN my observations in your Magazine for June, on the accoutrements of an archer, I confined myself to a short description of the requisite articles; this part of the subject being rather the province of the accoutrement-maker than of the practical archer. The observations, however, which I shall offer in this number, on the proper method of shooting—the most important part of the art, or, indeed, the very art and practice itself—will be necessarily more minute and circumstantial; these letters being, as I before observed, chiefly intended for the information and instruction of the uninitiated.
"Good shooting," says Ascham, "requires two qualities—skill and gracefulness."
Skill is an intelligible word, and whether considered abstractly, or as applied to any particular art, may be easily defined; but gracefulness, though the subject of many long and learned essays, has never, I believe, received a clear and determinate definition. One celebrated writer has defined it to be "that agreeable appearance which arises from elegance of motion and a countenance expressive of dignity;" another calls it, "a manner, an ease, a gentleness, an I-know-not-what;" a third, "the soul of beauty;" while, by far the greater number, declare it to be altogether undefinable. In one thing, however, they all agree,—that in vain will any person attempt to be graceful who is deficient in the more amiable qualities of the mind.
The living fountain in itself contains
Of beauteous and sublime; and here alone
Sit paramount the Graces!"
So much for gracefulness in the abstract; and as any attempt to explain what constitutes gracefulness in shooting, would, I fear, be equally unsatisfactory, I shall content myself with stating, that the best shooting will, in general, be the most graceful.
Skill in shooting will be beat attained by a careful attention to following points, vis. —Standing—Nocking—Drawing—Holding—and Loosing; which are generally termed Ascham's five points of Archery. But before describing these, it will be necessary to explain the proper method of stringing and unstringing, or, as they are more commonly called, bracing and unbracing the Bow.
All Bows, it will be observed, are fiat on one side and round on the other; and when braced, the flat part, called the back, should always be the outside, and the round, or belly of the Bow, the inside, or towards the string. Bows when first manufactured, to give them a quicker cast are sometimes placed in a reflexed frame, which has the effect of bending the round part outwards; and novices being frequently misled by this original bend, it should be observed as an invariable rule, that, notwithstanding any natural bend it may appear to have, the round side of the Bow when braced, must always be inwards or next the string.
Before any attempt to brace the Bow, the proper length of the string should be ascertained; for, if it be either too short or too long, it will be equally liable to slip out of the nock, and not unlikely to endanger the Bow itself.. Bowstrings, when purchased, have generally one eye or noose ready made, and the other should, previously to bracing, be firmly and carefully fastened, the length of the string being adapted to the size of the Bow. The proper length of the string is, as before stated, ascertained by its distance from the centre of the bow when braced, which, in a bow of fire feet, should not be above five inches, and, in a long bow, not less than five and a half nor more than six. Another method of ascertaining the due bracing of a bow, is by placing the fist perpendicularly on the interior upper end of the handle, and raising up the thumb as high as it will reach; if the string touches the extremity of the thumb the bow is well braced, if it is higher or lower than the extremity it must be altered accordingly. The position of the string should also be particularly attended to before bracing, care being taken that it be not ravelled, but placed perfectly straight on the bow, with the noose in the centre of the horn.