Reader; the wisdom of our ancestors has said,—
Speak well of archers, for your father shot in a bow,"—
a time-honoured proverb, originating in that martial age, when her sons deemed
"England not worth a fling,
But for the crooked yew and grey goose wing."
Yet is there a hold upon your sympathies far more powerful than a thousand wise saws or modern instances, such as these; -- I mean the strong propensity of youth and age for recreations which unbend the mental faculties, while the body enjoys the exhilarating influence of sun and summer breeze, which tempt us to climb the upland lawn, plunge into the deep rocky glyn, wander over fern-clad heaths, and wend our way through the shadowy, pathless woods. These advantages are the archer's; his are the glories of sea, earth, and sky, with all the pleasures of the young and opening year; for his pastime belongs to that fair season only, when, as the old forest glee has it,—
"Summer is coming in,
Merry sing cuckoo!
And bloweth mead,
And springeth the wood anew;
Ewe bleateth after lamb.
Loweth after calf, cow;
Merry sing cuckoo;
Well sing'st thou cuckoo,
Nor cease to sing now."
For the body, archery provides a wholesome and graceful exercise: to the mind it proves a source of a thousand romantic speculations, since its history is a brief chronicle of England's martial daring, for at least six centuries. "I am no stranger unto you," says a curious treatise, by an old writer, entitled. The Lament of the Bow; "but by birth your countrywoman, by dwelling your neighbour, by education your familiar; neither is my company shameful, for I haunt the light and open fields; nor my conversation dangerous -- nay, it shields you from dangers, aud those not the least, the dangers of warre. And as in fight I give you protection, so in peace I supply you pastime; to your limbs I yield active plyantnesse, and to your bodies healthful exercise; yea, I provide you food when you are hungry, and help digestion when you are full. Whence then proceedeth this unkinde and unusual strangenesse? Am I heavy for burden? Forsooth, a few stickes of light wood. Am I cumbrous for carriage? I couch a part of me close under your girdle, and the other part serveth for a walking stick in your hand. Am I unhandsome in your sight? Every piece of me is comely, and the whole keepeth an harmonious proportion. appeale to your valiant princes, Edwards and Henries; to the battles of Cressy, Poictiers, Agincourt, and Flodden; to the regions of Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, yea and Jury, to be umpires of the controversie: all of which, I doubt not, will with their evidence plainly prove, that when my adverse party was yet scarcely born, or lay in her swathling clouts, through me only your ancestors defended their country, vanquished their enemies, succoured their friends, enlarged their dominions, advanced their religion, and made their names fearful to the present age, and their fame everlasting to those that ensue. Wherefore, my dear friends, seeing I have so substantially evicted the right of my cause, conform your was to reason, confirm your reason by practice, and convert your practice to the good of your countrie. If I be praiseworthy, esteem mee; if necessary, admit mee; if profitable, employ mee: so shall you revoke my death to life, and shew yourself no degenerate issue of such honourable progenitors. And thus much for archery, whose tale, if it be disordered, you must bear withall, for she is a woman, and her minde is passionate."
There is an energetic spirit in this passage, sufficient to rouse whether the "mead of the green archer be battled for in the target ground," accompanied with all the pomp and circumstance of banners, pavilions, and strains of martial music; or whether, in our lonely rambles, we seek to strike the cushat from the tall pine's topmost spray, or transfix the dusky cormorant, as with outstretched neck and flagging wings, she rises from the shingled beach, to seek her rocky home in some far off islet of the sea,-- there are few of us, I believe, who, at such moments, do not in imagination ante-date existence a century or two, identifying ourselves with those greenwood rovers, as we see them on the title-page; and whose vocation and feelings are thus shadowed forth:--
"For my profession then, and for the life I lead,
All others to excel, thus for myself I plead.
I am the prince of sports -- the forest is my fee!
He 's not upon the earth for pleasure lives like me.
The morn no sooner puts her rosy mantle on,
But from my quiet lodge I instantly am gone,
When the melodious birds, from every bush and briar
Of the wide spacious wastes, make a continual choir.
The mottled meadows there, new varnished by the sun,
Shoot up their spicy sweets upon the winds that run
In every ambling gale; and softly seem to pace,
That too the longer night their richness may embrace.
