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The First Book of The School of Shooting.
Part 4 of 8

Therefore when the Lydians shall invent better things than Apollo, when sloth and idleness shall increase virtue more than labour, when the night and lurking corners giveth less occasion to unthriftiness than light day and openness, then shall shooting and such gaming be in some comparison like. Yet even as I do not show all the goodness which is in shooting, when I prove it standeth by the same things that virtue itself standeth by, as brought in by God or god-like men, fostered by labour, committed to the safeguard of light and openness, accompanied with provision and diligence, loved and allowed by every good man's sentence: even likewise do I not open half the naughtiness which is in carding and dicing, when I show how, they are born of a desperate mother, nourished in idleness, increased by licence of night and corners, accompanied with fortune, chance, deceit, and, condemned and banished by all laws and judgements.

For if I would enter to describe the monstruousness of it, I should rather wander in it, it is so broad, than have any ready passage to the end of the matter; whose horribleness is so large, that it passed the eloquence of our English Homer to compass it; yet because I ever thought his sayings to have as much authority as either Sophocles or Euripides in Greek, therefore gladly do I remember these verses of his:

Hasardry is very mother of lesings,
And of deceit, and cursed forswearings;
Blasphemy of Christ, manslaughter, and waste also
Of cattle, of time, of other things mo.

Mother of lesings.[13] Truly it may well be called so, if a man consider how many ways and how many things he loseth thereby; for first, he loseth his goods, he loseth his time, lie loseth quickness of wit, and all good lust to other things; he loseth honest company, he loseth his good name and estimation, and at last, if he leave it not, loseth God and heaven and all; and, instead of these things, winneth at length either hanging or hell.

And of deceit.] I trow, if I should not lie, there is not half so much craft used in no one thing in the world as in this cursed thing. What false dice use they? As dice stopped with quicksilver and hairs, dice of a vantage, flats, gourds to chop and change when they list; to let the true dice fall under the table and so take up the false; and if they be true dice, what shift will they make to set the one of them with sliding, with cogging, with foisting, with quoiting as they call it? How will they use these shifts when they get a plain man that can no skill of them? How will they go about if they perceive an honest man have money, which list not play, to provoke him to play ? They will seek his company, they will let him pay nought, yea, and as I heard a man once say that he did, they will send for him to some house and spend perchance a crown on him, and, at last, will one begin to say.. What, my masters, what shall we do? shall every man play his twelve-pence whiles an apple roast in the fire, and then we will drink and depart? Nay, will another say (as false as lie), you cannot leave when you begin, and therefore I will not play; but if you will gage that every man, as he hath lost his twelve-pence, shall sit down, I am content; for surely I would win no man's money here, but even as much as would pay for my supper. Then speaketh the third to the honest man that thought not to play, What! will you play your twelve-pence ? If he excuse him; Tush man, will the other say, stick not in honest company for twelvepence; I will bear your half, and here is my money.

Now all this is to make him to begin, for they know if he be once in, and be a loser, that he will not stick at his twelvepence, but hopeth ever to get it again, while perhaps he lose all. Then every one of them setteth his shifts abroach, some with false dice, some with setting of dice, some with having outlandish silver coins gilded to put away at a time for good gold. Then, if there come a thing in controversy, must you be judged by the table, and then farewell the honest man his part, for he is borne down on every side.

Now, Sir, beside all these things, they have certain term (as a man would say) appropriate to their playing; whereby they will draw a man's money but pay none, which they call bars, that surely he that knoweth them not may soon be debarred of all that ever he hath, afore he learn them. If a plain man lose, as he shall do ever, or else it is a wonder, then the game is so devilish that he can never leave ; for vain hope (which hope, saith Euripides, destroyeth many a man and city) driveth him on so far, that he can never return back until he be so light that he need fear no thieves by the way. Now if a simple man happen once in his life to win of such players, then will they either entreat him to keep them company whilst he bath lost all again, or else they will use the most devilish fashion of all, for one of the players that standeth next him shall have a pair of false dice and cast them out upon the board, the honest man shall take them and cast them as he did the other, the third shall espy them to be false dice, and shall cry out hard, with all the oaths under God, that he hath falsely won their money, and then there is nothing but hold thy throat from my dagger; every man layeth hand on the simple man and taketh all their money from him, and his own also, thinking himself well that he escapeth with his life.

