The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Books > Toxophilus > The First Book of The School of Shooting.
The First Book of The School of Shooting.
Part 7 of 8

To such a prince of such a wisdom, God hath reserved this most noble atonement; whereby neither we shal be any more troubled, nor the Scots with their best countries any more destroyed, nor the sea, which God ordained profitable for both, shall from either be anymore stopped; to the great quietness, wealth, and felicity of all the people dwelling in this isle, to the high renown and praise of our most noble king, to the fear of all manner of nations that owe ill will to either country, to the high pleasure of God, which as he is one, and hateth all divisions, so is he best of all pleased to see things which be wide and amiss, brought to peace and atonement.[17]

But Textor (I beshrew him) hath almost brought us from our communication of shooting. Now, sir, by my judgment, the artillery of England far exceedeth all other realms : but yet one thing I doubt, and long have surely in that point doubted, when, or by whom, shooting was first brought into England ; and, for the same purpose, as I was once in company with Sir Thomas Eliot, knight, (which surely for his learning in all kind of knowledge, brought much worship to all the nobility of England,) I was so bold to ask him, if he at any time had marked any thing, as concerning the bringing in of shooting into England : he answered me gently again, he had a work in hand, which he nameth, De rebus memorabilibus Angliae, which I trust we shall see in print shortly, and, for the accomplishment of that hook, he had read and perused over many old Monuments of England; and, in seeking for that purpose, he marked this of shooting in an exceeding old chronicle, the which had no name, that what time as the Saxons came first into this realm, in King Vortiger's days, when they had been here a while, and at last began to fall out with the Britons, they troubled and subdued the Britons with, nothing so much as with their bow and shafts, which weapon being strange and not seen here before, was wonderful terrible unto them; and this beginning I can think very well to be true. But now as concerning many examples for the praise of English archers in war, surely I will not be long in a matter that no man doubteth in ; and those few that I will name, shall either be proved by the history of our enemies, or else done by men that now live.

King Edward III, at the battle of Cressy, against Philip the French King, as Gaguinus the French historiographer, plainly doth tell, slew that day all the nobility of France only with his archers.

Such like battle also fought the noble Black Prince Edward, beside Poictiers, where John the French King, with his son, and in a manner all the peers of France were taken, beside 30,000 which that day were slain, and very few English men, by reason of their bows.

King Henry V, a prince peerless, and most victorious conqueror of all that ever died yet in this part of the world, at the battle of Dagincourt, with seven thousand fighting men, and yet many of them sick, being such archers, as the chronicle saith, that most part of them drew a yard, slew all the chivalry of France, to the number of forty thousand and moo, and lost not past twenty-six Englishmen.

The bloody civil war of England betwixt the house of York and Lancaster, where shafts flew of both sides to the destruction of many a yeoman of England, whom foreign battle could never have subdued, both I will pass over for the pitifulness of it, and yet may we highly praise God in the remembrance of it, seeing he, of his providence, hath so knit together those two noble houses, with so noble and pleasant a flower.

The excellent prince Thomas Howard duke of North-folk (for whose good prosperity with all his noble family all English hearts daily doth pray),[18] with bow men of England, slew King Jamie with many a noble Scot, even brant against Flodden Hill; in which battle the stout archers of Cheshire and Lancashire, for one day bestowed to the death for their prince and country sake, hath gotten immortal name and praise for ever.

The fear only of English archers hath done more wonderful things than ever I read in any history, Greek or Latin, and most wonderful of all now of late, beside Carlisle, betwixt Esk and Leven, at Sandysikes, where the whole nobility of Scotland, for fear of the archers of England, (next the stroke of God,) as both English and Scottish men that were present that told me, were drowned and taken prisoners.

Nor that noble act also, which although it be almost lost by time, cometh not behind in worthiness, which my singular good friend and master Sir William Walgrave, and Sir George Somerset did, with a few archers, to the number, as it is said, of sixteen, at the turnpike beside Hammes, where they turned with so few archers so many Frenchmen to flight, and turned so many out of their jacks;[19] which turn turned all France to shame and reproach, and those two noble knights to perpetual praise and fame.

And thus you see, Philologe, in all countries, Asia, Afrike, and Europe, in Inde, Ethiop, Egypt, and Jewry, Parthia, Persia, Greece and Italy, Scythia, Turkey, and England, from the beginning of the world even to this day, that shooting hath had the chief stroke in war.

Phi. These examples surely, apt for the praise of shooting, not feigned by poets, but proved by true histories, distinct by time and order, hath delighted me exceeding much ; but yet methink that all this praise belongeth to strong shooting and drawing of mighty bows, not to pricking and near shooting, for which cause you and many other both love and use shooting.

