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The Second Book of The School of Shooting.
Part 7 of 8

Whether the old way in drawing low to the pap, or the new way to draw aloft to the ear, be better, an excellent writer in Greek, called Procopius, doth say his mind, showing that the old fashion in drawing to the pap was nought, of no pith, and therefore, saith Procopius, is artillery dispraised in Homer, which calleth it greek, i. e. weak, and able to do no good. Drawing to the ear he praiseth greatly, whereby men shoot both stronger and longer : drawing therefore to the ear is better than to draw at the breast. And one thing cometh into my remembrance now, Philologe, when I speak of drawing, that I never read of other kind of shooting, than drawing with a man's hand either to the breast or ear : this thing have I sought for in Homer, Herodotus, and Plutarch, and therefore I marvel how crossbows came first up, of the which, I am sure, a man shall find little mention made in any good author. Leo the Emperor would have his soldiers draw quickly in war, for that maketh a shaft fly apace. In shooting at the pricks, hasty and quick drawing is neither sure nor yet comely. Therefore to draw easily and uniformly, that is for to say, not wagging your hand, now upward, now downward, but always after one fashion, until you come to the rig or shouldering of the head, is best both for profit and seemliness. Holding must not be long, for it both putteth a bow in jeopardy, and also marreth a man's shoot; it must be so little, that it may be perceived better in a man's mind when it is done, than seen with a man's eyes when it is in doing. Loosing must be much like. So quick and hard, that it be without all girds ; so soft and gentle, that the shaft fly not as it were sent out of a bow-case. The mean betwixt both, which is perfect loosing, is not so hard to be followed in shooting as it is to be described in teaching. For clean loosing, you must take heed of hitting any thing about you. And for the same purpose, Leo the Emperor would have all archers in war to have both their heads polled, and their beards shaven, lest the hair of their heads should stop the sight of the eye, the hair of their beards hinder the course of the string. And these precepts I am sure, Philologe, if you follow, in standing, nocking, drawing, holding, and loosing, shall bring you at the last to excellent fair shooting.

Phi. All these things, Toxophile, although I both now perceive them thoroughly, and also will remember them diligently; yet to-morrow, or some other day when you have leisure, we will go to the pricks, and put them by little and little in experience. For teaching not followed, doeth even as much good as books never looked upon. But now, seeing you have taught me to shoot fair, I pray you tell me somewhat, how I should shoot near, lest that proverb might be said justly of me some time, " He shoots like a gentleman fair and far off."

Tox. He that can shoot fair, lacketh nothing but shooting straight, and keeping of a length, whereof cometh hitting of the mark, the end both of shooting, and also of this our communication. The handling of the weather and the mark, because they belong to shooting straight and keeping of a length, I will join them together, showing what things belong to keeping of a length, and what to shooting straight.

The greatest enemy of shooting is the wind and the weather, whereby true keeping a length is chiefly hindered. If this thing were not, men, by teaching, might be brought to wonderful near shooting. It is no marvel if the little poor shaft, being sent alone so high into the air, into a great rage of weather, one wind tossing it that way, another this way ; it is no marvel, I say, though it leese [lose] the length, and miss that place where the shooter had thought to have found it. Greater matters than shooting are under the rule and will of the weather, as sailing on the sea. And likewise, as in sailing, the chief point of a good master is to know the tokens of change of weather, the course of the winds, that thereby he may the better come to the haven : even so the best property of a good shooter is to know the nature of the winds, with him and against him, and thereby he may the nearer shoot at his mark. "Wise masters, when they cannot win the best haven, they are glad of the next: good shooters also, that cannot when they would hit the mark, will labour to come as nigh as they can. All things in this world be unperfect and unconstant; therefore let every man acknowledge his own weakness in all matters, great and small, weighty and merry, and glorify Him in whom only perfect perfectness is. But now, Sir, he that will at all adventures use the seas, knowing no more what is to be done in a tempest than in a calm, shall soon become a merchant of eel-skins : so that shooter which putteth no difference, but shooteth in all alike, in rough weather and fair, shall always put his winnings in his eyes, Little boats and thin boards cannot endure the rage of a tempest. Weak bows and light shafts cannot stand in a rough wind. And likewise as a blind man, which should go to a place where he had never been before, that hath but one straight way to it, and of either side holes and pits to fall into, now falleth into this hole, and then into that hole, and never cometh to his journey's end, but wandereth always here and there, farther and farther off; so that archer which ignorantly shooteth, considering neither fair nor foul, standing nor nocking, feather nor head, drawing nor loosing, nor any compass, shall always shoot short and gone, wide and far off, and never come near, except perchance he stumble sometime on the mark. For ignorance is nothing else but mere blindness.

