Touching the art to shoot straight, I will first show you what lessons old archers have found to attain thereunto and then, what ways are vewt to accomplish the same.
As the weather belongs chiefly to the keeping a length, yet a side wind appertains to shooting straight; and the nature of the prick also, is to shoot straight, The length or shortness of the mark, is always under the rule of the weather, yet there is something in the mark, worthy or be marked of an archer.
If the prick stand on plain straight ground, they are the est to shoot at; if the mark stand on an hill side, or the ground be unequal with hollows and turning ways betwixt the marks, a mans eye will take that to be straight which is crooked. The experience of this thing, is seen in painting and other arts, where crookedliness appear straight by shadows: but to proceed, the chief cause why a man cannot shoot, is because they look at their shaft, which fault comes for want of instruction when a man is young; for he that learns to shoot by himself, being afraid to pull the shaft out of the bow, looks still at his arrow; and custom confirms this error , as it does many other, and men continue longer in this fault, because it has so good a virtue in the keeping of a length, therefore to keep this fault and yet shoot straight , some archers have found out this invention, to espy a tree, or an hill beyond the mark, or else to have some notable thing betwixt the marks on which he might fix his eye & his hand: and, that this is so, there was once an excellent archer which took all his implements, his quiver and other necessaries & laid them n the midway between the makers, which the by standard supposed he did for safety sake, but the end of this dirfit was, to make his shoot straight; there be other archers which will espy a mark a bow wide off the price, and then place himself on that hand the prick is on; which thing, how much good it does a man, he will hardly believe that does not prove it.
Others, and they no mean archers, in drawing look at the mark until they come almost to the head, then they look at the shaft, but that every loose, with a second sight, the find their mark again. But this way, all the other before rehearsed, are but shifts and fooleries and not to be imitated in shooting straight, ht only way worthy pursuit is always to have your eye upon your mark, and as I hold, it is the readiest and easiest way, to come to shoot straight, chiefly if it be practiced in youth, and confirmed in elder age.
Now there is yet a scruple in mens minds, which is the best way to look at the mark; as whether between the bow and string, or above or beneather hand, and many otherways beside. But it is not much material, which way a man looks at this mark, if it vary unto from comely shooting, the diversity of mens standing and drawing, cases diverse ment to look at the mark diverse ways, yet they all lead a mans hand to shoot straight, if nothing else stop; so that comeliness if the only judge of best looking at the mark, some men wonder, why in casting a mans eye at the mark, the hand should go straight: but surely, if he considered the nature of a mans eye, he would not wonder at it: for this I am certain of, that no servant to his master, no child to his father is so obedient, as every joint and piece of the body is to do, whatsoever the eye bids. The eye is the guide, the ruler, and the succourer of all the other parts; the hand, the foot, and other members, dare do nothing without the eye, as does appear in the night, or dark corners.
The eye is the very tongue wherewith wit and reason does speak to every part of the body, and the with does not so soon signify a thing by the eye, as every part is ready to follow, or rather prevent the bidding of the eye. This is plain in many things, but most evident in fence and fighting, (for as I have heard men say) there every part standing in fear to have a blow, turns to the eye for help, as infants do to the mother, the foot, the hand ,and all wait upon the eye. If the eye bid the hand either bear off or strike, of the foot either go forward, or backward, it does so. And that which is most wonder of all, the one man looking steadfastly at the other mans eye and not at his hand will, even as it were read in his eye, where heprpses to strike next; for, the eye is not any thing else, by a certain window for wit to shoot out her head at.
This wonderful work of God , in making all the members so obedient to the eye, is a pleasant thing to remember, and look upon; therefore, an archer may be sure in learning to look at his mark when he is young, always to shoot straight. The things that hinder a man which looks at his mar to shoot straight, be these, a sidewind, a bow either too strong or too weak, an ill arm, when a feather runs on the bow too much, a big breasted shaft for him that shoots underhand, because it will hobble; a little breasted shaft for him that shoots above the hand, because it will start: a pair of winding pricks, and many other things, which you shall mark your self, and as you know them, so learn to amend them. If a man would leave to look at his shaft, and learn to look at his mark, he may use this way, which a good shooter told me once that he did. Let him take him bow in the night, and shoot at two lights, and there he shall be compelled to look always at his mark, and never at his shaft. This way once, or twice used, will cause him forsake looking at his shaft, yet let him take heed of setting his shaft in the bow.
Thus you see, to shoot straight is the least mastery of all, if a man order himself thereafter in his youth, and as for keeping a length, I am sure, the rules which I gave will never deceive; so that there shall lack nothing, either of hitting the mark always, or else very near shooting if the fault be not only in your own self, which may come two ways; either in having a faint heart, or courage, or else with suffering your self overmuch to be led be affection; if a mans mind fail him, the body, which is ruled by the mind, can never do his duty; if lac of courage were not, men might do more Masteries, then the do, as does appear, in leaping and vaulting.
All affections, and especially anger, hurt both mind and body, the mind is blinded thereby, and if the mind be blind, it cannot rule the body aright. The body both blood and bone, as they say is brought out of his right course by anger, whereby a man lacks his right strength, and therefore cannot shoot well. If these things be avoided (whereof I will speak no more, because they belong not properly to shooting) and all the precepts which I have given, diligently marked, no doubt any man shall shoot, as well, as ever any man did.
This discourse handled by me (as I know well) not perfectly , yet as I suppose truly, the world must take in good part, where in, if diverse things do not altogether please, yet it may pardon.