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Home > Books > The British Archer > Archery valuable as an amusement
Part II: Archery valuable as an amusement.

If in the advancement of Arts, the " terrific bow and war-sheaf" be now laid aside, and doomed to give place to the " noisy and smoaky firelock," the neglected implements may still claim the protection of the wealthy, as capable of affording much recreative pleasure, in one of the most elegant, the most interesting, and at the same time one of the most healthful amusements known. The terrors of the bow have now vanished. That weapon by which nations subverted nations, "the bow of remote antiquity[82] once so destructive, so bloody, so cruel, is now known only as an instrument of polite amusement; and a company of archers, at this day, appears less hostile, than the gladiators of a fencing-school." In this country, in particular, the bow has been stamped with honours sufficient for the establishment of its everlasting fame.

Archery is an honourable pastime. As we become more acquainted with the art, it more forcibly draws forth the natural tribute of gratitude for past services, and insures for itself a never fading interest, and attachment. It is an exercise adapted to every age, and to every degree of strength, and is not necessarily laborious; and perhaps there is no amusement that more awakens and enlivens the active powers, and creates so little satiety. In the practice of it, not only docs the archer walk over much more ground, than on ordinary occasions of pleasure he would voluntarily do[83] but, by shooting, his arms become nervous, and his muscular powers increase to a degree, not readily to be conceived. Besides the temporary gratification to be derived from shooting, and the fact of its being calculated to promote every pleasure, to be derived from the most agreeable society, the art of archery holds out the strongest inducement on the score of health, to value and to use it as an exercise. There is a remarkable instance recorded of the efficacy of shooting in the Long-bow in restoring health, in the case of the father of the present Mr Waring, of Caroline Street, Bedford Square, London. Mr. Waring had contracted an oppression in his chest; but by the practice of shooting whilst he was staying at Sir Ashton Levers, he recovered greatly. So evident did it appear, that this exercise had greatly benefited Mr. Waring's health, that Sir Ashton was induced to take it up, and his example was followed by many of his friends, who in the year 1780, formed themselves into a society under the title of "Toxophilites." This Society of Archers was the parent stock of numerous others known at this day.

There are few diversions in the open air, in which Women can join with satisfaction, Archery, however, is one of those few. In the pursuit of this elegant art, it was long since sufficiently proved, that it is perfectly adapted for female recreation. The opinion that the practice of it is too masculine for Ladies is quite erroneous:[84]—This

censure, which has been attempted to be cast upon it, is unmerited and illtimed.—We find on record, that Margaret, daughter of Henry VII. killed a buck with an arrow, in Alnwick Park, in Northumberland, in a hunting party. Queen Elizabeth, while on a visit at Lord Montecute's, at Cowdry in Sussex, slew three deer with her bow and arrows. Indeed, archery has always been esteemed as a fit and elegant amusement for Ladies. In the meetings for shooting, all are elevated with the same object of emulation. A high degree of sparkling interest is kindled in a moment in every breast. Each grace possessed by the individual, is displayed in the various proper attitudes, which archery requires, viz: in standing, nocking, gently raising the bow to its proper pitch, drawing up the arrow and loosing it to the mark. The attitude of an archer drawing the bow, has been deemed worthy of notice, and cannot fail to display, in a considerable degree, the graces of the female form. And let it be observed that the address of an archer or archeress, while at the exercise of shooting in the open air in the field, may be as attractive to the eyes of the beholder, as the display of a dance in the confined atmosphere of a ball room. This remark may create a smile on the cheek of the Fair, who may not yet have experienced the pleasures of archery. Each recreation, however, has its own particular moment for enjoyment, and perhaps it may be fairly said, that the one is greatly calculated to enchance the pleasures of the other. "The bow, in the hands of the British fair, presents a new era in archery." To its ancient honors it has added novel and unexpected graces, and tends to assimilate itself with the arts of peace, and forms a new link in the chain of society.

"The appearance of an arrow on the wing," says Mosely, "viewed on one side, is singularly interesting." Its steady movement, the curve it describes, its ascending and descending motion, and its velocity, are beauties which never fail to excite agreeable feelings in the mind, and even lead us for a moment to attribute active powers, to the shaft. Weakness and strength are well expressed by the arrow which arrives short, or which passes far over the target; and the different degrees of swiftness perceptible in arrows from bows of various powers, immediately associate the ideas of bodily vigour in various degrees of strength.

Ascham strongly recommends the practise of archery, as tending " to invigorate the nerves, and to increase the strength of the body." " That the labour which is in shooting, of all other is best, not only because it increaseth strength, and preserveth health most, but because it is not vehement, but moderate, not over-layinge one parte with wearinesse, but softly exercisinge everye parte with equalnesse; as the armes and breastes with drawinge, the other partes with goinge, being not so painful for the laboure, as pleasure for the pastime, which exercise (by the judgement of Physitions) is most alowable;" and, as Roberts remarks, "We see old archers, continue the diversion with satisfaction to themselves, and pleasure to others, and although when far advanced in life, they find their strength somewhat give way, yet do they not perceive any loss of skill in the art. By changing their strong bows for others which are weaker, they seldom perceive the want of very powerful nerves; but, in pursuing this amusement, can " bid old age grow green, and wear a second spring." Sir William Wood, who, it must be hoped, was a better archer than poet, in his " Bowman's Glory," writes:

"It is an exercise (by proof) we see
Whose practice doth with nature best agree,
Obstructions of the liver it prevents,
Stretching the nerves and arteries, gives extent
To the spleen's oppilations, clears the breast
And spungy lungs; it is a foe profest
To all consumptions."

Dr. Mulcaster, a contemporary of Ascham, has said, speaking of archery, "To say enough of this exercise in few words, which no words can praise enough for the commodities which it bringeth to the health of the body, it consisteth of the best exercises, and the best effects of the best exercises."

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