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The First Book of The School of Shooting.
Part 6 of 8

This bow, when it came among the Persians, never one man in such an infinite host (as Herodotus doth say) could stir the string, save only Smerdis, the brother of Cambyses, which stirred it two fingers, and no further; for the which act Cambyses had such envy at him, that he afterward slew him ; as doth appear in the story. Sesostris, the most mighty King that ever was in Egypt, overcame a great part of the world, and that by archers : he subdued the Arabians, the Jews, the Assyrians: he went farther in Scythia than any man else: he overcame Thracia, even to the borders of Germany. And, in token how he overcame all men, he set up in many places great images to his own likeness, having in the one hand a bow, in the other a sharp-headed shaft ; that men might know what weapon his host used in conquering so many people.

Cyrus, counted as a god among the Gentiles, for his nobleness and felicity in war; yet, at the last, when he set upon the Massagetanes, (which people never went without their bow nor their quiver, neither in war nor peace,) he and all his were slain, and that by shooting, as appeareth in the story.

Polycrates, the Prince of Samos (a very little isle), was lord over all the Greek seas, and withstood the power of the Persians, only by the help of a thousand archers.

The people of Scythia, of all other men, loved and used most shooting ; the whole riches and household stuff of a man in Scythia was a yoke of oxen, a plough, his nag and his dog, his bow and his quiver ; which quiver was covered with the skin of a man, which he took or slew first in battle. The Scythians to be invincible, by reason of their shooting, the great voyages of so many noble conquerors, spent in that country in vain, doth well prove : but specially that of Darius the mighty King of Persia, which, when he had tarried there a great space and done no good, but had forwearied his host with travail and hunger; at last the men of Scythia sent an ambassador with four gifts, a bird, a frog, a mouse, and five shafts. Darius, marvelling at the strangeness of the gifts, asked the messenger what they signified : the messenger answered, that he had no further commandment, but only to deliver his gifts and return again with all speed: "But I am sure," saith he, " you Persians for your great wisdom can soon bolt out what they mean." When the messenger was gone, every man began to say his verdict. Darius judgment was this : that the Scythians gave over into the Persians hands their lives, their whole power both by land and sea, signifying by the mouse the earth, by the frog the water, in which they both live, by the bird their lives which live in the air; by the shaft their whole power and empire, that was maintained always by shooting. Gobryas, a noble and wise captain among the Persians, was of a clean contrary mind, saying, "Nay, not so, but the Scythians mean thus by their gifts; that except we get us wings, and fly into the air like birds, or run into the holes of the earth like mice, or else lie lurking in fens and marshes like frogs, we shall never return home again, before we be utterly undone with their shafts : " which sentence sank so sore into their hearts, that Darius, with all speed possible, brake up his camp and got himself homeward. Yet how much the Persians themselves set by shooting, whereby they increased their empire so much, doth appear by three manifest reasons : First, that they brought up their youth in the school of shooting under twenty year of age, as divers noble Greek authors do say.

Again, because the noble King Darius thought himself to be praised by nothing so much as to be counted a good shooter, as doth appear by his sepulchre, wherein he caused to be written this sentence:

Darius the King lieth buried here,
That in shooting and riding had never peer.

Thirdly, the coin of the Persians, both gold and silver, had the arms of Persia upon it, as is customably used in other realms, and that was bow and arrows; by the which feat they declared how much they set by them.

The Grecians also, but specially the noble Athenians, had all their strength lying in artillery ; and, for that purpose, the city of Athens had a thousand men, which were only archers, in daily wages, to watch and keep the city from all jeopardy and sudden danger; which archers also should carry to prison and ward any misdoer at the commandment of the high officers, as plainly doth appear in Plato. And surely the bowmen of Athens did wonderful feats in many battles, but specially when Demosthenes, the valiant captain, slew and took prisoners all the Lacedaemonians, beside the city of Pylos, where Nestor some time was lord : the shafts went so thick that day (saith Thucydides) that no man could see their enemies. A Lacedaemonian, taken prisoner, was asked of one at Athens, whether they were stout fellows that were slain or no, of the Lacedaemonians ? He answered nothing else but this : " Make much of those shafts of yours, for they know neither stout nor unstout;" meaning thereby, that no man (though he were never so stout) came in their walk that escaped without death.

