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XXXIV. On the length and shortness of the string

WHAT is meant here by the length and shortness of the string is the distance between it and the grip when the bow is strung, not its length or shortness as measured from one end to the -other. This is, as it were, a nomenclature in reverse, since when the distance between the string and the grip is large it is termed long, and when the distance between them is small it is called short, though, when measured from one end to the other, the string which is termed short is, in reality, longer than that which is termed long.[49]

The space between the string and the grip of a braced bow, the siyahs of which are short or of medium size, should not exceed a single span; while the space between the string and the grip of a braced bow with long siyahs should not be less than half a span.

The span (shibr) and half span (fitr) should be those of the owner of the bow himself, and not an average span nor average half span, because a tall archer whose hands are large requires a long arrow and, therefore, a long bow, in accordance with the principle which we have already laid down—namely, of the relations between the size of the individual archer and the arrow he uses, and between the arrow and the bow. The average span or half span, therefore, will not do; for it should be remembered that to every individual archer there is a bow proportionate to his size, as we shall soon discuss, as well as a string proportionate to his bow, as has already been treated of. We shall treat later of the thinness and thickness as well as the lightness and weight of the string in relation to the bow.

There are good and bad aspects of the long [i.e. high braced] string: praiseworthy and blameworthy. It is praiseworthy in so far as it increases the flight and force of the arrow, and enhances its power and penetration. The author, however, is of the opinion that this is, in reality, a blemish rather than an asset since it militates against the efficient performance of the bow; for the secret of the strength of the bow, the speed of its arrow, and the deadliness thereof, lies in the fact that its horn exceeds its wood so that when it is unbraced it recurves. You thus see that the carefully made bow which springs back and recurves whenever it is unbraced (even when used by an expert who handles it skillfully, fulfills all the prerequisite details, and never violates the principles laid down by the masters) will, because of the excessive length of its siyahs, gradually lose its recurvature and its property of springing back, until finally it acquires the property of incurvation and seems like one braced when it is actually unbraced. Thus, if you fit a bow with a long string and brace it, incurvation will soon appear in its belly; though, but for the long string, it would not appear unless after a protracted and arduous period of use.[50] It is the long string which causes recurvature to be transformed into incurvature and strength into weakness.

The blameworthy aspects of the long string include its tendency to slap against the forearm of the archer and to twist the neck of the bow, thereby disarranging the string and speeding the process of incurvation.

There are, likewise, good and bad aspects of the short string. Among the praiseworthy is that the bow is guarded against the quick development of incurvation in its belly and its neck is kept from being twisted, with consequent disarrangement of the string. Furthermore, the archer is safeguarded by the use of a short string against its slapping his forearm, and so is aided in his aim and accuracy.

The blameworthy aspects include its weakening effect on the strength of the arrow and on the shortening of its range.

The correct procedure, therefore, is to follow the instructions which we have already given.[51]