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Home > Books > Book of archery > Notes Section IV
Notes Section IV
1. Mr. Reginald Heber sometimes promoted, by his pen, the harmless merriment of the bow meetings of his neighbourhood. From the songs which he wrote for this purpose, the above passage is selected for its imagery and historical allusions. It was sung at Harwarden Castle, in Flintshire, the seat of Sir Stephen Glynne, Bart.
2. The Normans greatly dreaded the effects of the Welsh arrows. William de Brensa, having convened a meeting of the principal chiefs of South Wales at Abergavenny Castle, under some colourable pretence, made them purchase their liberty by swearing they would not, in future, permit any of their fiollowers to travel armed with the bow. "Ne quis gladium ferret viator vel arcum."
3. David.
4. Roberts.
5. M. de Guigne's Hist. of Huns. D'Herbelot, Bib. Orient. Albupharagius, Dynast. 221, 222.

It may occur to the reader that the more distant hordes would not be likely to recognise Ismael's from any other bow. But nothing was more easy. Orientals of rank have short and pithy Arabic sentences --generally an extract from the Khoran-- inscribed with their names upon the horns of their bows, and also upon their arrows, expressive of remote and steady flight. The Damascus bladed scymetars are marked in this way. His Majesty George the Fourth had exquisite swords of this description among his splendid Oriental armoury, which he once displayed to the Grand Signior's ambassador at our court. On being presented with one of more than ordinary beauty, the Turk hesitated, and bending over it, pressed the hilt first upon his forehead, and then to his lips, with indications of the profoundest respect. Being questioned as to the cause of this singular ceremony, he replied, that' by the inscription on the blade, he knew it once belonged to the grandfather of the present Sultan. It had been received with some other presents from Constantinople.

"Strength to the arm that wields this blade in a righteous cause, and death to him it reaches," is one of the sentences occasionally found on Turkish swords.

Arabic characters are inscribed on the points of a very elegant Persian bow in my possession.
6. Voyages fameux de Sieur Vincent le Blanc. 1649.
7. Herodotus.
8. Just as a modern sportsman is forbidden to shoot a sitting hare.
9. In France, at the present day, the hunter carries a fowling-piece at his saddle bow, with which even the fox is shot when the dogs are running in to him at full cry.
10. One of the early translators of the Bible into Welsh. The date of this transaction is somewhere about 1590.
11.
"Many a good bow, besides one in Chester,"

is an old English proverb, meaning that merit belongs to no exclusive rank or locality. I request the reader to bear in mind, here, and in other passages from Welsh annals and poetry, that the translations are rendered literally.
12. Tribes of North Wales.
13. Bankes's MS. Collections.
14. Bankes's MSS.
15. Glamorganshire.
16. Maelog.
17. Literally, hawking, singing with the harp, shooting at marks, and shooting the bounding deer."
18. Gwilym himself alludes to this, with the curious addition that the girls, instead of attending to their devotion, used to whisper at church that he had his sister's hair on his head.--Maelog.
19. I have elsewhere said that the ancient archer kept his tackle over the chimneypiece.
20. So expressed in the original, and worn either in compliment to his mistress, or intended as a present to her, which the gallantry of Gwilym renders probable. She it was perhaps whom he invites to "the house of leaves," in one of his most graceful sonnets, commencing,--
Maid of dark and glossy tresses,
     Humbly I request,
In Dol Aëron's green recesses,
     Thee to be my guest, &c. &c.
21. The archer shooting at an elevation aims between his left and right hand.
22. Literal translation.
23. When James the First, in his progress from Scotland, came to Rippon in Yorkshire, the townsmen presented him with a gilt steel bow, and a pair of spurs of native manufacture. But that is quite a different affair.
24. The interior, as well as the outside, of Welsh country dwellings, is kept most assiduously whitewashed. The occupants extend this care even to the gates and stone stiles of their vicinity.
25. The Welsh writers of this period, generally add this epithet, when naming the bow.
26. The bird, with its indented wings spread over the sea, is here compared to the open fingers of a gauntlet.
27. If my memory does not fail me, Sir Walter Scott makes Richard invite Saladin "to run three courses with grinded spears."
28. Literal translation.
29. Maelog observes, that, in the original, the imagery is so rich and diversified, it is almost impossible to give a close translation. The preceding, therefore, must be considered in the light of an imitation, an expression of the leading ideas, rather than as a complete and accurate translation.

