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Walt Whitman


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Oscar Wilde


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Hugh Lofting


Deanes' manual of the history and science of fire-arms

by John Deane (gunsmith.)

Excerpt:

Though the Sling is mentioned in Holy Writ, and is doubtless of high antiquity, it would seem less ancient than the bow, and of less universal use; for the sling was not found among the aborigines of the Americas, while the bow was in general use among them.

Though the bow became the especial military arm of the AngloNormans, and acheived in their hands the most glorious renown to the English name on the fields of France, yet there is every reason to believe that before the Conquest it was not so; for our Saxon ancestors, though they brought the bow with them to Britain,

* Gaston Phoebus Count de Foix, one of the earliest French writers, on the "Sports of the Field," (his work was composed at the end of the 14th century, he died 1391) speaking of the bow, says, " Of bows I know not much, but who would know more, let him go to England, for that is truly their business.",

distinguished themselves more particularly for their expert use of the ponderous battle-axe and iron war-mace, to the weilding of which their remarkable corporal strength, prowess, and love of close combat, were so highly adapted, and impelled them.

These qualities, and the predeliction of our Saxon ancestors for the use of the last-named arms, were exhibited no less in foreign lands, and there also attributed to them, as a National peculiarity; for we find those who emigrated from England at the period of the Danish usurpation, and entered the service of the kings of Hungary, and of the Greek emperors, distinguished themselves as the body guards of those sovereigns by their great prowess and skill in the use of their national weapon the battle-axe.

But with our Anglo-Norman ancestors, the bow became the special arm of the people; and its practice, their favorite amusement in time of peace, rendered the English archers the chief strength of the armies of their sovereigns. It no less became in those days the chief and popular arm of the Chase; the use of the more costly and complicated cross-bow, a later introduction from the East, by the Crusaders, being confined rather to the nobility, and preferred by them from its possessing several advantages over the bow, as better adapted to Sporting purposes.

On the Continent, both for these and for war purposes, the crossbow was the more universal arm, and preferred especially for field sports, in southern France, Spain, and Italy; the peoples of which countries were as celebrated for its skilful use, as were the men of England for that of the bow; to which the popular feeling fostered by the encouragement of each successive legislature clung even longer than on the continent to either of those arms, and adhered to it long after both had made way for the Arquebus and Haquebut.

During the more peaceful reign of Henry VII., the parliament of England fearing that the disuse of the long-bow, heretofore the safeguard and defense of this kingdom, should cause the decline of the invincible militia which had so long been the terror of its enemies, was loud in complaint of the gradually subsiding practice of our yeomen with this arm: and in statutes made in the thirty-third year of Henry VIII., the practice of the bow was still insisted upon as the most reliable arm of our national strength, in spite of the general adoption of fire-arms in the rest of Europe.

In these statutes, chap. 9, as a provision to make good marksmen at sight: it is forbidden to shoot at a standing mark unless it be for a rover, when the archer is to change his mark at every shot. Any person above twenty-four years old is also forbid to shoot with any prick shaft or flight at a mark of eleven score yards or under. This was to give strength and sinew.

It was furthermore expressly enacted and enjoined on all persons to be regularly instructed even from their tender years in the exercise of the long bow and arrows, and to be provided with a certain number of them. Thus was it that soldiers were moulded from childhood in the days of yore in England; and when the use of the modern rifle shall be enjoined as it should be by similar enactments, England will as little fear as in those days the foot of an invader.


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