Archer
The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
home - about - books - articles - prints faq - news - contact - search
   
Home > Books > The Art of Archerie > Chapter 1
Chapter I
A general encomium, or praise of shooting, both in peace and war.

Shooting is an art necessary for the knowledge of all sorts of men, useful both in peace and war. It is an honest pastime for the mind, and an wholesome exercise for the Body, not vile for great men to use, nor costly for poor men to maintain, not lurking in holes and corners, for ill men at their pleasure to misuse it, but still abiding in the open fight and face of the world, for good men (if it be any way faulty) by their wisdom to correct it.

Now touching the antiquity of it, Claudian faith, that nature first gave the example of shooting by the Porpentine, which by shooting his quills will hit any thing that fights with it, which learned men afterwards imitated in finding out bow and shafts, Plinie refers it to Scythes, the son of Jupiter. Better and nobler writers, as Plato, Calimachus, and Galen, bring shooting from Apollo, when he flew Python; yet long before those days, we read expressly in the Bible of shooting, and if we shall believe Lira, Lamech killed Cain with a shaft, which long continuance does not a little praise the art, besides, that it has at all times and may still be used by all men, the examples of the ancients are proofs unresistable. Cyaxares, king of the Medes and great grandfather to Cyrus, kept a company of Scythians with him only to teach his Son Astiages to shoot, and Cyrus, being a Child, as Zenophon shows, was himself taught the art of shooting; Darius was so exquisite in this art, that he caused this inscription to be graven on his monument:

Darius the King
lyes buried here;
That in Shooting and Riding
Had no peer.

Domitian the Emperor was so cunning in shooting, that he would shoot between a man's fingers standing a far off and never hurt him. Comodus also had so sure a hand, that there was nothing within his reach and shot but he could hit it in what place he listed. Themistius the Philosopher commended Theodosins the Emperor, for three things wich he used of a child, which were shooting, riding, and feats of arms. And not only kings and emperors have been brought up in shooting, but also the best Common-wealths have made excellent edicts to maintain it. The Persians (which under Cyrus conquered in a manner all the world) made a law, that their children from five years old unto twenty, should learn three only things, that was; to ride, to shoot, and to speak truth always. The Romans had a law, that every man should use shooting in the time of peace till he was forty years old, and that every house should have a bow and forty shafts ready for all occasions. If I should rehearse the statutes made in Parliament by the kings of England for the advancement of shooting, I should but tire patience, let these therefore suffice already rehearsed. And how fit labor is for youth, Minos amount the Grecians, and Licurgus among the Lacedemonians do show, who never ordained any thing for the bringing up of youth that was not joined with labor and that labor which is in shooting, is of all other the best both because it increases strength, and most preserves health, being not vehement but moderate, not overlaying any one part with weariness, but exercising every part with equalness, as the arm and breast with drawing, the other parts with walking, being not so painful for the labor as delightful for the pastime, which exercise by the judgement of the best physicians is most allowable. Also by shooting, the mind is honestly employed, where a man does always desire to do best, (which is a word of honesty) and by the same way that virtue it self does, coveting to come nighest a most perfect end or mean, standing between two extremes, eschewing short, or gone, or on either side wide, which caused Aristotle to say that shooting and virtue were like one another and that shooting, of all other recreations, was the most honest and gave least occasion to have naughtiness joined into it, which two things, do approve, that (as tutors or overseers) are fixed unto it, and that is, daylight and open place where every man does come, the keepers from all unhonest actions. If a man shot foul at any time, it is not hid, it lurks not in corners, but openly accuses and betrays itself, which (as wise men say) is the next way to amendment.

Now as shooting is thus excellent in itself, and most allowable by both ancient and modern authority and example in the time of peace; so it is much more illustrious, and by many degrees more profitable and with more vigor to be acquired in the time of war as thus.

