The First Book of The School of Shooting.
Part 5 of 8
The strength of war lieth in the soldier, whose chief praise and virtue is obedience towards his captain, saith Plato. And Xenophon, being a Gentile author, most Christianly doth say, even by these words, that that soldier which first serveth God, and then obeyeth his captain, may boldly, with all courage, hope to overthrow his enemy. Again, without obedience, neither valiant man, stout horse, nor goodly harness, doth any good at all; which obedience of the soldier toward his captain, brought the whole empire of the world into the Romans' hands, and, when it was brought, kept it longer than ever it was kept in any commonwealth before or after. And this to be true, Scipio Africanus, the most noble captain that ever was among the Romans, showed very plainly, what time as he went into Africa to destroy Carthage. For he resting his host by the way in Sicily a day or two and at a time standing with a great man of Sicily, and looking on his soldiers how they exercised themselves in keeping of array, and other feats, the gentleman of Sicily asked Scipio wherein lay his chief hope to overcome Carthage? He answered, In yonder fellows of mine whom you see play. And why? saith the other. Because, saith Scipio, that, if I commanded them to run into the top of this high castle, and cast themselves down backward upon these rocks, I am sure they would do it. Sallust also doth write, that there were more Romans put to death of their captains for setting on their enemies before they had licence, than were for running away out of the field before they had fought. These two examples do prove, that amongst the Romans, the obedience of the soldier was wonderful great, and the severity of the captains to see the same kept, wonderful strait. For they well perceived that an host full of obedience, falleth as seldom into the hands of their enemies, as that body falleth into jeopardy, the which is ruled by reason. Reason and rulers being like in office (for the one ruleth the body of man, the other ruleth the body of the commonwealth), ought to be like of conditions, and ought to be obeyed in all manner of matters. Obedience is nourished by fear and love; fear is kept in by true justice and equity; love is gotten by wisdom, joined with liberality. For where a soldier seeth righteousuess so rule, that a man can do neither wrong, nor yet take wrong, and that his captain for his wisdom can maintain him, and for his liberality will maintain him, he must needs both love him and fear him, of the which proceedeth true and unfeigned obedience. After this inward virtue, the next good point in a soldier is to have and to handle his weapon well; whereof the one must be at the appointment of the captain, the other lieth in the courage and exercise of the soldier. yet of all weapons, the best is, as Euripides doth say, wherewith with least danger of ourself we may hurt our enemy most. And that is (as I suppose) artillery. Artillery, now-a-days, is taken for two things, guns and bows; which, how much they do in war, both daily experience doth teach, and also Peter Nannius, a learned man of Lovain, in a certain dialogue doth very well set out; wherein this is most notable, that when he hath showed exceeding commodities of both, and some discommodities of guns, as infinite cost and charge, cumbersome carriage, and, if they be great, the uncertain levelling, the peril of them that stand by them, the easier avoiding by them that stand far off; and, if they be little, the less both fear and jeopardy is in them, beside all contrary weather and wind, which hindereth them not a little; yet of all shooting he cannot rehearse one discommodity.
Phi. That I marvel greatly at, seeing Nannius is so well learned, and so exercised in the authors of both the tongues; for I myself do remember that shooting in war is but smally praised, and that of divers captains in divers authors. For first in Euripides, whom you so highly praise (and very well, for Tully thinketh every verse in him to be an authority), what, I pray you, doth Lycus, that overcame Thebes, say as concerning shooting? whose words, as far as I remember, be these, or not much unlike:
What praise hath he at all, which never durst abide,
The dint of a spear's point thrust against his side?
Nor never boldly buckler bore yet in his left hand,
Face to face his enemies' bront stiffly to withstand,
But alway trusteth to a bow, and to a feather'd stick,
Harness ever most fit for him which to fly is quick
Bow and shaft is armour meetest for a coward,
Which dare not once abide the bront of battle sharp and hard.
But he a man of manhood most is by mine assent,
Which with heart and courage bold, fully hath him bent
His enemies' look in every stour stoutly to abide,
Face to face, and foot to foot, tide what may betide.
Again, Teucer, the best archer among all the Grecians, in Sophocles, is called of Menelaus a bowman, and a shooter, as in villainy and reproach, to be a thing of no price in war. Moreover, Pandarus, the best shooter in the world, whom Apollo himself taught to shoot, both he and his shooting is quite contemned in Homer, in so much that Homer (which under a made fable doth always hide his judgment of things) doth make Pandarus himself cry out of shooting, and cast his bow away, and take him to a spear, making a vow, that if ever he came home he would break his shafts and burn his bow, lamenting greatly that he was so fond to leave at home his horse and chariot with other weapons, for the trust that he had in his bow. Homer signifying there-by, that men should leave shooting out of war, and take them to other weapons more fit and able for the same; and I trow Pandarus's words be much what after this sort:
I'll chance, ill luck me hither brought,
Ill fortune me that day befell,
When first my bow fro the pin I raught,
For Hector's sake, the Greeks to quell.