A master of a ship first learneth to know the coming of a tempest, the nature of it, and how to behave himself in it, either with changing his course, or pulling down his high tops and broad sails, being glad to eschew as much of the weather as he can ; even so a good archer will first, with diligent use and marking the weather learn to know the nature of the wind ; and, with wisdom, will measure in his mind, how much it will alter his shot, either in length, keeping, or else in straight shooting ; and so, with changing his standing, or taking another shaft, the which he knoweth perfectly to be better for his purpose, either because it is lower feathered, or else because it is of a better wing, will so handle with discretion his shot, that he shall seem rather to have the weather under his rule, by good heed-giving, than the weather to rule his shaft by any sudden changing.

Therefore, in shooting, there is as much difference betwixt an archer that is a good weather man, and another that knoweth and marketh nothing, as is betwixt a blind man and he that can see.

Thus, as concerning the weather, a perfect archer must first learn to know the sure flight of his shafts, that he may be bold always to trust them; then must he learn by daily experience all manner of kinds of weather, the tokens of it, when it will come, the nature of it when it is come; the diversity and altering of it when it changeth, the decrease and diminishing of it when it ceaseth. Thirdly, these things known and every shot diligently marked, then must a man compare always the weather and his footing together, and with discretion, measure them so that whatsoever the weather shall take away from his shoot, the same shall just footing restore again to his shoot. This thing well known, and discreetly handled in shooting, bringeth more profit and commendation and praise to an archer, than any other thing besides. He that would know perfectly the wind and weather, must put differences betwixt times. For diversity of time causeth diversity of weather, as in the whole year ; spring time, summer, fall of the leaf, and winter : likewise in one day, morning, noontide, afternoon, and eventide, both alter the weather, and change a man's bow with the strength of man also. And to know that this is so, is enough for a shooter and artillery, and not to search the cause why it should be so : which belongeth to a learned man and philosophy. In considering the time of the year, a wise archer will follow a good shipman; in winter and rough weather, small boats and little pinks forsake the seas : and at one time of the year no galleys come abroad: so likewise weak archers using small and hollow shafts, with bows of little pith must be content to give place for a time. And this I do not say, either to discourage any weak shooter; for likewise, as there is no ship better than galleys be in a soft and a calm sea, so no man shooteth comelier, or nearer his mark, than some weak archers do in a fair and clear day.

Thus every archer must know, not only what bow and shaft is fittest for him to shoot withal, but also what time and season is best for him to shoot in. And surely, in all other matters too, among all degrees of men, there is no man which doth any thing either more discreetly for his commendation, or yet more profitable for his advantage than he which will know perfectly for what matter, and for what time he is most apt and fit. If men would go about matters which they should do, and be fit for, not such things which wilfully they desire, and yet be unfit for, verily greater matters in the commonwealth than shooting should be in better case than they be. This ignorancy in men which know not for what time, and to what thing they be fit, causeth some wish to be rich, for whom it were better a great deal to be poor o other to be meddling in every man's matter, for whom it were more honesty to be quiet and still. Some to desire to be in the court, which be born and be fitter rather for the cart. Some to be masters and rule other, which never yet began to rule themselves; some always to jangle and talk, which rather should hear and keep silence. Some to teach which rather should learn. Some to be priests which were fitter to be clerks. And this perverse judgment of the world, when men measure themselves amiss, bringeth much disorder and great unseemliness to the whole body of the commonwealth; as if a man should wear his hose upon his head, or a woman go with a sword and a buckler, every man would take it as a great uncomeliness, although it be but a trifle in respect of the other.