Cursed swearing, blasphemy of Christ.] These half verses Chaucer, in another place, more at large doth well set out and very lively express, saying,

Ey by Goddes precious heart and by his nails,
And by the blood of Christ, that is in Hales,
Seven is my chance, and thine is cinque and trey,
By Goddes armes, if thou falsely play,
This dagger shall thorough thine hearte go."
This fruit cometh of the beched bones two,
Forswearing, ire, falseness, and homicide, &c.

Though these verses be very earnestly written, yet they do not half so grisly set out the horribleness of blasphemy which such gamers use, as it is indeed, and as I have heard myself. For no man can write a thing so earnestly, as when it is spoken with gesture, as learned men, you know, do say. How will you think that such furiousness, with wood countenance, and brenning eyes, with staring and bragging, with heart ready to leap out of the belly for swelling, can be expressed the tenth part to the uttermost. Two men I heard myself, whose sayings be far more grisly than Chaucer's verses. One when he had lost his money, sware me God from top to the toe with one breath, that he had lost all his money for lack of swearing; the other losing his money and heaping oaths upon oaths one in another's neck, most horrible and not speakable, was rebuked of an honest man which stood by for so doing; he, by and by, staring him in the face, and clapping his fist with all his money lie had upon the board, sware me by the flesh of God, that, if swearing would help him but one ace, he would not leave one piece of God unsworn, neither within nor without. The remembrance of this blasphemy, Philologe, doth make me quake at the heart, and therefore I will speak no more of it.

And so to conclude with such gamin g, I think there is no ungraciousness in all this world that carrieth a man so far from God as this fault doth. And if there were any so desperate a person that would begin his hell in earth, I trow he should not find hell more like hell itself, than the life of those men is which daily haunt and use such ungracious games.

Phi. You handle this gere indeed; and I suppose, if you had been a prentice at such games, you could not have said more of them than you have done, and by like you have had somewhat to do with them.

Tox. Indeed, you may honestly gather that I bate them greatly, in that I speak against them ; not that I have used them greatly, in that I speak of them. For things be known divers ways, as Socrates (you know) doth prove in Alcibiades. And if every man should be that, that he speaketh or written upon, then should Homer have been the best captain, most coward, hardy, hasty, wise and wood, sage and simple; and Terence an old man and a young, an honest man and a bawd; with such like. Surely every man ought to pray to God daily to keep them from such unthriftiness, and, especially all the youth of England; for what youth doth begin, a man will follow commonly, even to his dying day; which thing Adrastus, in Euripides, prettily doth express, saying,

What thing a man in tender age bath most in ure,
That same to death always to keep he shall be sure,
Therefore in age who greatly longs good fruit to mow,
In youth he must himself apply good seed to sow.

For the foundation of youth well set (as Plato doth say), the whole body of the commonwealth shall flourish thereafter. If the young tree grow crooked, when it is old a man shall rather break it than straight it. And I think there is no one thing that crooks youth more than such unlawful games. Nor let no man say, if they be honestly used they do no harm. For how can that pastime which neither exerciseth, the body with any honest labour, nor yet the mind with any honest thinking, have any honesty joined with it? Nor let no man assure himself that he can use it honestly; for if he stand therein he may fortune have a fall, the thing is more slippery than he knoweth of. A man may (I grant) sit on a brant hill side, but if he give never so little forward, he cannot stop, though he would never so fain, but he must needs run headlong, he knoweth not how far. What honest pretences vain pleasure layeth daily (as it were enticements or baits to pull men forward withal) Homer doth well show by the Sirens and Circes. And amongst all in that ship, there was but one Ulysses, and yet he had done too as the other did, if a goddess had not taught him ; and so likewise, I think, they be easy to number which pass by playing honestly, except the grace of God save and keep them. Therefore they that will not go too far in playing, let them follow this counsel of the poet:

Stop the beginnings.

