Page images

consider it well, they shall find it both less charge and more pleasure, to bestow at any time a couple of shillings of a new how, than to bestow ten pence of piecing an old bow. For better is cost upon somewhat worth, than expense upon nothing worth. And this I speak also, because you would have me refer all to perfectness in shooting.

Moreover there is another thing, which will soon cause a bow to be broken by one of the three ways which be first spoken of; and that is shooting in * winter, when there is any frost. Frost is wheresoever is any waterish humour, as is in woods, either more or less; and you know that all things frozen and icy will rather break than bend. Yet, if a man must needs shoot at any such time, let him take his bow and bring it to the fire; and there, by little and little, rub and chafe it with a waxed cloth, which shall bring it to that point, that he may shoot safely enough in it. This rubbing with wax, as I said before, is a great succour against all wet and moistness. In the fields also, in going betwixt the pricks, either with your hand, or else with a cloth, you must keep your bow in such a temper.

And thus much as concerning your bow, how first to know what wood is best for a bow, then to choose a bow, after to trim a bow, again to keep it in goodness ; last of all, how to save it from all harm and evilness. And although many men can say more of a bow, yet I trust these things be true, and almost sufficient for the knowledge of a perfect bow.

Phi. Surely I believe so, and yet I could have heard you talk longer on it; although I cannot see what may be said more of it. Therefore, except you will pause a while, you may go forward to a shaft.

Tox. What shafts were made of in old time, authors do not so manifestly show, as of bows. Herodotus doth tell, that in the flood of Nilus there was a beast, called a Water Horse, of whose skin, after it was dried, the Egyptians made shafts and darts. The tree called Cornus was so common to make shafts of, that, in good authors of the Latin tongue, Cornus is taken for a shaft, as in Seneca, and that place of Virgil,

Volat Itala cornus.

* Boyle somewhere mentions a Pole, who related that the cold of his country's winters broke his bow.

Yet, of all things that ever I marked of old authors, either Greek or Latin, for shafts to be made of, there is nothing so common as reeds. Herodotus, in describing the mighty host of Xerxes, doth tell, that three great countries used shafts made of a reed; the Ethiopians, the Lycians (whose shafts lacked feathers, whereat I 'marvel most of all), and the men of India. The shafts of India were very long, a yard and a half, as Arrian doth say; or at the least a yard, as Q. Curtius doth say, and therefore they gave the greater stripe; but yet, because they were so long, they were the more unhandsome, and less profitable to men of India, as Curtius doth tell.

In Crete and Italy they used to have their shafts of reed also. The best reed for shafts grew in India, and in Rhenus, a flood of Italy. But, because such shafts be neither easy for Englishmen to get, and, if they were gotten, scarce profitable for them to use, I will let them pass, and speak of those shafts which Englishmen, at this day, most commonly do approve

and allow. A shaft hath three principal parts, the stele, the feathers, and the head; whereof every one must be severally spoken of. Steles be made of divers woods : as, Brazil,

Turkey wood, Alder,

Hardbeam, Elder,


Sallow. Oak, These woods, as they be most commonly used, so they be most fit to be used : yet some one fitter than another for divers men's shooting, as shall be told afterward. And in this point, as in a bow, you must trust an honest fletcher. Nevertheless, although I cannot teach you to make a bow or a shaft, which belongeth to a bowyer and a fletcher to come to their living, yet will I show you some tokens to know a bow and a shaft, which pertaineth to an archer to come to good shooting: A stele must be well * seasoned for casting, and it must be

Seasoned for casting, that is, well seasoned to hinder it from warping.



made as the grain lieth, and as it groweth, or else it will never fly clean, as cloth cut overthwart, and against the wool, can never hose a man clean. A knotty stele may be suffered in a big shaft, but for a little shaft it is nothing fit, both because it will never fly far; and, besides that it is ever in danger of breaking, it flyeth not far because the strength of the shot is hindered and stopped at the knot, even as a stone cast into a plain even still water, will make the water move a great space; yet, if there be any whirling plat in the water, the moving ceaseth when it cometh at the whirling plat, which is not much unlike a knot in a shaft, if it be considered well. So every thing as it is plain and straight of his own nature, so it is fittest for far moving. Therefore a stele which is hard to stand in a bow without knot, and straight, (I mean not artificially straight as the fletcher doth make it, but naturally straight as it groweth in the wood,) is best to make a shaft of, either to go clean, fly far, or stand surely in any weather.

Now how big, how small, how heavy, how light, how long, how short, a shaft should be particularly for every man, seeing we must talk of the general nature of shooting, cannot be told; no more than you rhetoricians can appoint any one kind of words, of sentences, of figures, fit for every matter; but even as the man and the matter requireth, so the fittest to be used. Therefore, as concerning those contraries in a shaft, every man must avoid them, and draw to the mean of them, which mean is best in all things. Yet if a man happen to offend in any of the extremes, it is better to offend in want and scantiness, than in too much and outragious exceeding. As it is better to have a shaft a little too short than over long, somewhat too light than over lumpish, a little too small than a great deal too big; which thing is not only truly said in shooting, but in all other things that ever man goeth about; as in eating, talking, and all other things like; which matter was once excellently disputed upon in the schools, you know when.

And to offend in these contraries, cometh much, if men take not heed, through the kind of wood whereof the shaft is made; for some wood belongs to that exceeding part, some to the scant part, some to the mean, as Brazil, Turkey wood, fustic, sugar-chest, and such like, make dead, heavy, lumpish, hobbling shafts. Again, alder, blackthorn, service-tree, beech, elder, asp, and sallow, either for their

weakness or lightness, make hollow, starting, scudding, gadding shafts. But birch, hardbeam, some oak, and some ash, being both strong enough to stand in a bow, and also light enough to fly far, are best for a mean, which is to be sought out in every thing. And although I know that some men shoot so strong, that the dead woods be light enough for them, and some other so weak, that the loose woods be likewise for them big enough, yet generally, for the most part of men, the mean is the best. And so to conclude, that is always best for a man which is meetest for him. Thus no wood of his own nature is either too light or too heavy, but as the shooter is himself which doth use it. For that shaft, which one year for a man is too light and scudding, for the self-same reason the next year may chance to be heavy and hobbling. Therefore cannot I express, except generally, what is best wood for a shaft; but let every man, when he knoweth his own strength, and the nature of every wood, provide and fit himself thereafter. Yet, as concerning sheaf arrows for war, (as I suppose) it were better to make them of good ash, and not of asp, as they be now-a-days. For of all other woods that ever I proved, ash being big is swiftest, and again heavy to give a great stripe withal, which asp shall not do. What heaviness doth in a stripe, every man by experience can tell; therefore ash being both * swifter and heavier, is more fit for sheaf arrows than asp: And thus much for the best wood for shafts.

Again, likewise, as no one wood can be greatly meet for all kinds of shafts, no more can one fashion of the stele be fit for every shooter. For those that be little breasted and big toward the head, called, by their likeness, taper fashion, resh grown, and of some merry fellows bobtails, be fit for them which shoot under hand, because they shoot with a soft loose, and stresses not a shaft much in the breast, where the weight of the bow lieth, as you may perceive by the wearing of every shaft. Again, the big breasted shaft is fit for him which shooteth right before him, or else the breast being weak, should never withstand that strong pithy kind of shooting : thus, the under hand must have a small breast to go clean

* This account of the qualities of the ash, which is represented as having some peculiar power of swiftness, is obscure. He probably means, that ash is the wood which, in a quantity proper for an arrow, has weight enough to strike hard, and lightness enough to fly far.

away out of the bow, the fore hand must have a big breast tó bear the great might of the bow. The shaft must be made round, nothing flat, without gall or wem, for this purpose. For because roundness (whether you take example in heaven or in earth) is fittest shape and form both for fast moving, and also for soon piercing of any thing. And therefore Aristotle saith, that nature hath made the rain to be round, because it should the easilier enter through the air.

The nock of the shaft is diversely made; for some be great and full, some handsome and little; some wide, some narrow, some deep, some shallow, some round, some long, some with one nock, some with double nock, whereof every one hath his property: The great and full nock may be well felt, and many ways they save a shaft from breaking. The handsome and little nock will go clean away from the hand; the wide nock is naught, both for breaking of the shaft and also for sudden slipping out of the string, when the narrow nock doth avoid both those harms. The deep and long nock is good in war for sure keeping in of the string: The shallow and round nock is best for our purpose in pricking for clean deliverance of a shot. And double nocking is used for double surety of the shaft. And thus far as concerning a whole stele. Piecing of a shaft with Brazil and holly, or other heavy woods, is to make the end * compass heavy with the feathers in Aying, for the stedfaster shooting. For if the end were plump heavy with lead, and the wood next it light, the head end would ever be downwards, and never fly straight. Two points in piecing be enough, lest the moistness of the earth enter too much into the piecing, and so loose the glue. Therefore many points be more pleasant to the eye, than profitable for the use. Some use to piece their shafts in the nock with Brazil or holly, to counterweigh with the head ; and I have seen some for the same purpose bore a hole a little beneath the nock, and put lead in it. But yet none of these ways be any thing needful at all: for the nature of a feather in flying, if a man mark it well, is able to bear up a wonderful weight; and I think such piecing came up first thus : when a good archer hath broken a good shaft in the feathers, and for the fancy he hath had to it, he is loth to lose it, and therefore doth he piece it. And then by and by, other, either because it is

Compass heavy seems to signify proportionately heavy.


« PreviousContinue »