As princes and great lords have palaces, so I
Have in the forest here my hall and gallery;
The tall and stately woods, which underneath are plain;
The groves my gardens are; the heath and downs again
My wide and spacious walks: then say all what ye can,
The forester is still your only gallant man."
Having thus thrust our dashing woodsman upon the stage, to deliver his own prologue, as I hope before a prepossessed and admiring audience, allow him further to illustrate the universal popularity of his art, by a few of those picturesque proverbial expressions having reference to the bow, by which, in the lapse of ages, our own, as well as every other European language, has been enriched. And though most of our early poets indulge in this favourite species of illustration, none have so happily applied the technicalities of his craft as Shakspeare, himself a practised bowman. Of this, a hundred quotations scattered over the following pages shall bear ample testimony, in addition to what we know touching his midnight visitations to Sir Thomas Lucy's deer park. Thus:--
"At the Duke's Oak we meet;
Hold, or out bowstrings."
The tardy forester, who lingered behind his fellows, already assembled at the place of tryst, had his bowstring divided by those who were more punctual in their arrival; and the penalty, though trifling, was probably sufficient to hold him regular to his duty, at least for a considerable period. The phrase, however, naturally escaping beyond the purlieus of vert and venison, became engrafted, with a multitude besides, now completely obsolete, on the colloquial style of Shakspeare's age.
"He hath twice or thrice cut Cupid's bowstring," says Don Pedro in the Comedy of Much Ado about Nothing; "and the little hangman dare not shoot at him."
"Alas, poor Romeo! the very pin of his heart
Cleft with Cupid's buttshaft."
"Buttshaft," a blunt arrow; the pin is a wooden peg, thrust through the centre of the white paper, fixed as a mark upon the butt.
"You are better at proverbs, by how much a fool's bolt is soon shot."
"Indeed he must shoot nearer, or he'll ne'er hit the white."
"He shoots wide of the mark," says the Clown Costard, in reference to a vague foolish guess.
In their figurative application, the following will be considered extremely terse and significant:--
"An archer is known by his aim, not by his arrows;"
"But you," says Euphues in his England, "aim so ill, that if you knew how far from the white our shaft lighteth, you would rather break your bow than bend it."
Every man will shoot at the foe, but few will gather up the shafts."
"He will shoot higher that shoots at the moon, than he who shoots at a dunghill, though he miss the mark."
"Draw not thy bow before thy arrow be fixed."
"A word spoken, is an arrow let fly."
"Swift as an arrow," "Upright as a bolt"--
are phrases still familiar to every one. Even at the present day, we--"Kill two birds with one shaft;" and,--"Get the shaft hand of our adversaries."
Like Sir Abel Handy in the play, your unready Englishman of ancient days had always--
"A famous bow, but 't was up at the Castle."
Our ancestors expressed liberality of sentiment, and their opinion that merit belonged exclusively to no particular class or locality, by the following pithy adage:--
"Many a good bow besides one in Chester."
familiar with the foibles of friend or foe, they had--
"Found the measure of his shaft."
The triumph of making an enemy's machinations recoil upon himself; was,--
"To outshoot a man in his own bow."
Of silly unprofitable conversation, they said,
"A fool's bolt, soon shot."
The maiden who kept a lover in reserve, lest her first admirer should prove faithless, was said to have--
"Two strings to her bow."
And of vain-glorious gasconade, they satirically remarked, that,--
"Many talked of Robin Hood, who never shot in his bow."
"Debander l'arc ne guerit pas la playe."
"A wound is not healed by the unbending of the bow,"--
is an elegant French proverb, implying that mere sorrow is an insufficient atonement for serious wrong.
They say likewise,--
"Ceste fleche n'est pas sortie de mon carquois."
"That arrow came not out of my quiver."
"Faire de tous bois fleches."
"To make a shaft of any wood."
"Even the holy man of God will be better with his bow and arrows about him."
"Nid hyder ond bwa."
"No dependence like the bow."
"Mal y saith err llynin."
"He that shoots always straight, forfeits his arrow."