This perverse judgment of men hindereth nothing so much as learning, because commonly those which be unfittest for learning, be chiefly set to learning. As if a man now-a-days have two sons, the one impotent, weak, sickly, lisping, stuttering, and stammering, or having any mis-shape in his body; what doth the father of such one commonly say ? This boy is fit for nothing else but to set to learning and make a priest of; as who would say the outcasts of the world, having neither countenance, tongue, nor wit, (for of a perverse body cometh commonly a perverse mind,) be good enough to make those men of, which shall be appointed to preach God's holy word, and minister his blessed sacraments, besides other most weighty matters in the commonwealth, put oftimes, and worthily, to learned men's discretion and charge ; when rather such an office, so high in dignity, so godly in administration, should be committed to no man, which should not have a countenance full of comeliness to allure good men, a body full of manly authority to fear [17] ill men, a wit apt for all learning, with tongue and voice able to persuade all men. And although few such men as these can be found in a commonwealth, yet surely a godly disposed man will both in his mind think fit, and with all his study labour to get such men as I speak of, or rather better, if better can be gotten, for such an high administration, which is most properly appointed to God's own matters and businesses.

This perverse judgment of fathers, as concerning the fitness and unfitness of their children, causeth the commonwealth have many unfit ministers ; and seeing that ministers be, as a man would say, instruments wherewith the commonwealth doth work all her matters withal, I marvel how it chanceth that a poor shoemaker hath so much wit, that he will prepare no instrument for his science, neither knife nor awl, nor nothing else, which is not very fit for him : the commonwealth can be content to take at a fond father's hand the rif raff of the world to make those instruments of, wherewithal she should work the highest matters under heaven. And surely an awl of lead is not so unprofitable in a shoemaker's shop, as an unfit minister, made of gross metal, is unseemly in the commonwealth. Fathers in old time among the noble Persians might not do with their children as they thought good, but as the judgment of the commonwealth always thought best. This fault of fathers bringeth many a blot wit it, to the great deformity of the commonwealth ; and here surely I can praise gentlewomen, which have always at hand their glasses, to see if any thing amiss, and so will amend it; yet the commonwealth having the glass of knowledge in every man's hand, doth see such uncomeliness in it and yet winketh at it. This fault, and many such like, might be soon wiped away, if fathers would bestow their children on that thing always, whereunto nature hath ordained the most apt and fit. For if youth be grafted straight and not awry, the whole commonwealth will flour thereafter. When this is done, then must every begin to be more ready to amend himself than to check another, measuring their matters with that wise proverb of Apollo, "Know thyself :" that is to say, learn know what thou art able, fit and apt unto, and follow that. This thing should be both comely to the commonwealth, and most profitable for every one; as doth appear very well in all wise men's deeds, and specially (tot turn to our communication again) in shooting, where wise archers have always their instruments fit for their strength, and wait evermore such time and weather as is most agreeable to their gear. Therefore, if the weather be too sore, and unfit for your shooting, leave off for that day, and wait a better season. For he is a fool that will not go whom necessity driveth.

Phi. This communication of yours pleased me so well, Toxophile, that surely I was not hasty to call you describe forth the weather, but with all my heart would have suffered you yet to have stood longer in this matter. For these things touched of you by chance, and by the way, be far above the matter itself, by whose occasion the other were brought in.

Tox. Weighty matters they be indeed, and fit both in another place to be spoken, and of another man than I am to be handled. And, because mean men must meddle with mean matters, I will go forward in describing the weather as concerning shooting : and, as I told you before, in the whole year, spring-time, summer, fall of the leaf, and winter; and in one day, morning, noon-time, afternoon, and eventide, altereth the course of the weather, the pith of the bow, the strength of the man. And in every one of these times, the weather altereth; as sometime windy, sometime calm, sometime cloudy, sometime clear, sometime hot, sometime cold, the wind sometime moisty and thick, sometime dry and smooth. A little wind in a moisty day stoppeth a shaft more than a good whisking wind in a clear day. Yea, and I have seen when there hath been no wind at all, the air so misty and thick, that both the marks have been wonderful great. And once, when the plague was in Cambridge, the down wind[18] twelve score mark for the space of three weeks was thirteen score and an half, and into the wind, being not very great, a great deal above fourteen score.