Phi. Well, or you go any further, I pray you tell me this one thing : Do ye speak against mean men's playing only, or against great men's playing too, or put You any difference betwixt them?

Tox. If I should excuse myself herein, and say that I spake of the one and not of the other, I fear lest I should as fondly excuse, myself, as a certain preacher did, whom I heard upon a time speak against many abuses (as he said), and, at last, lie spake against candles, and then he fearing lest some men would have been angry and offended with him, Nay, saith he, you must take me as I mean : I speak not against great candles, but against little candles, for they be not all one (quoth he), I promise you : and so every man laughed him to scorn.

Indeed, as for great men, and great men's matters, I list not greatly to meddle. Yet this I would wish, that all great men in England had read over diligently the Pardoner's Tale in Chaucer, and there they should perceive and see how much such games stand with their worship, how great soever they be. What great men do, be it good or ill, mean men commonly love to follow, as many learned men in many places do say, and daily experience doth plainly show, in costly apparel and other like matters.

Therefore, seeing that lords be lanterns to lead the life of mean men, by their example, either to goodness or badness, to whither soever they list ; and seeing also they have liberty to list what they will, I pray God they have will to list that which is good, and as for their playing, I will make an end with this saying of Chaucer:

Lords might find them other manner of play,
Honest enough to drive the day away.

But to be short, the best medicine for all sorts of men, both high and low, young and old, to put away such unlawful games, is by the contrary, likewise as all physicians do allow in physic. So let youth, instead of such unlawful games, which stand by idleness, by solitariness, and corners, by night and darkness, by fortune and chance, by craft and subtilty, use such pastimes, as, stand by labour, upon the daylight, in open sight of men, having such an end as is conic to by cunning, rather than by craft; and so should virtue increase and vice decay. For contrary pastimes must needs work contrary minds in men, as all other contrary things do.

And thus we see, Philologe, that shooting is not only the most wholesome exercise for the body, the most honest pastime for the mind, and that for all sorts of men, but also it is a most ready medicine to purge the whole realm of such pestilent gaming, wherewith many times it is sore troubled and ill at ease.

Phi. The more honesty you have proved by shooting, Toxophile, and the more you have persuaded me to love it, so much truly the sorer have you made me with this last sentence of yours, whereby you plainly prove that a man may not greatly use it. For if shooting be a medicine (as, you say that it is), it may not be used very oft, lest a man should hurt himself withal, as medicines much occupied do. For Aristotle himself saith, that medicines be no meat to live withal ; and thus shooting, by the same reason, may not be much occupied.

Tox. You play your old wonts, Philologus, in dallying with other men's wits, not so much to prove your own matter, as to prove what other men can say. But where you think that I take away much use of shooting, in likening it to a medicine; because men use not medicines every day, for so should their bodies be hurt I rather prove daily use of shooting thereby. For although Aristotle saith that some medicines be no meat to live withal, which is true. yet Hippocrates saith that our daily meats 'be medicines, to withstand evil withal, which is as true ; for he maketh two kinds of medicines, one our meat that we use daily, which purgeth softly and slowly, and in this similitude may shooting be called a medicine, wherewith daily a man may purge and take away all unleful desires to other unleful pastimes, as I proved before. The other is a quick purging medicine, and seldomer to be occupied, except the matter be greater; and I could describe the nature of a quick medicine, which should within a while purge and pluck out all the unthrifty games in the realm, through which the commonwealth oftentimes is sick. For not only good quick wits to learning be thereby brought out of frame, and quite marred, but also manly wits, either to attempt matters of high courage in war time, or else to achieve matters of weight and wisdom in peace time, be made thereby very quaisy and faint. For look throughout all histories written in Greek, Latin, or other language, and you shall never find that realm prosper in the which such idle pastimes are used. As concerning the medicine, although some would be miscontent if they heard me meddle any thing with it ; yet, betwixt you and me here alone, I may the boldlier say my fantasy, and the rather because I will only wish for it, which standstill with honesty, not determine of it, which belongeth to authority. The medicine is this, that would to God and the king all these unthrifty idle pastimes, which be very bugs that the Psalm meaneth on, walking on the night and in corners, were made felony, and some of that punishment ordained for them which is appointed for the forgers and falsifiers of the King's coin. Which punishment is not by me now invented, but long ago, by the most noble orator Demosthenes, which marvelleth greatly that death is appointed for falsifiers and forgers of the coin, and not as great punishment ordained for them which by their means forges and falsifies the commonwealth. And I suppose that there is no one thing that changeth sooner the golden and silver wits of men into coppery and brassy ways than dicing and such unleful pastimes.

