Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
A Defence of Archery
By Roger Ascham (15151568)
Philologus. To grant, Toxophile, that students may at times convenient use shooting as most wholesome and honest pastime, yet to do as some do, to shoot hourly, daily, weekly, and in a manner the whole year, neither I can praise, nor any wise man will allow, nor you yourself can honestly defend.
Toxophilus. Surely, Philologe, I am very glad to see you come to that point that most lieth in your stomach, and grieveth you and others so much. But I trust, after I have said my mind in this matter, you shall confess yourself that you do rebuke this thing more than you need, rather than you shall find that any man may spend by any possibility, more time in shooting than he ought. For first and foremost, the whole time is divided into two parts, the day and the night; whereof the night may be both occupied in many honest businesses, and also spent in much unthriftiness, but in no wise it can be applied to shooting. And here you see that half our time, granted to all other things in a manner both good and ill, is at one swap1 quite taken away from shooting. Now let us go forward, and see how much of half this time of ours is spent in shooting. The whole year is divided into four parts, spring-time, summer, fall of the leaf, and winter. Whereof the whole winter, for the roughness of it, is clean taken away from shooting; except it be one day amongst twenty, or one year amongst forty. In summer, for the fervent heat, a man may say likewise; except it be some time against night. Now then spring-time and fall of the leaf be those which we abuse in shooting.
But if we consider how mutable and changeable the weather is in those seasons, and how that Aristotle himself saith, that most part of rain falleth in these two times; we shall well perceive, that where a man would shoot one day, he shall be fain to leave off four. Now when time itself granteth us but a little space to shoot in, let us see if shooting be not hindered amongst all kinds of men as much other ways.
First, young children use not; young men, for fear of them whom they be under too much, dare not; sage men, for other greater business, will not; aged men, for lack of strength, can not; rich men, for covetousness sake, care not; poor men, for cost and charge, may not; masters, for their household keeping, heed not; servants, kept in by their masters very oft, shall not; craftsmen, for getting of their living, very much leisure have not; and many there be that oft begins, but, for unaptness, proves not; and most of all, which when they be shooters give it over and list not; so that generally men everywhere, for one or other consideration, much shooting use not. Therefore these two things, straitness of time, and every man his trade of living, are the causes that so few men shoot, as you may see in this great town, where, as there be a thousand good mens bodies, yet scarce ten that useth any great shooting. And those whom you see shoot the most, with how many things are they drawn, or rather driven, from shooting. For first, as it is many a year or they begin2 to be great shooters, even so the great heat of shooting is gone within a year or two; as you know divers, Philologe, yourself, which were some time the best shooters, and now they be the best students.
If a man fall sick, farewell shooting, may fortune as long as he liveth. If he have a wrench, or have taken cold in his arm, he may hang up his bow (I warrant you) for a season. A little blain, a small cut, yea a silly poor worm in his finger, may keep him from shooting well enough. Breaking and ill luck in bows I will pass over, with a hundred more serious things, which chanceth every day to them that shoot most, whereof the least of them may compel a man to leave shooting. And these things be so true and evident, that it is impossible either for me craftily to feign them, or else for you justly to deny them. Then seeing how many hundred things are required altogether to give a man leave to shoot, and, any one of them denied, a man cannot shoot; and seeing every one of them may chance, and doth chance every day; I marvel any wise man will think it possible that any great time can be spent in shooting at all.