Of similar character are some stanzas addressed to the wind, commencing:--

Bodiless glory of the sky,
That, wingless, footless, strong, and loud,
Leap'st on thy starry path on high,
And chauntest midst the mountain cloud;
Fleet as the wave, and fetterless as light!
30. A Welsh epithet for the Deity.
31. Traces of this custom may still be seen in the Cwrw bach, or private drinking matches of the Welsh peasantry. Their liquor is, of course, of a homelier description-- the bonnie nut-brown ale.
32. Hollinshed
33. To the kindness of the Rev. Thomas Price, of Crickhowel, Breconshire, a name long familiar to the admirers of ancient British lore, I am indebted for this remarkable passage. The original MS is in the library of the London Welsh School.
34. "Tribes of North Wales," twelve copies, for private circulation only.
35. Nictref beyond Seis nitref, a sort of punning unmeaning expression, as if we said, "to Sack town beyond Saxon town."
36. The common Welsh word for the feathers of arrows, and that used here, is bon-cawiad; compounded of bon, the butt end, and cawiad, a whipping or lapping round. The same word cawiad, and the verb cawiaw, are used for whipping on a fish-hook, so that the meaning cannot be mistaken. Previously to gluing on the feathers, the arrow-makers, Flemish as well as English, wind a small portion of green or scarlet floss silk round the butt end of the stele, for the breadth of a quarter of an inch, exactly where the two extremities of the feather will lie. Its use is to afford a firmer hold. They also wind several turns of the same over the upper end of the stem, pared away fine, in order to prevent its catching the archer's flesh. This custom is very ancient, and affords a full interpretation to the phrase, "green silk fastening."

The Orientals wing their arrows by sewing on the feathers with fine threads, stripped from the tendons of deer and other animals. But this plan has never, to my knowledge, been adopted in Europe. It is very insecure, and the delicate fibres of the feather suffer by the operation. If we imagine a thread of green silk to have been so used by the Welsh, here is another explanation. The other parts, however, so much resemble the English arrow, that it seems highly probable the allusion is as I have stated it to be.
37. The usual breadth of an ancient barbed arrow.
38. "Draw archers, -- draw your arrows to the head." -- Shakspeare.
39. From a collection of Historical Notices on the Welsh Language.
40. See Ritson.
41. i.e., wore a breast-plate independently of the ordinary chain mail.
42. Caradoc of Llancarvan, the author of this history, wrote about the year 1140, only twenty years afterwards. He consequently must have been minutely acquainted with all the details of that event.
43. I may here remark that Ossian, describing the hue of health upon one of his hero's cheeks, compares them to a "red yew-bow." Does not this say something for the authenticity of the poems? The comparison would never suggest itself to any but an archer, which Macpherson was not.
44. Will the reader digress a few moments from the subject in hand, to peruse the following exquisite address of Gwilym to his mistress. The constancy of his affection, united to the glowing harmony of his versification, have justly earned for him the appellation of Cambria's Petrarch.

All my life time I have been
Bard to Morvyth, "golden mein!"
I have loved beyond belief;
Many a day to love and grief
For her sake has been a prey,
Who cloth wear the moon's array !
Pledged my truth from youth till now,
To the girl of glossy brow.
Oh, the light her features wear,
Like the bursting torrents glare !
Oft by love bewildered quite,
Have my aching feet all night
Stag-like tracked the forest shade
For the foam complexioned maid,
Whom with passion firm and gay
I adored mid leaves of May !
Mid a thousand I could tell
One elastic footstep well!
I could speak to one sweet maid--
(Graceful figure !) by her shade
I could recognize till death,
One sweet maiden by her breath!
From the nightingale, could learn
Where she tarries, to discern;
There, his noblest music swells
Through the portals of the dells !
When I am from her far away,
I have neither laugh nor lay !
Neither soul nor sense is left,
I am half of mind bereft,
When she comes, with grief I part,
And am altogether heart !
Songs inspired, like flowing wine,
Rush into this mind of mine;
Sense enough again comes back
To direct me in my track !
Not one hour shall I be gay,
While my Morvyth is away !
Maelog
45. Great numbers of Welsh served at Cressy and Poictiers, and it is some where said that a considerable portion consisted of archers. Among those who distinguished themselves at Poictiers, was a gentleman of North Wales, called SIR HOWEL Y VWYAL, "Sir Howel of the Battleaxe." By the Welsh, he is said to have been the identical person who captured the French king, and this remarkable tradition is confirmed by a passage in the Harleian MS. No. 2298. "Sir Howell y Fwyall, ab Einion, ap Gruffith, ap Howell, ap Meredith, ap Einion, ap Gwgan, ap Meredith Goch, ap Collwyn, ap Tangno, called Sir Howell y Fwyall or Sir Howell Pole Axe, from his constant fighting with that warlike instrument. It is said he dismounted the French King, by cutting off his horse's head at one blow with his battle-axe, and took him prisoner; and that as a trophy of victory, he bore the arms of France, with a battle-axe in bend sinister argent." [1] However this may have been, his velour and conduct on that occasion induced the Black Prince to reward him with the constableship of Chester and Cricketh castles, with the rent of Dee Mills[2] in Chester, and other matters of profit. He also bestowed a mess of meat to be served up before his battle-axe, or partisan, for ever; which was afterwards to be carried down, and given to the poor. The following lines commemorate the event:--

Seiger fy feigyr fwyall,--doeth pon gar bron y Brenin
Gwedy'r maes, gwaed ar ei mîn; ei dysaig a'i dewiswr
A'i diod oedd weed a dwr."