But if that God so for me shape,
That home again I may once come,
Let me never enjoy that hap,
Nor ever twice look on the sun,
If bow and shafts I do not burn,
Which now so evil doth serve my turn.
But to let pass all poets, what can be sorer said against any thing than the judgment of Cyrus is against shooting, which doth cause his Persians, being the best shooters, to lay away their bows and take them to swords and bucklers, spears and darts, and other like handweapons? The which thing Xenophon, so wise a philosopher, so expert a captain in war himself, would never have written, and specially in that book wherein he purposed to show, as Tully saith indeed, not the true history, but the example of a perfect wise Prince and commonwealth, except that judgment of changing artillery into other weapons he had always thought best to be followed in all war. Whose counsel the Parthians did follow, when they chased Antony over the mountains of Media, which being the best shooters of the world, left their bows and took them to spears and morispikes. And these few examples, I trow, of the best shooters, do well prove that the best shooting is not the best thing, as you call it, in war.
Tox. As concerning your first example, taken out of Euripides, I marvel you will bring it for the dispraise of shooting, seeing Euripides doth make those verses, not because he thinketh them true, but because he thinketh them fit for the person that spake them. For indeed his true judgment of shooting, he doth express by and by after in the oration of the noble captain Amphitryo against Lycus, wherein a man may doubt whether he bath more eloquently confuted Lycus's saying, or more worthily set out the praise of shooting. And as I am advised, his words be much hereafter as I shall say.
Against the witty gift of shooting in a bow,
Fond and lewd words thou lewdly dost out throw,
Which if thou wilt hear of me a word or twain
Quickly thou mayest learn how fondly thou dost blame.
First, he that with his harness himself doth wall about,
That scarce is left one hole through which he may peep out,
Such bond men to their harness to fight are nothing meet,
But soonest of all other are trodden under feet.
If he be strong, his fellows faint, in whom he putteth his trust,
So loaded with his harness he must needs lie in the dust,
Nor yet from death he cannot start, if once his weapon break,
How stout, how strong, how great, how long soever be such a freak.
But whosoever can handle a bow, sturdy, stiff, and strong,
Wherewith like hail many shafts he shoots into the thickest throng ;
This profit he takes, that standing afar his enemies he may spill,
When he and his full safe shall stand, out of all danger and ill.
And this in war is wisdom most, which works our enemies woe,
When we shall be far from all fear and jeopardy of our foe.
Secondarily, even as I do not greatly regard what Menelaus doth say in Sophocles to Teucer, because he spake it both in anger, and also to him that he hated; even so do I remember very well in Homer, that when Hector and the Trojans would have set fire on the Greek ships, Teucer, with his bow, made them recoil back again, when Menelaus took him to his feet and ran away.
Thirdly, as concerning Pandarus, Homer doth not dispraise the noble gift of shooting, but thereby every man is taught, that whatsoever, and how good soever a weapon a man doth use in war, if he be himself a covetous wretch, a fool without counsel, a peacebreaker, as Pandarus was, at last he shall, through the punishment of God, fall into his enemies' hands, as Pandarus did, whom Diomedes, through the help of Minerva, miserably slew.
And, because you make mention of Homer and Troy matters, what can be more praise for any thing, I pray you, than that is for shooting, that Troy could never be destroyed without the help of Hercules shafts, which thing doth signify, that, although all the world were gathered in an army together, yet, without shooting, they can never come to their purpose ; as Ulysses, in Sophocles, very plainly doth say unto Pyrrhus, as concerning Hercules shafts to be carried into Troy:
Nor you without them, nor without you they do aught.
Fourthly, whereas Cyrus did change part of his bowmen, whereof he had plenty, into other men of war, whereof he lacked, I will not greatly dispute whether Cyrus did well in that point in those days or no; because it is plain in Xenophon how strong shooters the Persians were, what bows they had, what shafts and heads they occupied, what kind of war their enemies used.