Tox. Evermore, Philologe, you will have some over-thwart reason to draw forth more communication withal; but, nevertheless, you shall perceive if you will, that use of pricking, and desire of near shooting at home, are the only causes of strong shooting in war, and why ? For you see that the strongest men do not draw always the strongest shot, which thing proveth that drawing strong lieth not so much in the strength of man, as in the use of shooting. And experience teacheth the same in other things, for you shall see a weak smith, which will, with a lipe[20] and turning of his arm take up a bar of iron, that another man, thrice as strong, cannot stir. And a strong man, not used to shoot, hath his arms, breast, and shoulders, and other parts wherewith he should draw strongly, one hindering and stopping another, even as a dozen strong horses not used to the cart, lets and troubles one another. And so the more strong man, not used to shoot, shoots most unhandsomely ; but yet if a strong man with use of shooting could apply all the parts of his body together, to their most strength, then should he both draw stronger than other, and also shoot better than other. But now a strong man, not used to shoot, at a gird can heave up and pluck in sunder many a good bow, as wild horses at a brunt doth race and pluck in pieces many a strong cart. And thus strong men, without use, can do nothing in shooting to any purpose, neither in war nor peace ; but if they happen to shoot, yet they have done within a shot or two, when a weak man that is used to shoot, shall serve for all times and purposes, and shall shoot ten shafts against the other's four, and draw them up to the point every time, and shoot them to the most advantage, drawing and withdrawing his shaft when he list, marking at one man, yet let driving at another man; which things, in a set battle, although a man shall not always use, yet in bickerings, and at overthwart meetings, when few archers be together, they do most good of all.

Again, he that is not used to shoot, shall evermore with untowardness of holding his bow, and knocking his shaft, not looking to his string betime, put his bow always in jeopardy of breaking, and then he were better to be at home : moreover he shall shoot very few shafts, and those full unhandsomely, some not half drawn, some too high, and some too low ; nor he cannot drive a shot at a time, nor stop a shot at a need, but out must it, and very oft to evil proof. Phi. And that is best, I trow, in war, to let it go, and not to stop it.

Tox. No, not so, but some time to hold a shaft at the head; which, if they be but few archers, doth more good with the fear of it, than it should do if it were shot with the stroke of it.

Phi. That is a wonder to me, that the fear of a displeasure should do more harm than the displeasure itself.

Tox. Yes, ye know that a man which feareth to be banished out of his country, can neither be merry, eat, drink, nor sleep for fear; yet when he is banished indeed, he sleepeth and eateth as well as any other. And many men, doubting and fearing whether they should die or no, even for very fear of death, preventeth themselves with a more bitter death than the other death should have been indeed. And thus fear is ever worse than the thing feared, as is prettily proved by the communication of Cyrus and Tigranes, the King's son of Armenie, in Xenophon.

Phi. I grant, Toxophile, that use of shooting maketh a man draw strong, to shoot at most advantage, to keep his gear, which is no small thing in war; but yet methink that the customable shooting at home, specially at butts and pricks, make nothing at all for strong shooting, which doth most good in war. Therefore, I suppose, if men should use to go into the fields, and learn to shoot mighty strong shots, and never care for any mark at all, they should do much better.

Tox. The truth is, that fashion much used would do much good, but this is to be feared, lest that way could not provoke men to use much shooting, because there should be little pleasure in it. And that in shooting is best, that provoketh a man to use shooting most; for much use maketh men shoot both strong and well, which two-things in shooting every man doth desire. And the chief maintainer of use in any thing is comparison and honest contention. For when a man striveth to be better than another, he will gladly use that thing, though it be never so painful, wherein he would excel; which thing Aristotle very prettily doth note, saying, " Where is comparison, there is victory; where is victory, there is pleasure; and where is pleasure, no man careth what labour or pain he taketh, because of the praise and pleasure that he shall have in doing better than other men."

Again, you know, Hesiodus writeth to his brother Perses, " that all craftsmen, by contending one honestly with another, do increase their cunning with their substance." And therefore in London, and other great cities, men of one craft, most commonly, dwell together, because in honest striving together who shall do best, every one may wax both cunninger and richer. So likewise in shooting, to make matches, to assemble archers together, to contend who shall shoot best, and win the game, increaseth the use of shooting wonderfully amongst men.

Phi. Of use you speak very much, Toxophile; but I am sure in all other matters use can do nothing without two other things be joined with it; one is a natural aptness to a thing, the other is a true way or knowledge how to do the thing; to which two if use be joined as third fellow of them three, proceedeth perfect-ness and excellency : if a man lack the first two, aptness and cunning, use can do little good at all.