Serve up the feast before my gallant battle-axe,--this came before the king, after the foughten field, with blood upon its edge; its banquet and its choicest beverage was then the streaming gore.

[1]   And on the same manner of wyce, a poor archer might have taken a prynce or noble lord; and so, the armes of that prisoner, he may put to him and his heyrs.' '--Book of St. Albans, by dame Juliana Berners.

[2]   "If thou hadst Dee Mills, thou wouldst spend all," is a Cheshire proverb, indicative of their profitable revenue.

46. The cross-bow had an iron stirrup, in which the foot was placed to steady the weapon, whilst the archer bent his steel bow by means of the windlass.
47. The soldier armed with a cross-bow, was generally accompanied by another, bearing a pavoise, or large wooden shield, to protect him whilst charging and discharging his weapon.
48. Vol. ii. page 517.
49. Near Dolgellan, Merionethshire, the seat of a highly respected gentleman, Sir Robert Williames Vaughan, Bart., M.P. for the county, until his resignation of that honour.
50. When the Nannau oak fell, it was, like Shakspeare's celebrated mulberry-tree, preserved in various small articles of taste and utility, picture frames made from its wood, and enclosing an engraved portrait of the tree, are usual in many respectable residences of the county.

The following anecdote of a domestic feud, in which a similar expedient is resorted to, also furnishes a deplorable insight into the manners of other times: --

"Enmitie did still continue betweene Howell ap Rys ap Howell Vaughan, and the sonnes of John ap Meredith. After the death of Jevan ap Robert, Gruffith ap John ap Gronw [cosen german to John ap Meredith's sonnes of Gywnfryn], who had long served in France, and had charge there, comeing home to live in the countrey, it happened that a servant comeing to fish in Stymllyn, his fish was taken away, and the fellow beaten by Howell ap Rys his servants, and by his commandment. Gruffith ap John ap Gronw tooke the matter in such dudgeon, that he challenged Howell ap Rys to the field; which he refusing, and assembling his cousens John ap Meredith's sonnes and his friends together, assaulted Howell in his owne house, after the manner he had scene in the French warres, and consumed with fire his barnes and his outhouses. Whilst he was afterwards assaulting the hall, which Howell ap Rys and many other people kept, being a very strong house, he was shot out of a crevise of the house, through the sight of his beaver, with an arrow into the head, and slayne outright, being otherwise armed at all points. Notwithstanding his death, the assault of the house was continued with great vehemence, the doors being fired with great burthens of straw; besides this, the smoake of the outhouses and barnes, not farre distant, annoyed greatly the defendants, soe that most of them lay under the boordes and benches upon the floore of the hall, the better to avoyd the smoake. During this scene of confusion, only the old man Howell ap Rys never stooped, but stood valiantly in the middest of the floore, armed with a gleve in his hand, and called unto them, and bid them 'arise like men, for shame, for he had known there as grease a smoake in that hall upon a Christmas even.' In the end, seeing the house could no longer defend them, being overlayed with a multitude, upon parley between them, Howell ap Rys was content to yeald him. self prisoner to Morris ap John ap Meredith, John ap Meredith's eldest sonne, soe as he would sweare unto him to bring him safe to Carnarvon Castle, to abide the triall of the law for the death of Gruffith ap John ap Gronw, who was cosen german removed to the said Howell ap Rys, and of the very same house he was of; which Morris ap John ap Meredith undertakeing, did put a guard about the said Howell of his trustiest friends and servants, who kept and defended him from the rage of the kindred, and especially of Owen ap John ap Meredith, his brother, who was very eager against him. They passed by leisure thence like a camp to Carnarvon: the whole company being assembled, Howell's friends posted a horse-backe from one place or other by the way, who brought word that he was come thither safe; for they were in great fear lest he should be murthered, and that Morris ap John ap Meredith could not be able to defend him, neither durst any of Howell's friends be there, for feare of the kindred."--Miss Aghard's Gwydir Family.
51. The ancient name of and a part of Glamorgan.
52. Sed ad graves cominus ictus percutienda tolerandos.--Itin. Camb. c. 3. p. 835.
53. At Troy House, near Monmouth, a seat of the Duke of Beaufort, the oaken cradle which rocked the hero of Agincourt, is still preserved.
54. Gam also signifies left-handed, but is more generally applied to a one-eyed person.
55. So named from having resided in England. The family is Welsh, and traces its descent from Caradoc Fraichfras.
56. Dr. Meyrick.
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