But truly, as for the Parthians, it is plain in Plutarch, that, in changing their bows into spears, they brought their self into utter destruction. For when they had chased the Romans many a mile, through reason of their bows, at the last the Romans, ashamed of their flying, and remembering their old nobleness and courage, imagined this way, that they would kneel down on their knees, and so cover all their body with their shields and targets, that the Parthians' shafts might slide over them, and do them no harm; which thing when the Parthians perceived, thinking that the Romans were forwearied with labour, watch, and hunger, they laid down their bows and took spears in their hands, and so ran upon them; but the Romans perceiving them without their bows, rose up manfully, and slew them every mother's son, save a few that saved themselves with running away. And herein our archers of England far pass the Parthians, which for such a purpose, when they shall come to hand-strokes, hath ever ready, either at his back hanging, or else in his next fellow's hand, a leaden maul, or such-like weapon, to beat down his enemies withal.
Phi. Well, Toxophile, seeing that those examples which I had thought to have been clean against shooting, you have thus turned to the high praise of shooting ; and all this praise that you have now said on it, is rather come in by me than sought for of you : let me hear I pray you now, those examples which you have marked of shooting yourself: whereby you are persuaded, and think to persuade others, that shooting is so good in war.
Tox. Examples surely I have marked very many ; from the beginning of time had in memory of writing, throughout all commonwealths and empires of the world; whereof the most part I will pass over, lest I should be tedious : yet some I will touch, because they be notable both for me to tell and you to hear.
And because the story of the Jews is for the time most ancient, for the truth most credible, it shall be most fit to begin with them. And although I know that God is the only giver of victory, and not the weapons, for all strength and victory (saith Judas Maccabeus) cometh from Heaven; yet surely strong weapons be the instruments wherewith God doth overcome that part which he will have overthrown. For God is well pleased with wise and witty feats of war : as in meeting of enemies, for truce taking, to have privily in ambushment harnessed men laid for fear of treason, as Judas Maccabeus did with Nicanor, Demetrius captain. And to have engines of war to beat down cities withal : and to have scout watch amongst our enemies to know their counsels, as the noble captain Jonathan, brother to Judas Maccabeus, did in the country of Amathie, against the mighty host of Demetrius. And, beside all this, God is pleased to have goodly tombs for them which do noble feats in war, and to have their images made, and also their coat armours to be set above their tombs, to their perpetual laud and memory ! as the valiant captain Simon did cause to be made for his brethren Judas Maccabeus and Jonathan, when they were slain of the Gentiles. And thus, of what authority feats of war and strong weapons be, shortly and plainly we may learn. But amongst the Jews, as I begin to tell, I am sure there was nothing so occupied, or did so much good as bows did; insomuch, that when the Jews had any great upper-hand over the Gentiles, the first thing always that the captain did, was to exhort the people to give all the thanks to God for the victory, and not to their bows, wherewith they had slain their enemies ; as it is plain the noble Joshua did after so many kings thrust down by him.
God, when he promiseth help to the Jews, he useth no kind of speaking so much as this, that he will bend his bow and dye his shafts in the Gentiles' blood; whereby it is manifest, that either God will make the Jews shoot strong shoots to overthrow their enemies, or, at least, that shooting is a wonderful mighty thing in war, whereunto the high power of God is likened. David, in the Psalms, calleth bows the vessels of death, a bitter thing, and, in another place, a mighty power, and other ways mo, which I will let pass, because every man readeth them daily ; but yet one place of Scripture I must needs remember, which is more notable for the praise of shooting than any that ever I read in any other story : and that is, when Saul was slain of the Philistines, being mighty bowmen, and Jonathas his son with him, that was so good a shooter, as the Scripture saith, that he never shot shaft in vain, and that the kingdom, after Saul's death, came unto David ; the first statute and law that ever David made after he was King, was this, that all the children of Israel should learn to shoot, according to a law made many a day before that time, for the setting out of shooting, as it is written (saith Scripture) in Libro Justorum, which book we have not now. And thus we see plainly what great use of shooting, and what provision even from the beginning of the world for shooting, was among the Jews.
The Ethiopians, which inhabit the farthest part south in the world, were wonderful bowmen; insomuch that when Cambyses, King of Persia, being in Egypt, sent certain ambassadors into Ethiopia, to the King there, with many great gifts, the King of Ethiope perceiving them to be espies, took them up sharply, and blamed Cambyses greatly for such unjust enterprises; but after that he had princely entertained them, he sent for a bow, and bent it and drew it, and then unbent it again, and said unto the ambassadors, you shall commend me to Cambyses, and give him this bow from me, and bid him, when any Persian can shoot in this bow, let him set upon the Ethiopians; in the mean while let him give thanks unto God, which doth not put in the Ethiopians' minds to conquer any other man's land.