Herodotus, describing the mighty host of Xerxes, especially doth mark out what bows and shafts they used, signifying that therein lay their chief strength. And at the same time Atossa, mother of Xerxes, wife to Darius, and daughter of Cyrus, doth enquire (as Aeschylus showeth in a tragedy) of a certain messenger that came from Xerxes host, what strong and fearful bows the Grecians used : whereby it is plain, that artillery was the thing wherein both Europe and Asia in those days trusted most upon.

The best part of Alexander's host were archers, as plainly doth appear by Arrianus, and other that wrote his life; and those so strong archers, that they only, sundry times overcame their enemies afore any other needed to fight; as was seen in the battle which Nearchus, one of Alexander's captains, had beside the river Thomeron. And therefore, as concerning all these kingdoms and commonwealths, I may conclude with this sentence of Pliny, whose words be, as I suppose, thus: " If any man would remember the Ethiopians, Egyptians, Arabians, the men of Inde, of Scythia, so many people in the east of the Sarmatians, and all the kingdoms of the Parthians, he shall well perceive half the part of the world to live in subjection, overcome by the might and power of shooting."

In the commonwealth of Rome, which exceeded all other in virtue, nobleness, and dominion, little mention is made of shooting, not because it was little used amongst them, but rather because it was so necessary and common, that it was thought a thing not necessary or required of any man to be spoken upon; as if a man should describe a great feast, he would not once name bread, although it be most common and necessary of all; but surely, if a feast, being never so great, lacked bread, or had fusty and naughty bread, all the other dainties should be unsavory and little regarded, and then would men talk of the commodity of bread, when they lack it, that would not once name it afore, when they had it; and even so did the Romans, as concerning shooting. Seldom is shooting named, and yet it did the most good in war, as did appear very plainly in that battle which Scipio Africanus had with the Numantines in Spain, whom he could never overcome, before he set bowmen amongst his horsemen, by whose might they were clean vanquished.

Again, Tiberius, fighting with Arminus and Inguiomerus, princes of Germany, had one wing of archers on horseback, another of archers on foot, by whose might the Germans were slain downright, and so scattered and beat out of the field, that the chase lasted ten miles ; the Germans clame up into trees for fear, but the Romans did fetch them down with their shafts, as they had been birds, in which battle the Romans lost few or none, as doth appear in the history.

But, as I began to say, the Romans did not so much praise the goodness of shooting when they had it, as they did lament the lack of it when they wanted it ; as Leo V, the noble Emperor, doth plainly testify in sundry places, in those books which he wrote in Greek, of the sleights and policies of war.

Phi. Surely of that book I have not heard before ; and how came you to the sight of it ?

Tox. The book is rare truly; but this last year, when Master Cheke translated the said book out of Greek into Latin, to the King's Majesty, he, of his gentleness, would have me very oft in his chamber, and, for the familiarity that I had with him, more than many other, would suffer me to read of it, when I would; the which thing to do surely I was very desirous and glad, because of the excellent handling of all things that ever he taketh in hand. And verily, Philologe, as oft as I remember the departing of that man from the University, (which thing I do not seldom), so oft do I well perceive our most help and furtherance to learning, to have gone away with him. For, by the great commodity that we took in hearing him read privately in his chamber, all Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Isocrates, and Plato, we feel the great discommodity in not hearing of him Aristotle and Demosthenes, which two authors, with all diligence, last of all, he thought to have read unto us. And when I consider how many men be succoured with his help, and his aid to abide here for learning, and how all men were provoked and stirred up by his counsel and daily example how they should come to learning, surely I perceive that sentence of Plato to be true, which sayeth: " that there is nothing better in any commonwealth, than that there should be always one or other excellent passing man, whose life and virtue should pluck forward the will, diligence, labour, and hope of all other; that, following his footsteps, they might come to the same end, whereunto labour, learning, and virtue had conveyed him before."