The upper hand in war, next to the goodness of God (from whom all Victory comes) stands chiefly in three things; The wisdom of the , the slights and policies of the commanders, and the strength and cheerful forwardness of the soldiers. The 2. first I will omit (they are elements above me) the last, which is the strength of war, it abides in the soldier, whose chief praise and virtue is obedience to his superiors, than to have and handle his Weapon well; of which, the one must be at the Captain's appointment, the other, lay in the courage and exercise of the soldier; yet of all weapons, the best is that, where with least danger to ourselves, we may hurt our enemies most. And that is, (as I suppose) by artillery, which now adays is taken for guns and bows, which how much they do in war, both daily experience does teach, and Peter Nannius of Lovayne does very well set out in a dialogue, wherein this is remarkable, that when he has showed all the excellent commodities of guns, as infinite cost, and charge, cumbersome carriage. And if they be great, the uncertain leveling, the peril of them that stand by them, the easier avoiding by them that are far off. And if they be little, the less both fear and jeopardy is in them, besides all contrary winds and weather which does hinder them not a little; yet of all, in shooting he cannot rehearse any discommodity; yea, so necessary has shooting been, and so highly set by, that to its lasting credit it is recorded, that when Hector and his Trojans, would have set fire on the Greek ships, Teucer with his bow made them recoil back again, and Troy itself could never be destroyed without the help of Hercules shafts, which thing does signify, that though all the world were gathered into one army, yet without shooting they can never come to their purpose, and this may partly be collected out of the Holy Scriptures, where it is recorded, that among the Jews, nothing was so frequent or did so much good as bows; insomuch, that when the Jews had any great victory over the Gentiles, the first thing that the captains did, was to exhort the people to give all the thanks to God for the conquest, and not to their bows wherewith they had slain their enemies. God when he promises help to the Jews uses no kind of speaking so much as this, that he will bend his bow, and die his shafts in the Gentiles blood; whereby it is manifest, that God will either make the Jews to shoot strong shots to overthrow their enemies, or at least, that shooting is a mighty powerful thing in war, whereunto the high power of God is likened. David in the Psalms, call bows, the vessels of death, a bitter thing, a mighty power, with like attributes; yet one place more I must remember for the praise of shooting, and that is , when Saul was slain by the Philistines (being mighty bow-men) and Jonathan his son, who was so good an archer, that he never shot shaft in vain. The first statute David made, after he came to the kingdom was that all Israel should learn to shoot by which we see what great use and provision, even from the beginning, was among the Jews for shooting. Sesostris the most potent king that ever was in Egypt, overcame a great part of the world, only by archers, and in token how he vanquished all men, he set up in many places great images to his own likeness, with a bow in one hand, and a sharp headed arrow in the other. The Prince of Samos, Policrates, was lord over the Greek seas, and withstood the power of the Persians only by the help of one thousand archers. The best part of Alexanders army were archers, as Appian and others record, and they so strong, that sundry times they overcame their enemies before any other weapon could come in to second them. But to let passe these foreign examples, I will conclude with this saying out of Pliny, 'if any man would call to mind the Ethiopians, Egyptians, Arabians, Indians, Scythians, Sarmathians, and Parthians, he shall perceive half the world to live in subjection, overcome by the power and might of shooting.' Again, Leo writing concerning what arms were best, says thus, 'Let all the youth of Rome be compelled to use shooting, either more or less, and ever to carry their bow and quiver about them, until they be forty years old.' And in another place, he says, 'Let the soldiers have their weapons well appointed, but above all other things regard most shooting; especially in the time of peace, for the neglect of it only has brought the whole Empire of Rome to ruin.' And again, he says thus to his General, 'Arm your host as I have appointed you, but especially with bows and arrows, for the power of it is infinite.' And again to the same general, thus, 'Artillery is easy to be prepared, and in time of need a thing most profitable; therefore we straightly command you to make proclamation to all men under our dominions, which be either in war or peace, to all cities, boroughs and towns, and finally to all manner of men, that every several person have bow and shafts of his own, and every house (besides this, )to have a standing, bearing bow and 40 arrows for all needs, and that they exercise themselves, in holts, hills, and dales, plains and woods, for all manner of chances which may happen in war. Which law of this good emperor, those which now haunt England, those which now haunt playhouses, alehouses and tobacco shops, I would presume, by little and little, be brought to a better esteem of themselves and a greater loathing of those ill places. Lastly, to conclude with our own nation; what battle have we ever fought either at home or abroad and triumphed, but the bow (next unto God) has carried the honor, witness the famous Battle of Chrssie against Philip the French king, where (as our adversaries themselves do confess) was slain all the nobility of France, only by the English archers, like unto this, was the battle fought by the Blacke Prince beside Poyctiers, where John the French king, with his son, and in a manner all the peers of France were taken, besides 30,000 which that day were slain, and very few . As this, so the Battle of Agincourt, is remarkable, where Henry V, with 7,000 fighting men, and many of them sick and unable, yet such archers, that (as the Chronicle does report) most of them drew a yard, slew all the Chevalrie of France, to the number of 40,000 and more, and lost not above 26 of the English. The bloody civil war between the two great houses of Yorke and Lancaster, where arrows flew on every side, will witness the powerfulness of the bow, and as these, so a world of others, too tedious to recite. So that in conclusion, it cannot be denied, but the bow has done more wonderful exploits and brought home more triumphs than any other weapon that ever was read of, either in Greek or Latin story, then that it should now fall sick, languish, may dye, and be buried in perpetual oblivion, O quam te memorem.

Copyright © 1998 - 2017 | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy