Page images

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, you 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 hard, rub the skin off their fingers. For this there be two remedies, one to have a goose quill * spinetted and sewed against the nocking, betwixt the lining and the leather, which shall help the shot 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 fetcher, 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 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 what a string ought to be made on, whether of good hemp,

is gone;

peace. Now

* Spinetted is perhaps slit and opened.

as they do now-a-days, or of fax, or of silk, I leave that to the judgement of the stringers, of whom we must buy them. Eustathius, upon this verse of Homer,

* Twang the bow, and twang the string, out quickly the shaft flew, doth tell, that in old time, they made their bow-strings of bullocks' † thermes, 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 withal, 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 needs 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 way 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 way, and when it tarrieth over long on.

* Perhaps this line should stand thus : Twang the bow, and twang went the string, out quickly the shaft flew.'

Thermes, or tharms, are guts.

[ocr errors]


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 shot, 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

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 shaftnient 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's 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 shot 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 India 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 India, as Herodotus saith, that of every joint of a reed a inan 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 Syrinx 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.

As for Brazil, elm, wych, and ash, experience doth prove them to be but mean for bows; and so to conclude, yew, of all other things, is that whereof perfect shooting would have a bow made. This wood, as it is now general and common amongst Englishmen, so hath it continued from long time, and had in most price for bows, amongst the Romans, as doth appear in this half verse of Virgil :

Tuxi torquentur in arcus.
Yew fit for a bow to be made on.

Now, as I say, a bow of yew must be made for perfect shooting at the pricks; which mark, because it is certain, and most certain rules may be given of it, shall serve for our communication at this time. A good bow is known, much what as good counsel is known, by the end and profit of it; yet both a bow and good counsel may be made both better and worse, by well or ill handling of them, as oftentimes chanceth. And as a man both must and will take counsel of a wise and honest man, though he see not the end of it; so must a shooter, of necessity, trust an honest and good bowyer for a bow, afore he know the proof of it. And as a wise man will take plenty of counsel aforehand, whatsoever need, so a shooter should have always three or four bows in store, whatsoever chance.

Phi. But if I trust bowyers always, sometimes I am like to be deceived.

Tox. Therefore shall I tell you some tokens in a bow, that you

shall be the seldomer deceived. If you come into a shop, and find a bow that is small, long, heavy, and strong, lying straight, not winding, not marred with knot gall, wind shake, wem, fret or pinch, buy that bow of my warrant. The best colour of a bow that I find, is when the back and the belly in working be much what after one manner, for such oftentimes in wearing do prove like virgin wax gold, having a fine long grain, even from the one end of the bow to the other; the short grain, although such prove well


sometimes, are for the most part very brittle. Of the making of the bow, I will not greatly meddle, lest I should seem to enter into another man's occupation, which I cannot skill of. Yet I would desire all bowyers to season their staves well, to work them and sink them well, to give them heats convenient, and * tillerings plenty. For thereby they should both get themselves a good name, (and a good name increaseth a man's profit much,) and also do great commodity to the whole realm. If any man do offend in this point, I am afraid they be those journeymen, which labour more, speedily to make many bows for their

money's sake, than they work diligently to make good bows for the commonwealth's sake, not laying before their eyes this wise proverb, “ Soon enough, if well enough ;" wherewith every honest handycraftsman should measure, as it were with a rule, his work withal. He that is a journeyman, and rideth upon

another man's horse, if he ride an honest pace, no man will disallow him; but if he make post haste, both he that owneth the horse, and he peradventure also that afterward shall buy the horse, may chance to curse him. Such hastiness, I am afraid, may also be found amongst some of them which, throughout the realm, in divers places, work the King's artillery for war; thinking, if they get a bow or a sheaf of arrows to some fashion, they be good enough for bearing gear. And thus that weapon, which is the chief defence of the

oft doth little service to him that should use it, because it is so negligently wrought of him that should make it; when truly I suppose that neither the bow can be too good and chief wood, nor yet too well seasoned or truly made, with heatings and tillerings, neither that shaft too good wood, or too thoroughly wrought, with the best pinion feathers that can be gotten; wherewith a man shall serve his Prince, defend his country, and save himself from his enemy. And I trust no man will be angry with me for speaking thus, but those which find themselves touched therein : which ought rather to be angry with themselves for doing, than to be miscontent with me for saying so. And in no case they ought to be displeased with me, seeing this is spoken also after that sort, not for the noting of any person severally, but for the amending of every one generally.

But turn we again to know a good shooting bow for our purpose. Every bow is made either of a bough, of a plant,

realm, very

* Tillering is a word of art which I do not understand.

« PreviousContinue »