The great hinderance of learning, in lacking this man, greatly I should lament, if this discommodity of ours were not joined with the commodity and health of the whole realm; for which purpose our noble King, full of wisdom, called up this excellent man, full of learning, to teach noble Prince Edward; an office full of hope, comfort, and solace to all true hearts of England; for whom all England daily doth pray, that he, passing his tutor in learning and knowledge, following his father in wisdom and felicity, according to that example which is set afore his eyes, may so set out and maintain God's word, to the abolishment of all papistry, the confusion of all heresy, that thereby he, feared of his enemies, loved of all his subjects, may bring to his own glory immortal fame and memory, to this realm wealth, honour, and felicity, to true and unfeigned religion perpetual peace, concord, and unity.

But to return to shooting again, what Leo saith of shooting amongst the Romans; his words be so much for the praise of shooting, and the book also so rare to be gotten, that I learned the places by heart, which be as I suppose, even thus. First, in his sixth book, as concerning what harness is best: " Let all the youth of Rome be compelled to use shooting, either more or less, and always to bear their bow and their quiver about with them, until they be eleven years old. For since shooting was neglected and decayed among the Romans, many a battle and field hath been lost." Again, in the eleventh book and fiftieth chapiter (I call that by books and chapiters, which the Greek book divideth by chapiters and paragraphs): " Let your soldiers have their weapons well appointed and trimmed; but, above all other things, regard most shooting; and therefore let men, when there is no war, use shooting at home. For the leaving off only of shooting, hath brought in ruin and decay the whole empire of Rome."

Afterward he commandeth again his capitain by these words : " Arm your host as I have appointed you, but specially with bow and arrows plenty. For shooting is a thing of much might and power in war, and chiefly against the Saracens and Turks, which people hath all their hope of victory in their bow and shafts." Besides all this, in another place, he writeth thus to his captain : " Artillery is easy to be prepared, and, in time of great need, a thing most profitable, therefore we straitly command you to make proclamation to all men under our dominion, which be either in war or peace, to all cities, boroughs, and towns, and finally, to all manner of men, that every sere person have bow and shafts of his own, and every house beside this to have a standing bearing bow, and forty shafts for all needs, and that they exercise themselves in holts, hills, and dales, plains and woods, for all manner of chances in war."

How much shooting was used among the old Romans, and what means noble captains and emperors made to have it increase amongst them, and what hurt came by the decay of it, these words of Leo the Emperor, which in a manner, I have rehearsed word for word, plainly doth declare.

And yet shooting, although they set never so much by it, was never so good then as it is now in England ; which thing to be true is very probable, in that Leo doth say, " That he would have his soldiers take off their arrow heads, and one shoot at another, for their exercise ;" which play if English archers used, I think they should find small play, and less pleasure in it at all.

The great upperhand maintained always in war by artillery, doth appear very plainly by this reason also, that when the Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Germans, Greeks, Macedonians, and Egyptians, each country vising one singular weapon, for which they were greatly feared in war, as the Spaniard Lancea, the Frenchman Gesa, the German Framea, the Grecian Machera, the Macedonian Sarissa, yet could they not escape but be subjects to the empire of Rome; when the Parthians, having all their hope in artillery, gave no place to them, but overcame the Romans oftener than the Romans them, and kept battle with them many a hundred year, and slew the rich Crassus and his son, with many a stout Roman more, with their bows; they drave Marcus Antonius over the hills of Media in Armenia, to his great shame and reproach; they slew Julianus the apostate, and Antoninus Caracalla; they held in perpetual prison the most noble Emperor Valerian, in despite of all the Romans and many other princes which wrote for his deliverance, as Bel solis, called King of Kings, Valerius King of Cadusia, Arthabesdes King of Armenia, and many other princes more, whom the Parthians, by reason of their artillery, regarded never one whit; and thus with the Romans, I may conclude, that the borders of their empire were not at the sun-rising and sun-setting, as Tully saith ; but so far they went, as artillery would give them leave. For, I think, all the ground that they had, either northward, further than the borders of Scythia, or eastward, further than the borders of Parthia, a man might have bought with a small deal of money; of which thing surely shooting was the cause.

