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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter XIII: Of Skilful Archers.
Chapter XIII
Of Skilful Archers.
Part 3 of 5

The Caribbees feem to have poffeffed an art in fhooting their Arrows, peculiar to themfelves, as appears from a circumftance which occurred to Columbus, in his fecond voyage. "A canoe belonging to thefe people, having accidentally fallen in with the fleet under his command, a veffel with a few men was fent towards it, while the other fhips furrounded it in order to cut off a communication with the fhore. When the perfons in the canoe faw it was impoffible for them to efcape, they fought with great refolution and wounded many of the Spaniards, although they had Targets and other kind of armour; and even when the canoe was overfet, it was with difficulty the people were taken, as they continued to defend themfelves and to ufe their Bows with great dexterity while fwimming in the fea”242

From the accounts we have of the Perfians, they appear to be aftonifhingly expert in the art of fhooting the Bow; and if we believe the relations of thofe who have travelled in the Eaft, (and thefe relations are uniform) they certainly are to be placed in the firft rank of Archers. Chardin fays, that the Perfians in their exercifes fhoot the Bow with incredible accuracy; fo accurate, that they will drive an Arrow into the feme hole, many times fucceffively. The Butts they ufe are made of fand, beaten hard into a wooden frame, the furfacc of which is rendered fmooth before the Archers begin to practice. An Arrow fhot ftrong againft one of thefe Targets, will ufually penetrate pretty deep, perhaps half its length; and the excellence of an Archer is the greater, in proportion as the number of fhots required to drive an Arrow over head in the hole, made by the firft fhot, diminifhes. This feat is what they generally propofe to themfelves, and it not unfrequently happens, that they accomplifh their end.

In Perfia alfo, they excel in fhooting the Bow while on horfeback; a fpecies of Archery we in this country are entirety ignorant of. The author above quoted (Chardin) defcribes the method of practifing this art, as extremely curious.

A mark is placed on the top of a maft about fix and twenty feet from the ground. The horfeman who is prepared to fhoot, rides on full fpeed towards the mark, and having paffed it, his Bow being ready drawn, turns round and difcharges his Arrow backwards. Sometimes they fhoot to the right hand, and fometimes to the left, according to the direction in which they guide their horfes, in refpect to the mark they propofe to aim at.

Our traveller fpeaks of this game as common in all the villages of Perfia. The nobility and the kings are fond of it, and often practice. He fays, that Sephy, the grandfather of the king who occupied the throne, at the time he made his tour, excelled in this fport; and would ufually ftrike the Target, if not with the firft Arrow, with the fecond he never erred.243

Mr. Tavernier had an opportunity of being prefent at a review of the Perfian cavalry, during his refidence in the Eaft, in the year 1654. His account of the exhibition is curious, and will alfo enable us to judge of the degree of excellence, to which Archery was brought in that nation.

"The King," he fays, "accompanied by his principal officers, ftood on a portal to one of the royal gardens; from whence they viewed the moft expert and beft-looking of the troops, who were ordered to ride fingly before the place where the King was ftationed. The horfemen rode full fpeed; and as they palled, each man fhot an Arrow into a turf Butt, prepared for the occafion, in. fight of the king and the officers. When the review clofed, the perfon whofe Arrow ftood neareft the center, was promifed an increafe of pay."

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