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Home > Books > Toxophilus > The Second Book of The School of Shooting.
The Second Book of The School of Shooting.
Part 1 of 8

Phi. What is the chief point in shooting, that every man laboureth to come to ?

Tox. To hit the mark.

Phi. How many things are required to make a man evermore hit the mark ?

Tox. Two.

Phi. Which two?

Tox. Shooting straight, and keeping of a length.

Phi. How should a man shoot straight, and how should a man keep a length?

Tox. In knowing and having things belonging to shooting; and when they be known and had, in well handling of them; whereof some belong to shooting straight, some to keeping of a length, some commonly to them both, as shall be told severally of them in place convenient.

Phi. Things belonging to shooting, which be they ?

Tox. All things be outward[1] ; and some be instruments for every sere archer to bring with him, proper for his own use : other things be general to every man, as the place and time serveth.

Phi. Which be instruments ?

Tox. Bracer, shooting glove, string, bow, and shaft.

Phi. Which be general to all men ?

Tox. The weather and the mark ; yet the mark is ever under the rule of the weather.

Phi. Wherein standeth well handling of things ?

Tox. Altogether within a man himself: some handling is proper to instruments, some to the weather, some to the mark, some is within a man himself.

Phi. What handling is proper to the instruments ?

Tox. Standing, knocking, drawing, holding, loosing, whereby cometh fair shooting, which neither belong to wind nor weather, nor yet to the mark; for in a rain and at no mark, a man may shoot a fair shoot.

Phi. Well said: what handling belongeth to the weather ?

Tox. Knowing of his wind, with him, against him, side wind, full side wind, side wind quarter with him, side wind quarter against him, and so forth.

Phi. Well then, go to ; what handling belongeth to the mark ?

Tox. To mark his standing, to shoot compass, to draw evermore like, to loose evermore like, to consider the nature of the prick, in hills and dales, in straight plains and winding places, and also to espy his mark.

Phi. Very well done. And what is only within a man himself?

Tox. Good heed-giving, and avoiding all affections : which things oftentimes do mar and make all. And these things spoken of me generally and briefly, if they be well known, had, and handled, shall bring a man to such shooting, as few or none ever yet came unto ; but surely if he miss in any one of them, he can never hit the mark; and in the more he doth miss, the farther he shooteth from his mark. But, as in all other matters, the first step or stair to be good, is to know a man's fault, and then to amend it; and he that will not know his fault, shall never amend it. Phi. You speak now, Toxophile, even as I would have you to speak ; but let us return again unto our matter, and those things which you have packed up in so short a room, we will loose them forth, and take every piece, as it were, in our hand, and look more narrowly upon it.

Tox. I am content; but we will rid them as fast as we can, because the sun goeth so fast down, and yet somewhat must needs be said of every one of them.

Phi. Well said ; and I trow we began with those things which be instruments, whereof the first, as I suppose, was the bracer.

Tox. Little is to be said of the bracer. A bracer[2] serveth for two causes, one to save his arm from the stripe of the string, and his doublet from wearing; and the other is, that the string gliding sharply and quickly off the bracer, may make the sharper shot. For if the string should light upon the bare sleeve, the strength of the shoot should stop and die there. But it is best, by my judgement, to give the bow so much bent, that the string need never touch a man's arm, and so should a man need no bracer, as I know many good archers which occupy none. In a bracer a man must take heed of three things ; that it have no nails in it, that it have no buckles, that it be fast on with laces without agglets. For the nails will sheer in sunder a man's string before he be ware, and so put his bow in jeopardy : buckles and agglets at unwares shall raze his bow, a thing both evil for the sight, and perilous for fretting. And thus a bracer is only had for this purpose, that the string may have ready passage.

Phi. In my bracer I am cunning enough ; but what say you of the shooting glove ?

Tox. A shooting glove is chiefly for to save a man's fingers from hurting, that he may be able to bear the sharp string to the uttermost of his strength. And when a man shooteth, the might of his shoot lieth on the foremost finger, and on the ringman ; for the middle finger which is the longest, like a lubber, starteth back, and beareth no weight of the string in a manner at all; therefore the two other fingers must have thicker leather, and that must have thickest of all whereon a man looseth most, and for sure loosing, the foremost finger is most apt, because it holdeth best; and for that purpose, nature hath, as a man would say, yoked it with the thumb. Leather, if it be next a man's skin, will sweat, wax hard, and chafe; therefore scarlet, for the softness of it and thickness withal, is good to sew within a man's glove. If that will not serve, but yet your finger hurteth, you must take a searing cloth, made of fine virgin wax and deers' suet, and put next your finger, and so on with your glove. If yet you feel your finger pinched, leave shooting, both because then you shall shoot naught; and again by little and little, hurting your finger, ye shall make it long and long too or you shoot again. A new glove plucks many shoots, because the string goeth not freely off; and therefore the fingers must be cut short and trimmed with some ointment, that the string may glide well away. Some with holding in the nock of their shaft too hard, rub the skin off their fingers. For this there be two remedies, one to have a goose quill splitted and sewed against the nocking, betwixt the lining and the leather, which shall help the shoot much too; the other way is to have some roll of leather sewed betwixt his fingers, at the setting on of the fingers, which shall keep his fingers so in sunder that they shall not hold the nock so fast as they did. The shooting glove hath a purse, which shall serve to put fine linen cloth and wax in, two necessary things for a shooter. Some men use gloves or other such like thing on their bow-hand for chafing, because they hold so hard. But that cometh commonly when a bow is not round, but somewhat square; fine wax shall do very well in such a case to lay where a man holdeth his bow; and thus much as concerning your glove.