From the same country of Scythia, the Goths, Huns, and Vandalians came with the same weapons of artillery, as Paulus Diaconus doth say, and so bereft Rome of her empire by fire, spoil, and waste; so that in such a learned city was left scarce one man behind, that had learning or leisure, to leave in writing to them which should come after, how so noble an empire, in so short a while, by a rabble of banished bondmen, without all order and policy, save only their natural and daily exercise in artillery, was brought to such thraldom and ruin.

After them the Turks, having another name, but yet the same people, born in Scythia, brought up only in artillery, by the same weapon have subdued and bereft from the Christian men all Asia and Africa (to speak upon) and the most noble countries of Europe, to the great diminishing of Christ his religion, to the great reproach of cowardice of all Christianity, a manifest token of God's high wrath and displeasure over the sin of the world, but specially amongst Christian men, which be on sleep, made drunk with the fruits of the flesh, as infidelity, disobedience to God's word, and heresy, grudge, ill-will, strife, open battle, and privy envy, covetousness, oppression, unmercifulness, with innumerable sorts of unspeakable daily bawdry; which things surely, if God hold not his holy hand over us, and pluck us from them, will bring us to a more Turkishness, and more beastly blind barbarousness, as calling ill things good, and good things ill, contemning of knowledge and learning, setting at nought, and having for a fable, God and his high providence, will bring us, I say, to a more ungracious Turkishness, if more Turkishness can be than this, than if the Turks had sworn to bring all Turkey against us. For these fruits surely must needs spring of such seed, and such effect needs follow of such a cause, if reason, truth, and God be not altered, but as they are wont to be. For surely no Turkish power can overthrow us, if Turkish life do not cast us down before. If God were with us, it booted not the Turk to be against us; but our unfaithful sinful living, which is the Turk's mother, and hath brought him up hitherto, must needs turn God from us, because sin and he hath no fellowship together. If we banished ill-living out of Christendom, I am sure the Turk should not only not overcome us, but scarce have an hole to run into in his own country.

But Christendom now, I may tell you, Philologe, is much like a man that hath an itch on him, and lieth drunk also in his bed, and though a thief come to the door, and heaveth at it, to come in and slay him, yet he lieth in his bed, having more pleasure to lie in a slumber and scratch himself where it itcheth, even to the hard bone, than he hath readiness to rise up lustily, and drive him away that would rob him and slay him. But, I trust, Christ will so lighten and lift up Christian men's eyes, that they shall not sleep to death, nor that the Turk, Christ's open enemy, shall ever boast that he hath quite overthrown us.

