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IN PARTITIONES SAGITTARIAS ROGERI ASCHAMI, GUALTERUS HADDONUS CANTABRIGIENSIS * REGIUS.
MITTERE qui celeres summa velit arte Sagittas,
Docta manus dedit hunc, dedit hunc mens docta libellum:
Quæ videt ars, usus visa parata facit.
Optimus hæc author quia tradidit optima scripta.
* Of King's College. Haddon was famous for his Latin style, of which he has here given no shining specimen; but the first rude essays of authors, compared with the works of their maturer years, are useful to show how much is in the power of diligence.
TO ALL THE
GENTLEMEN AND YEOMEN OF ENGLAND.
BIAS the wise man came to Croesus the rich King, on a time when he was making new ships, purposing to have subdued by water the out-isles lying betwixt Greece and Asia Minor. "What news now in Greece?" saith the King to Bias. "None other news but these," saith Bias: " that the isles of Greece have prepared a wonderful company of horsemen to over-run Lydia withal." " There is nothing under heaven," saith the King, "that I would so soon wish, as that they durst be so bold to meet us on the land with horse." "And think you," saith Bias, "that there is any thing which they would sooner wish, than that you should be so fond to meet them on the water with ships?" And so Croesus, hearing not the true news, but perceiving the wise man's mind and counsel, both gave then over making of his ships, and left also behind him a wonderful example for all commonwealths to follow: that is, evermore to regard and set most by that thing whereunto nature hath made them most apt, and use hath made them most fit.
By this matter I mean the shooting in the long bow, for Englishmen; which thing, with all my heart I do wish, and if I were of authority, I would counsel all the gentlemen and yeomen of England, not to change it with any other thing, how good soever it seems to be; but that still, according to the old wont of England, youth should use it for the most honest pastime in peace, that men might handle it as a most sure weapon in war. Other strong weapons, which both experience doth prove to be good, and the wisdom of the King's Majesty and his council provides to be had, are
* Authority is here used not for Power, but for Credit or Influ
+ Fire-arms began about this time to be made, for the hand-ordnance or great guns seem to have been near a century employed in war before hand-guns were much used.
not ordained to take away shooting; but that both, not compared together, whether should be better than the other, but so joined together, that the one should be always an aid and help for the other, might so strengthen the realm on all sides, that no kind of enemy, in any kind of weapon, might pass and go beyond us.
For this purpose I, partly provoked by the counsel of some gentlemen, partly moved by the love which I have always borne toward shooting, have written this little treatise; wherein, if I have not satisfied any man, I trust he will the rather be content with my doing, because I am (I suppose) the first, which hath said any thing in this matter, (and few beginnings be perfect, say the wise men ;) and also because, if I have said amiss, I am content that any man amend it; or, if I have said too little, any man that will add what him pleaseth to it.
My mind is, in profiting and pleasing every man, to hurt or displease no man, intending none other purpose, but that youth might be stirred to labour, honest pastime, and virtue, and as much as lieth in me, plucked from idleness, unthrifty games, and vice: which thing I have laboured only in this book, showing how fit shooting is for all kinds of men ; how honest a pastime for the mind; how wholesome an exercise for the body; not vile for great men to use, not costly for poor men to sustain, not lurking in holes and corners for ill men at their pleasure to misuse it, but abiding in the open sight and face of the world, for good men, if it fault, by their wisdom to correct it.
And here I would desire all gentlemen and yeomen to use this pastime in such a mean, that the outrageousness of great gaming should not hurt the honesty of shooting, which, of his own nature, is always joined with honesty; yet for men's faults oftentimes blamed unworthily, as all good things have been, and evermore shall be.
If any man would blame me, either for taking such a matter in hand, or else for writing it in the English tongue, this answer I may make him, that when the best of the realm think it honest for them to use, I, one of the meanest sort, ought not to suppose it vile for me to write; and though to have written it in another tongue, had been both more profitable for my study, and also more * honest for my name,
*Honest is here used for honourable.
yet I can think my labour well bestowed, if with a little hinderance of my profit and name, may come any furtherance to the pleasure or commodity of the gentlemen and yeomen of England, for whose sake I took this matter in hand. And as for the Latin or Greek tongue, every thing is so excellently done in them, that none can do better: in the English tongue, contrary, every thing in a manner so meanly both for the matter and handling, that no man can do worse. For therein the least learned, for the most part, have been always most ready to write. And they which had least hope in Latin, have been most bold in English: when surely every man that is most ready to talk, is not most able to write. He that will write well in any tongue, must follow this counsel of Aristotle, to speak as the common people do, to think as wise men do: as so should every man understand him, and the judgement of wise men allow him. Many English writers have not done so, but using strange words, as Latin, French, and Italian, do make all things dark and hard. Once I communed with a man which reasoned the English tongue to be enriched and increased thereby, saying, "Who will not praise that feast where a man shall drink at a dinner both wine, ale, and beer?" "Truly (quoth I) they be all good, every one taken by himself alone, but if you put malmsey and sack, red wine and white, ale and beer, and all in one pot, you shall make a drink not easy to be known, nor yet wholesome for the body." Cicero, in following Isocrates, Plato, and Demosthenes, increased the Latin tongue after another sort. This way, because divers men that write do not know, they can neither follow it, because of their ignorance, nor yet will praise it for over-arrogancy, two faults, seldom the one out of the other's company. English writers, by diversity of time, have taken divers matters in hand. In our fathers' time nothing was read but books of feigned chivalry, wherein a man by reading should be led to none other end, but only to manslaughter and bawdry. If any man suppose they were good enough to pass the time withal, he is deceived. For surely vain words do work no small thing in vain, ignorant, and young minds, especially if they be given any thing thereunto of their own nature. These books (as I have heard say) were made the most part in abbeys and monasteries, a very likely and fit fruit of such an idle and blind kind of living. In our time now, when every man is given to know, much rather than to live