And these things, although they be trifles, yet because you be but a young shooter, I would not leave them out.

Phi. And so you shall do me most pleasure. The string I trow be the next.

Tox. The next indeed; a thing, though it be little, yet not a little to be regarded. But herein you must be content to put your trust in honest stringers. And surely stringers ought more diligently to be looked upon by the officers, than either bowyer or fletcher, because they may deceive a simple man the more easilier. An ill string breaketh many a good bow, nor no other thing half so many. In war, if a string break, the man is lost, and is no man, for his weapon is gone; and although he have two strings put on at once, yet he shall have small leisure and less room to bend his bow; therefore God send us good stringers both for war and peace. Now what a string ought to be made on, whether of good hemp, as they do now-a-days, or of flax, or of silk, I leave that to the judgement of stringers, of whom we must buy them. Eustathius, upon this verse of Homer,

Twang quoth the bow, and twang quoth the string, out quickly the shaft flew,[3]

doth tell, that in old time, they made their bow-strings of bullocks' thermes,[4] which they twined together as they do ropes ; and therefore they made a great twang. Bow-strings also hath been made of the hair of an horse tail, called, for the matter of them, Hippias, as doth appear in many good authors of the Greek tongue. Great strings and little strings be for divers purposes : the great string is more surer for the bow, more stable to prick withall, but slower for the cast. The little string is clean contrary, not so sure, therefore to be taken heed of, lest with long tarrying on it break your bow, more fit to shoot far, than apt to prick near; therefore, when you know the nature of both big and little, you must fit your bow according to the occasion of your shooting. In stringing of your bow (though this place belong rather to the handling than to the thing itself, yet because the thing, and the handling of the thing, be so joined together, I must need sometimes couple the one with the other) you must mark the fit length of your bow. For, if the string be too short, the bending will give, and at the last slip, and so put the bow in jeopardy. If it be long, the bending must needs be in the small of the string, which being sore twined, must needs snap in sunder, to the destruction of many good bows. Moreover, you must look that your bow be well nocked, for fear the sharpness of the horn sheer asunder the string. And that chanceth oft when in bending, the string hath but one wap to strengthen it withal. You must mark also to set your string straight on, or else the one end shall writhe contrary to the other, and so break your bow. When the string beginneth never so little to wear, trust it not, but away with it; for it is an ill saved halfpenny, that costs a man a crown. Thus you see how many jeopardies hangeth over the silly poor bow, by reason only of the string. As when the string is short, when it is long, when either of the nocks be naught, when it hath but one wap, and when it tarrieth over long on.

Phi. I see well it is no marvel, though so many bows be broken.

Tox. Bows be broken twice as many ways beside these. But again, in stringing your bow, you must look for much bend or little bend, for they be clean contrary. The little bend hath but one commodity, which is in shooting faster, and farther shoot, and the cause thereof is, because the string hath so far a passage or it part with the shaft. The great bend hath many commodities; for it maketh easier shooting, the bow being half drawn before. It needeth no bracer, for the string stoppeth before it come at the arm. It will not so soon hit a man's sleeve or other gear, by the same reason. It hurteth not the shaft feather, as the low bend doth. It suffereth a man better to espy his mark. Therefore let your bow have good big bend, a shaftment and two fingers at the least, for these which I have spoken of.

Phi. The bracer, glove, and string, be done; now you must come to the bow, the chief instrument of all.

Tox. Divers countries and times have used always divers bows, and of divers fashions. Horn bows are used in some places now, and were used also in Homer's days; for Pandarus bow, the best shooter among all the Trojans, was made of two goat horns joined together; the length whereof, saith Homer, was sixteen hand-breadths, not far differing from the length of our bows. Scripture maketh mention of brass bows. Iron bows, and steel bows, have been of long time, and also now are used among the Turks ; but yet they must needs be unprofitable. For if brass, iron, or steel, have their own strength and pith in them, they be far above man's strength: if they be made meet for man's strength, their pith is nothing worth to shoot any shoot withal. The Ethiopians had bows of palm-tree, which seemed to be very strong ; but we have none experience of them. The length of them was four cubits. The men of Inde had their bows made of a reed, which was of a great strength. And no marvel though bow and shafts were made thereof; for the reeds be so great in Inde, as Herodotus saith, that of every joint of a reed a man may make a fisher's boat. These bows, saith Arrianus in Alexander's life, gave so great a stroke, that no harness or buckler, though it were never so strong, could withstand it. The length of such a bow was even with the length of him that used it. The Lycians used bows made of a tree, called in Latin Cornus (as concerning the name of it in English, I can sooner prove that other men call it false, than I can tell the right name of it myself,) this wood is as hard as horn, and very fit for shafts, as shall be told after. Ovid showeth that Syringa the nymph, and one of the maidens of Diana, had a bow of this wood whereby the poet meaneth, that it was very excellent to make bows of.

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