Although the best shooting, is that which is most comely, and that they are such adjuncts as cannot be divided; yet cicero tells me, that as the chief point and most to be fought, is comeliness, so this comeliness only, can never be taught by any art or craft, but may be perceived well when it is done, not described well, how it should be done. Nevertheless, there are many ways to attain unto it, which wise men have assayed, and though not absolutely in it, yet in other matters of like consequence; as thus, it is written of Xeuxes, that taking upon him to paint Helena in all her perfection, chose out five of the fairest maids in all his country, and in beholding them, conceived and drew out such a picture, that it far exceeded all the pieces, that ever went before it; because the perfections of all those five, was drawn into one portraiture: so likewise in shooting, if a man would set before his eyes, five or six of the fairest and best approved archers, that ever he saw shoot, and of one learn to stand, of another tod raw, of another to loose, and so take from every man, what every man could do best; I dare be bold to say, he should come to such perfection in comeliness, as never yet any man attained not. But it may be you will expect, because I have chosen that theme, that necessarily I ought to speak something, int he way of instruction thereunto, but truly I must answer you, that I can teach you to shoot fair, as Socrates once taught a man to know God, for when he asked him what god was , nay (said He) I can better tell you what god is not, as God is not evil, & c. Even so can I say of fair shooting, that it has not this nor that discommodity, & so draining from it all discommodities in the end, leave nothing behind but fair shooting. And to do this the better, you must remember; that in the beginning, when I described generally the whole nature of shooting, I told you that fair shooting did proceed from these five several postures: Standing, Nocking, Drawing, Holding, and Loosing: all which, I will go over as succinctly and briefly as I can, describing the discommodities that men commonly use in all parts of their bodies, when they employ them to these Actions, so that at any time when you shall err or offend in any of the motions, you shall both speedily apprehend it, and with as great diligence amend it.
Faults in archers, do exceed the number of archers, and they proceed from the use of shooting without teaching; for custom and use separated from knowledge, and learning, does not only hurt shooting, but the most material & weightiest actions in the world; and therefore, I wonder much at those people, which will offer to be the maintainers of uses and customs, without knowledge, having no other words in their mouths but these, use, use, custom, custom; which besides diverse other discommodities, brings with it this mischief, that it takes from a man all hope of amendment.
There is nothing more true, then that in shooting, use is the only cause of all the faults therein; whence it comes, that children are more easily and sooner taught to shoot excellently then men; because children may be taught to shoot well at the first: men have more trouble to unlearn their evil customs, then they have labor afterward to come to good shooting.
All the discommodities, which ill custom has grafted in archers, can neither be quickly pulled out, nor yet soon reckoned by me, they are so many; for one shoots his head forward, as if he would bite the mark, another, stares with his eyes, as if they should fly after his arrow; another, winks with one eye & opens the other, as if he shot in a stone bow; one makes a sour face, another a wry countenance; one leers out his tongue, another bites his lip, & another holds his neck awry; in drawing, some fetch such a compass, as it they would turn about, and bless the field, others have their hand now up, now down, that a man cannot discern whereat they would shoot, another wags the upper end of his bow one way & the neither end another: another will stand pointing his shaft at the mark a good space, and by & by he will give him a whip & away, ere any man is aware, another will make such a wrestling and struggling with his instruments, as if he were able shoot no more as long as he lived; another draws his shaft softly to the midst, and by and by it is gone you cannot tell how; another draws his shaft low at the breast as if he would shoot a roving mark, and presently he lifts up his hand prick-height; another makes a wrenching or cringing with his back, as though a man inched him behind; another cowers down and thrusts out his buttocks, as if he were shooting at crows; another sets forward his left leg, and draws back with his neck and shoulders, as if he were pulling at a rope or else were afraid of the mark; another draws his shaft well until within two fingers of the head, and then he stays a little to look at his mark, which done, he pulls it up to the head and so looses, which manner of shooting although some excellent archers do use it, yet it is a fault; and good mens faults are not to be imitated.
Once I heard of a man, which used a bracer on his cheek, otherwise he had torn all the skin from one side of his face with this drawing-hand, another I have seen, which at every shoot after the loose would lift up his leg so far that he was ever in danger of falling; some will stamp forward and some leap backward, an all these faults are either in drawing or loosing, with a world of others, which any man may easily perceive and so endeavor to avoid them.
Now there be other faults after the shaft is gone from the bow, which only evil custom has brought upon men, of which the worst is, when men will cry after their shaft either with execrations or other unseemly words, much unfit for so honest a recreation; questionless such words are the symptoms of an evil mind, and display a man that is subject to immeasurable affections; good-mens ears do abhor them, and an hones man will avoid them. Now besides these, there be others, which have other faults; as some will take there bow and writhe and wring it, to pull in there shaft when it flies wide, as if he drove a cart, some will give two or three strides forward dancing and hopping after his shaft, as long as it flies; some with fear to be too far gone run backward as it were to pull their shaft back, another runs forward, when he reas to be short heaving after his arms as though he would help the arrow to fly; another runs aside to pull his shaft straight, one lifts up his heel & so holds it till the shaft bve falne, another casts his arm backward after the loose, and another swings his bow about him like a whistler before a pageant to make room, with a world of other errors, now out of my remembrance. All which, Montaigne in one of his essays calls the discharging of passions upon a wrong subject. Now these antique gestures, disfigure and take away all comeliness from this noble action; so, that archer which is void of all these crimes, cannot but possess the perfection of comeliness in this art, which howsoever it cannot be expressed to the life, in words, yet (I will according to my small knowledge) give you some small character thereof, which if any man shall please to follow, though I cannot make him utterly faultless, yet his faults shall neither quickly be perceived, nor yet greatly rebuked. And this method I will draw from these five principal postures; Standing, Nocking, Drawing, Holding, and Loosing, which being done in perfection, contain the substance of all fair shooting.