« PreviousContinue »
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 ignorance in men which know not for what time, and to what thing they be fit, causeth some wish to be rich, for whoin it were better a great deal to be poor; 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 judgement 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 judgement of men hindereth nothing so much as learning, because commonly those that be unfittest for learning, be chiefly set to learning. As if a man now-adays 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 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 judgement 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 riffraff 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 judgement of the commonwealth always thought best. This fault of fathers bringeth many a blot with 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 be 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 them most apt and fit. For if youth be grafted straight, and not awry, the whole commonwealth will Aourish thereafter. When this is done, then must every man 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 to know
* To fear is to terrify.
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 especially (to 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 cominunication of yours pleased me so well, Toxophilus, that surely I was not hasty to call you to 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 even-tide, 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 twelve score mark for the space of three weeks was thirteen score and a half, and into the wind, being not very great, a great deal above fourteen score.
The wind is sometime plain up and down, which is commonly most certain, and requireth least knowledge, wherein a mean shooter, with mean gear, if he can shoot home, may make best shift. A side wind trieth an archer and * The down wind, &c. This passage I do not fully understand.
good gear very much. Sometime it bloweth aloft, sometime hard by the ground; sometime it bloweth by blasts, and sometime it continueth all in one ; sometime full side wind, sometime quarter with him, and more; and likewise against him, as a man with casting up light grass, or else, if he take good heed, shall sensibly learn by experience. To see the wind, with a man's eyes, it is unpossible, the nature of it is so fine and subtile ; yet this experience of the wind had I once myself, and that was in the great snow that fell four years ago. I rode in the high way betwixt Topcliff-uponSwale and Boroughbridge, the way being somewhat trodden before, by way-faring men; the fields on both sides were plain, and lay almost yard deep with snow; the night before had been a little frost, so that the snow was hard, and crusted above; that morning the sun shone bright and clear, the wind was whistling aloft, and sharp, according to the time of the year; the snow in the high way lay loose and trodden with horses feet; so as the wind blew, 'it took the loose snow with it, and made it so slide upon the snow in the field, which was hard and crusted by reason of the frost over night, that thereby I might see very well the whole nature of the wind as it blew that day. And I had a great delight and pleasure to mark it, which maketh me now far better to remember it. Sometime the wind would be not past two yards broad, and so it would carry the snow as far as I could see. Another time the snow would blow over half the field at once. Sometime the snow would tumble softly; by and by it would fly wonderful fast. And this I perceived also, that the wind goeth by streams, and not whole together. For I should see one stream within a score on me; then the space of two score, no snow would stir; but, after so much quantity of ground, another stream of snow, at the same very time, should be carried likewise, but not equally, for the one would stand still, when the other flew apace, and so continue sometime swiftlier, sometime slowlier, sometime broader, sometime narrower, as far as I could see. Nor it flew not straight, but sometime it crooked this way, sometime that way, and sometime it ran round about in a compass. And sometime the snow would be lift clean from the ground up to the air, and by and by it would be all clapt to the ground, as though there had been no wind at all, straightway it. would rise and fly again. And that which was the most marvel of all, at one time two drifts of snow flew, the one
out of the west into the east, the other out of the north into the east. And I saw two winds, by reason of the snow, the one cross over the other, as it had been two high ways. And, again, I should hear the wind blow in the air, when nothing was stirred at the ground. And when all was still where I rode, not very far from me the snow should be lifted wonderfully. This experience made me more marvel at the nature of the wind, than it made me cunning in the knowledge of the wind; but yet thereby I learned perfectly that it is no marvel at all though men in wind lose their length in shooting, seeing so many ways the wind is so variable in blowing.
But seeing that a master of a ship, be he never so cunning, by the uncertainty of the wind, loseth many times both life and goods ; surely it is no wonder, though a right good archer, by the self same wind, so variable in his own nature, so insensible to our nature, lose many a shot and game.
The more uncertain and deceivable the wind is, the more heed must a wise archer give to know the guiles of it. He that doth mistrust is seldom beguiled. For although thereby he shall not attain to that which is best, yet by these means he shall at least avoid that which is worst. Beside all these kinds of winds, you must take heed if you see any cloud appear, and gather by little and little against you, or else, if a shower of rain be like to come upon you, for then both the driving of the weather and the thicking of the air increaseth the mark; when, after the shower, all things are contrary clear and calm, and the mark, for the most part, new to begin again. You must take heed also, if ever you shoot where one of the marks, or both, stands a little short of a high wall, for there you may be easily beguiled. If you take grass and cast it up, to see how the wind stands, many times you shall suppose to shoot down the wind, when
you shoot clean against the wind. And a good reason why. For the wind which cometh indeed against you, redoundeth back again at the wall, and whirleth back to the prick, and a little further, and then turneth again, even as a vehement water doth against a rock, or an high bray; which example of water, as it is more sensible to a man's eyes, so it is never a whit the truer than this of the wind. So that the grass cast up shall flee that way which indeed