In the body of this work, the bow is considered merely in reference to itself, no comparison being attempted with what Carew quaintly calls the "hell-born murderer," to which in modern days it has given place. Men, in general, look upon the arrow as a good enough means of offence whilst no better
missile existed, but treat as mere absurdity the attempt to place it upon an equality with the bullet. Let us see, and cite before us to this intent Sir John Smyth, a gallant veteran, who wielded sword and pen in the days of Queen Bess, and had been long accustomed to view the effects of archers and musketeers in the battle field. The change effected in the military weapons of this kingdom, says he, "was owing to the youth, inexperience, and vanity of some men, who were unable to offer any solid reason, and, in fact, were averse to offer any reason at all, for a conduct opposite to the opinion of soldiers, both English and foreign; and therefore for the experience, I, and many others, both noblemen, gentlemen, and great captains of many nations, whom I have served amongst, have had of the small effects of weapons of fire in the field, with the reasons before alleged; for my part, I will never doubt to adventure my life, or many lives, if I had them, amongst eight thousand archers complete, well chosen and appointed, and therewithal provided with great store of sheaves of arrows, as also with a good overplus of bows and bowstrings, against twenty thousand of the best arquebusseers that are in Christendom. Now I, and divers other gentlemen of our nation, yet living, that were in France in King Edward the Sixth's time, and also many times since, have frequently heard French captains and gentlemen attribute all former victories of the English, against themselves and their ancestors the French, more to the effect of our archers than to any extraordinary valliance of our nation; and therewithal further report, that they did think the English archers used to poison their arrow-heads, because that of great numbers of the French nation, that many times had been wounded or hurt with arrows, very few had escaped with their lives, by reason that their wounds did so imposthume, they could not be cured. In which conceits, they did greatly err, because, in truth, these imposthumations proceeded of nothing else but of the rust of the arrow-heads remaining rankling in their wounds; and, therefore, by the experience of our ancient enemies, not only the great, but the small wounds of our arrows have been always found more dangerous and hard to be cured, than the fire of any shot unpoisoned. Besides all which, it is to be noted that horses in the field, being wounded or but slightly hurt with arrows, do presently fall yerking, flinging, and leaping as if they were mad, through the great pain that upon every motion they do feel in their flesh, veins, and sinews, by the shaking of the arrows with their barbed heads hanging in them. In such sort, as be it in squadron or in troop, they do disorder one another, and never leave until they have cast their masters. Whereas, contrariwise, horses that are in their vital parts hurt with bullets, they, after the first shrink at the entering of the bullet, do pass their carriere as though they had very little or no hurt. And this of the hurting of horses with bullets, both I myself, and all others do know, that have seen any actions performed in the field.
"In one time, King Henry the Eighth, being at the siege of Teroüenne, a convoy of provisions was coming from Guines towards Teroüenne; the French captains of Picardy and Vermandois having intelligence of it, assembled all the men-at-arms, arquebusseers, and crossbowmen, and lay in ambush; which being perceived by the English, they so placed their archers that after a long fight, and many charges by the French men-at-arms and their shot given, they far exceeding the English in number, the French having a number of horses wounded and slain, were completely repulsed and overthrown by the excellence of the archers."
The mean opinion entertained of fire-arms by Sir John Smyth and other military writers of the same period, has been erroneously accounted for, by presuming that the guns of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were excessively unmanageable, and the powder coarse and deficient in strength. There is, however, little difficulty in showing this opinion to be entirely without foundation. Two centuries ago, at all events, they were not so badly off. A well-supported tradition exists among the Worcester folk, that the day before old Noll's "second crowning mercy," Prince Rupert and his staff amused themselves with ball practice, at the weathercock of Pershore church. We may hence infer, that both pistols and ammunition were somewhat after the rate; but we have better evidences than mere oral testimony.
"The Pilhaunan," says Josseleyn, is the king of birds of prey in New England. Some take him for a kind of eagle, others for the Indian rock, the biggest bird that is, except the ostrich. Mr. Hilton, residing at Pascatawny, had the hap to kill one of them. Being by the sea side, he perceived a great shadowe over his head, the sun shining out clear. Casting up his eyes, he saw a monstrous bird soaring aloft in the air; and, of of a sudden, all the ducks and geese (there being a great many) diving under water, nothing of them appearing but their heads. Mr. Hilton having made ready his piece, shof and brought her down to the earth. How he disposed of her I know not; but had he taken her alive and sent her over to England, neither Bartholomewe nor Greenwich fair could have produced such another sighte. Here we have a sportsman of Charles the First's time, who shoots flying with single ball; for as well might he have pelted a bird of that size with peas, as with small shot.