For he that would be an orator, and is nothing naturally fit for it, that is to say, lacketh a good wit and memory, lacketh a good voice, countenance, and body, and other such like; yea, if he had all these things, and knew not what, how, where, when, nor to whom he should speak; surely the use of speaking would bring out none other fruit but plain folly and babbling; so that use is the last and the least necessary of all three, yet nothing can be done excellently without them all three; and therefore, Toxophile, I myself, because I never knew whether I was apt for shooting or no, nor never knew way how I should learn to shoot, I have not used to shoot; and so, I think, five hundred more in England do beside me. And surely, if I knew that I were apt, and that you would teach me how to shoot, I would become an archer; and the rather because of the good communication, the which I have had with you this day of shooting.

Tox. Aptness, knowledge, and use, even as you say, make all things perfect. Aptness is the first and chiefest thing, without which the other two do no good at all. Knowledge doth increase all manner of aptness both less and more. " Use," saith Cicero, " is far above all teaching." And thus they all three must be had, to do any thing very well; and if any one be away, whatsoever is done, is done very meanly. Aptness is the gift of nature, knowledge is gotten by the help of other ; use lieth in our own diligence and labour; so that aptness and use be ours and within us, through nature and labour; knowledge not ours, but coming by other; and therefore most diligently of all men to be sought for. How these three things stand with the artillery of England, a word or two I will say.

All Englishmen, generally, be apt for shooting; and how I Like as that ground is plentiful and fruitful, which, without any tilling, bringeth out corn : as, for example, if a man should go to the mill or market with corn, and happen to spill some in the way, yet it would take root and grow, because the soil is so good ; so England may be thought very fruitful, and apt to bring out shooters, where children, even from the cradle, love it, and young men, without any teaching, so diligently use it. Again, likewise as a good ground, well tilled and well husbanded, bringeth out great plenty of big-eared corn, and good to the fall: so if the youth of England, being apt of itself to shoot, were taught and learned how to shoot, the archers of England should not be only a great deal ranker, and mo than they be ; but also a good deal bigger and stronger archers than they be. This commodity should follow also, if the youth of England were taught to shoot, that even as ploughing of a good ground for wheat, doth not only make it meet for the seed, but also riveth and plucketh up by the roots all thistles, brambles, and weeds, which grow of their own accord, to the destruction of both com and ground: even so should the teaching of youth to shoot, not only make them shoot well, but also pluck away by the roots all other desire to naughty pastimes, as dicing, carding, and bowling, which, without any teaching, are used every where, to the great harm of all youth of this realm. And likewise as burning of thistles, and diligent weeding them out of the corn, doth not half so much rid them, as when the ground is followed and tilled for good grain, as I have heard many a good husbandman say : even so, neither hot punishment, nor yet diligent searching out of such unthriftiness by the officers, shall so thoroughly weed these ungracious games out of the realm, as occupying and bringing up youth in shooting, and other honest pastime. Thirdly, as a ground which is apt for corn, and also well tilled for corn; yet if a man let it lie still, and do not occupy it three or four year; but then will sow it, if it be wheat, saith Columella, it will turn into rye : so if a man be never so apt to shoot, nor never so well taught in his youth to shoot, yet if he give it over, and not use to shoot, truly when he shall be either compelled in war time for his country sake, or else provoked at home for his pleasure sake, to fall to his bow, he shall become, of a fair archer, a stark squirter and dribber. Therefore, in shooting, as in all other things, there can neither be many in number, nor excellent in deed, except these three things, aptness, knowledge, and use, go together.

Phi. Very well said, Toxophile ; and I promise you, I agree to this judgment of yours together ; and therefore I cannot a little marvel, why Englishmen bring no more help to shooting than nature itself giveth them. For you see that even children be put to their own shifts in shooting, having nothing taught them ; but that they may choose, and chance to shoot ill rather than well unaptly sooner than fitly, untowardly more easily than well-favouredly; which thing causeth many never to begin to shoot, and moo to leave it off when they have begun ; and most of all to shoot both worse and weaker than they might shoot, if they were taught.

But peradventure some men will say, that with use of shooting a man shall learn to shoot : true it is, he shall learn, but what shall he learn ? Marry to shoot naughtily. For all use, in all things, if it be not stayed by cunning, will very easily bring a man to do the thing, whatsoever he goeth about, with much ill-favouredness and deformity. Which thing how much harm it doth in learning, both Crassus excellently doth prove in Tully, and I myself have experience in my little shooting. And therefore, Toxophile, you must needs grant me, that either Englishmen do ill in not joining knowledge of shooting to use, or else there is no knowledge or cunning which can be gathered of shooting.