And this quick medicine, I believe, would so thoroughly purge them, that the daily medicines, as shooting and other pastimes, joined with honest labour, should easilier withstand them.

Phi. The excellent commodities of shooting in peace time, Toxophile, you have very well and sufficiently declared. Whereby you have so persuaded me, that, God willing, hereafter I will both love it the better, and also use it the ofter. For as much as I can gather of all this communication of ours, the tongue, the nose, the hands, and the feet, be no fitter members or instruments for the body of a man, than is shooting for the whole body of the realm. God hath made the parts of men which be best and most necessary, to serve, not for one purpose only, but for many; as the tongue for speaking and tasting; the nose for smelling, and also for avoiding all excrements which fall out of the head; the hands for receiving of good things, and for putting of [off] all harmful things from the body. So shooting is an exercise of health, a pastime of honest pleasure, and such one also that stoppeth or avoideth all noisome games, gathered and increased by ill rule, as naughty humours be, which hurt and corrupt sore that part of the realm wherein they do remain.

But now if you can show but half so much profit in war of shooting, as you have proved pleasure in peace, then will I surely judge that there be few things that have so manifold commodities and uses joined unto them as it bath.

Tox. The upper hand in war, next the goodness of God (of whom all victory cometh, as Scripture saith), standeth chiefly in three things; in the wisdom of the prince, in the sleights and policies of the capitains, and in the strength and cheerful forwardness of the soldiers. A prince in his heart must be full of mercy and peace, a virtue most pleasant to Christ, most agreeable to man's nature, most profitable for rich and poor; for then the rich man enjoyeth with great pleasure that which he hath: the poor may obtain with his labour that which he lacketh. And although there is nothing worse than war,[14] whereof it taketh his name, through the which great men be in danger, mean men without succour; rich men in fear, because they have somewhat; poor men in care, because they have nothing; and every man in thought and misery : yet it is a civil medicine, wherewith a Prince may, from the body of his commonwealth, put off that danger which may fall, or else recover again whatsoever it bath lost. And therefore, as Isocrates doth say, a Prince must be a warrior in two things, in conning and knowledge of all sleights and feats of war, and in having all necessary habiliments belonging to the same. Which matter to entreat at large, were over-long at this time to declare, and overmuch for my learning to perform.

After the wisdom of the Prince, are valiant capitains most necessary in war, whose office and duty is to know all sleights and policies for all kinds of war, which they may learn two ways, either in daily following and haunting the wars, or else, because wisdom bought with stripes is many time over-costly, they may bestow some time in Vegetius, which entreateth such matters in Latin meetly well; or rather in Polyaenus, and Leo the Emperor, which setteth out all policies and duties of capitains in the Greek tongue very excellently. But chiefly I would wish, and (if I were of authority) I would counsel, all the young gentlemen of this realm, ,ever to lay out of their hands two authors, Xenophon in Greek, and Caesar in Latin, wherein they should follow noble Scipio Africanus, as Tully doth say ; in which two authors, besides eloquence, a thing most necessary of all other for a captain, they should learn the whole course of war, which those two noble men did not more wisely write for other men to learn, than they did manfully exercise in the field for other men to follow.