There is an old tract, entitled "The Arrival and Entertainment of the Embassador Olkaid Jaura Ben Abdallah, from Morocco," A.D. 1637. Speaking of this illustrious Moor, the author says: "He is so good a marksman with his pieces that he will shoot eight score at a mark as big as an English sixpence, and hit it with a round bullet." Lily next evidence is taken from the French traveller Thevenot, not a very modern authority either. "I remember," says he, "a janissary belonging to the French consul at Cairo, having on a time charged his piece with a bullet of size, shot at two turtles on a tree; he struck of the head of one, and pierced the other through the body."
"We came to Namaschet," says the account of a journey to Packanock, the habitation of the great king Massassoye, written in 1620, "about three in the afternoon. The inhabitants entertained us with joy in the best manner they could, giving us a kind of bread by them called maizian, and the spawn of shads, which then they got in abundance, but we had no spoones to eat them. With these, they boiled musty acorns; yet of the shads we ate hartily. After this they desired one of our men to shoot at a crow. Complaining what damage they sustained in theur corn by them; who shooting one some four score yards off, and killing, they much admired it, as they did our shots on other occasions."
"After dinner, Massassowal desired me to get him a goose or a duck, and make him some pottage therewith, as speedily as I could. So I took a man with me, and made a shot at a couple of ducks some six score of, and killed one; at which he wondered."
After perusing these anecdotes, I think no one can hesitate to admit that at the period when mere handsful of our yeomen archers engaged successfully with large bodies of musketeers, guns and ammunition, as well as the skill of those who handled them, were, for all practical purposes, almost as near perfection as could be desired. And still, as we approach our own time, it will be found that the same results invariably followed every attempt to bring into comparison the merits of the two weapons. During the month of August, 1792, a match was decided at Pacton Green, Cumberland, between the gun and the bow, at one hundred yards Victory fell to the latter, which put sixteen arrows into the target; the former only twelve balls. During, the same year, a similar contest took place at Chalk Farm between Mr. Glynn of the Toxophilite Society, and Dr. Higgins of Greek Street, Soho; distance also one hundred yards. The result was, that out of twenty-one shots each at a four-foot target, the former gentleman scored fifteen, the latter only twelve.
And now let me wind up a somewhat tedious exordium, with one or two observations respecting the nature and execution of this volume. Many years of my life have been devoted to its arrangement, for, like Rome, the work contemplated was not to be finished in a day. Those public stores of history, accessible to all who have patience and industry to consult them; traditionary anecdotes, never heard beyond the locality which was the scene of the events they commemorate; and those almost unknown, faded or fading archives, which lie mouldering within the muniment chests of many an honourable family, have been rifled of their treasures to illustrate the history of a weapon, by which Britons secured their freedom, while many a bloody held was lost and won.
But labor ipse voluptas; the labour we delight in physics pain; yet, if, in the general execution of his task, to borrow the congenial phraseology of the shooting ground, the author should have failed to deliver himself "right yeomanlie and well," he alone is to blame, the subject being not deficient either in interest or materials; neither can he plead want of familiarity with the grey goose quill truly, he
"Claims kindred there, and has his claim allowed;'
for during years past, that has been his constant associate, more, however, as the wing of many a goodly buttshaft than as tenant of the author's inkhorn. Let those who form the public taste decide; but after whatever shape they may handle me, whether mercifully forbearing their shafts, or making me the butt whereon to empty their quivers' "iron sleet of arrows shower," one thing is more than probable; from the days when a congenial spirit, I mean Tom Shawn Catti, the Robin Hood of Wales, here first drew his unerring bowstring, even to the present hour, no mortal except myself has sojourned within these wild and lonesome glyns, to whom criticism was a source of anxiety either in its smiles or frowns.
I cannot close these pages, without offering my grateful acknowledgments to the artists whose labours have embellished the Book of Archery. For the imaginative portion of these illustrations, I ant indebted to the pencil of F. P. Stephanof, Esq.; and to the burins of Messrs. Portbury, Engleheart, Stocks, Staines, Bull, and Smith. The historical plates are designed and executed by W. H. Brooke, Esq., F.S.A.,whose indefatigable researches, during a space of upwards of two years, merit my warmest thanks, since they have produced a series of upwards of one hundred subjects, which, for classical truth and correctness of detail, leave nothing to be desired.
Machynlleth, South Wales,