But, as I began to tell you, shooting is the chief thing wherewith God suffereth the Turk to punish our naughty living withal: the youth there is brought up in shooting, his privy guard for his own person is bowmen, the might of their shooting is well known of the Spaniards, which at the town called Newcastle, in Illyrica, were quite slain up of the Turk's arrows, when the Spaniards had no use of their guns by reason of the rain. And now, last of all, the Emperor his Majesty himself, at the city of Argier in Afrike, had his host sore handled with the Turks' arrows, when his guns were quite dispatched, and stood him in no service because of the rain that fell; whereas, in such a chance of rain, if he had had bowmen, surely their shot might peradventure have been a little hindered, but quite dispatched and marred it could never have been. But, as for the Turks, I am weary to talk of them, partly because I hate them, and partly because I am now affectioned even as it were a man that had been long wandering in strange countries, and would fain be at home to see how well his own friends prosper and lead their life. And surely, methink, I am very merry at my heart to remember how I shall find at home in England, amongst Englishmen, partly by histories of them that have gone afore us, again by experience of them, which we know and live with us, as great noble feats of war done by artillery as ever was done at any time in any other commonwealth. And here I must needs remember a certain Frenchman, called Textor, that writeth a book which he nameth Officina, wherein he weaveth up many broken ended matters, and sets out much riffraff, pelfery, trumpery, baggage, and beggary ware, clamparde up of one that would seem to be fitter for a shop indeed than to write any book. And, amongst all other ill-packed up matters, he thrusts up in a heap together all the good shooters that ever hath been in the world, as he saith himself; and yet I trow, Philologe, that all the examples which I now, by chance, have rehearsed out of the best authors both in Greek and Latin, Textor hath but two of them, which two surely, if they were to reckon again, I would not once name them, partly because they were naughty persons, and shooting so much the worse because they loved it, as Domitian and Commodus, the Emperors ; partly because Textor hath them in his book, on whom I looked by chance in the book-binder's shop, thinking of no such matter. And one thing I will say to you, Philologus, that if I were disposed to do it, and you had leisure to hear it, I could soon do as Textor doth, and reckon up such a rabble of shooters, that be named here and there in poets, as would hold us talking whilst to-morrow; but my purpose was not to make mention of those which were feigned of poets for their pleasure, but of such as were proved in histories for a truth. But why I bring in Textor was this : At last, when he hath reckoned all shooters that he can, he saith thus, Petrus Crinitus writeth, that the Scots, which dwell beyond England, be very excellent shooters, and the best bowmen in war. This sentence, whether Crinitus wrote it more lewdly of ignorance, or Textor confirmeth it more peevishly of envy, may be called in question and doubt, but this surely do I know very well, that Textor hath both read in Gaguinus the French history, and also hath heard his father or grandfather talk (except perchance he was born and bred in a cloister) after that sort of the shooting of Englishmen, that Textor needed not to have gone so peevishly beyond England for shooting, but might very soon, even in the first town of Kent, have found such plenty of shooting, as is not in all the realm of Scotland again. The Scots surely be good men of war in their own feats as can be ; but as for shooting, they neither can use it for any profit, nor yet will challenge it for any praise, although Master Textor, of his gentleness, would give it them. Textor needed not to have filled up his book with such lies, if he had read the history of Scotland, which Johannes Major doth write; wherein he might have learned, that when James Stewart, first king of that name, at the parliament holden at Saint John's town, or Perthie, commanding under pain of a great forfeit, that every Scot should learn to shoot; yet neither the love of their country, the fear of their enemies, the avoiding of punishment, nor the receiving of any profit that might come by it, could make them to be good archers which be unapt and unfit thereunto by God's providence and nature.

Therefore the Scots themselves prove Textor a liar, both with authority and also daily experience, and by a certain proverb that they have amongst them in their communication, whereby they give the whole praise of shooting honestly to Englishmen, saying thus : that " every English archer beareth under his girdle twenty-four Scots."

But to let Textor and the Scots go, yet one thing would I wish for the Scots, and that is this; that seeing one God, one faith, one compass of the sea, one land and country, one tongue in speaking, one manner and trade in living, like courage and stomach in war, like quickness of wit to learning, hath made England and Scotland both one, they would suffer them no longer to be two; but clean give over the pope, which seeketh none other thing (as many a noble and wise Scottish man doth know) but to feed up dissension and parties betwixt them and us, procuring that thing to be two, which God, nature, and reason would have one.

How profitable such an atonement[15] were for Scotland, both Johannes Major and Hector Boetius, which wrote the Scots Chronicles, do tell, and also all the gentlemen of Scotland, with the poor commonalty, do well know; so that there is nothing that stoppeth this matter save only a few freers [friars] and such like, which, with the dregs of our English Papistry lurking amongst them, study nothing else but to brew battle and strife betwixt both the people ; whereby only they hope to maintain their papistical kingdom, to the destruction of the noble blood of Scotland, that then they may with authority do that, which neither noble man nor poor man in Scotland yet doth know. And as [for] [16] Scottish men and English men be not enemies by nature, but by custom ; not by our good will, but by their own folly; which should take more honour in being coupled to England, than we should take profit in being joined to Scotland.

Wales being heady, and rebelling many years against us, lay wild, untilled, uninhabited, without law, justice, civility, and order; and then was amongst them more stealing than true dealing, more surety for them than studied to be naught, than quietness for them that laboured to be good ; when now, thanked be God and noble England, there is no country better inhabited, more civil, more diligent in honest crafts, to get both true and plentiful living withal. And this felicity (my mind giveth me) shall chance also to Scotland, by the godly wisdom of our most noble prince King Henry VIII, by whom God hath wrought more wonderful things than ever by any prince before; as banishing the bishop of Rome and heresy, bringing to light God's word and verity, establishing such justice and equity through every part of this his realm, as never was seen afore.