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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter II
Chapter II
Part 3 of 5

Neither the Greek hiftorians or poets have given any fabulous account of the means which led to the difcovery of the Bow, as far as I remember; which feems to prove how little there is in nature to infpire the idea of fuch an effect. A Latin Poet, however, has formed a pretty fable to this purpofe, and has embellifhed it with fome beautiful fimilies. The discovery, he fays, originated from the well-known tale of the Porcupine, who, when angry, projects his quills on thofe who provoke him,

* * * * * * * Stat corpore toto
Silva minax, jaculifque rigens in praelia crefcit
Picturata feges * * * * * * * * *
* * * * crebris propugnat jactibus ultro.
Interdum fugiens Parthorum more fequentem
Vulnerat. Interdum, pofitis velut ordine caftris,
Terrificum denfa mucronem verberat unda;
Et confanguineis haftilibus afperat armos.
* * * * * * * * *
Quid labor humanus tantum ratione fagaci
Proficit? Eripiunt trucibus Gortynia capris
Cornus, fubjectis eadem lentefcere cogunt
Ignibus, Interdum, taurino vifcere nervos,
Inftruitur pinnis, ferroque armatur arundo,
Eoce brevis propriis munitur bellua telis,
Externam nec quoerit opem, fert omnia fecum.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * quidquid procul appetit hoftem
Hinc reor inventums morem hinc traxiffe Cydonas
Bellandi, Parthofque retro didiciffe ferire
Prima fagittiferae pecudis documenta focutos
Claud. p. 236.

It is impoffible to look upon this as the true caufe which gave rife to the Bow and Arrow, and the poet has illuftrated it, as a thought, rather than as a truth. The effect of a quill projected from the hack of a Porcupine, by an unfeen mufcular power, and the effcct of a bow projecting an arrow by its expanfive and elaftic force, are extremely different In their nature; and the tranfition from the one to the other is fo difficult, that we cannot imagine the latter to have been a copy of the former. The moft decisife evidence againft this fuppofition is, That the beft naturalifts confefs this property afcribed to the Porcupine, to be fabulous, the animal poffeffing no fuch power at any time.

Previous to the conftruction of the Bow, the knowledge of the elafticity of wood muft have been acquired, (fuppofing the inftrument not to be found out by chance) and the method of applying a ftring, which ftring muft have been before in ufe. It is true, every twig would have pointed out the property of wood alluded to; but the queftion is, by what accident the ftring was firft applied to the wood, and the arrow to the ftring.

It is in vain to make conjectures on this fubjectt; the early periods of the world are hidden in fuch denfe obfcurity, that we cannot form any plaufible hypothefts, to ferve as an explanation.

Let us, however, grant, that the Bow was foon introduced. It was known in the moft diftant times, and is uniformly mentioned as one of the moft common, and moft numerous of the weapons made ufe of, in the wars and conflicts related in the Mofaic Hiftory—in the battles defcribed by Homer—and by the writers of fucceeding ages in every country.

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