[Editor: This untitled article, regarding the Australian volunteer militia, was published in The Advertiser (Hobart Town, Tas.), 22 April 1862.]
[In the merry days of England]
In the merry days of England which a fast diminishing section amongst us are accustomed so warmly to eulogise, every village boasted its periodical contest on its green of those who bent stout yew bows, and drew to its full extent the cloth-yard shaft. Centuries have elapsed since lords and rustics, courtly ladies and village maidens thronged to witness these displays of skill at the butts.
“Villainous gunpowder” however was discovered. It was too mischievous an invention not to spring quickly into general use. The once deadly arrow lost all its terrors; and sinking into the mere excuse for a friendly gathering, the weapon which won for us many a battle, and laid low the proudest chivalry of the armies of France, on such stricken fields as Agincourt and Crecy, has become a toy for women and for idlers.
In these later days of ours, however, we boast once more our butts. The keen eye, the steady nerve, and the muscular arm again command as much admiration in the nineteenth century as ever they earned in the thirteenth; and the motive for practice in both the one and the other is the same. There is the same honorable ambition to excel in the use of the most formidable weapons of the day; the same aspirations after self-reliance, and the same desire, with those who pull the trigger as with those who drew the bow, to be able to serve their country, and protect their homes in the hour of need.
The manifestation of a strong inclination of a large and influential political party in England, to throw upon the colonies the whole burthen of self-defence from foreign aggression, renders the rapid progress which the various Australian Volunteer Corps have made in the use of the rifle a matter of especial congratulation.
It is true that we dispute altogether the principle of being involved in the expenses or dangers of war, in which we are in no way personally concerned, and in whose control we have no voice. But we are, notwithstanding, scarcely inclined even to quarrel with such a doctrine if it tends to promote the success of so important a national movement.
Our own Volunteers at any rate seem really earnest in their work. Of course, there will be always some who will either become cold in the cause or even eventually abandon it altogether after the first excitement has subsided. This is invariably the case with any public movement. But so long as we possess such energetic officers as on the whole we can now boast of, and can point to so many instances of large encouragement of the movement from private liberality as will readily occur to the minds of many of our readers, we may fairly entertain sanguine anticipations of our Volunteer force becoming year after year stronger in numbers, and more efficient in discipline.
Yesterday the contest for the Tasmanian Champion Rifle prizes commenced. The First Rifles led off the tournament. Hitherto this corps has held the field against all comers. Fate has somehow or other recently seemed to declare against them. Their averages had been gradually and steadily increasing. In three successive weeks they had advanced progressively from 15 to 16, and again from 16 to 17 points. But in the match on Saturday with the Launceston Rifles, although they were victorious, their shooting was far from being up to their usual mark. Yesterday however it was even worse. Mr. Hammond made the highest score. And his score — 15 — was very much lower than was anticipated. The scores too of other of the best marksmen amongst them were absurdly small. The Buckingham Volunteers appear now to be chiefly relied on for sustaining the honor of the South. The Launceston men are we believe very sanguine.
The only feeling we of course can have in the matter is that the best may win; and that the losers may be convinced of the fact that steady work eventually wins the prize, is just as much as a rule in rifle matches as in every other competition in life. The firing recommences this morning.
The Advertiser (Hobart Town, Tas.), 22 April 1862, p. 2
Agincourt = (also spelt Azincourt) a village in northern France, near which the Battle of Agincourt was fought on 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin’s Day), during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, with the battle being won by the English forces, led by Henry V (it is considered that the English longbowmen played a decisive role in the victory)
See: 1) “Battle of Agincourt”, Wikipedia
2) “Azincourt”, Wikipedia
burthen = an archaic spelling of “burden”
butt = a field or ground used for practicing archery (in modern times, for practicing shooting with firearms), with mounds of earth used as targets, or as a base, platform, or backdrop for targets; (archaic) an archery target
See: 1) “Butts”, Medieval Life and Times
2) “Archery butt”, Wikipedia
Crecy = Crécy-en-Ponthieu (also known as Cressy), a town in north-eastern France, near which the Battle of Crécy was fought on 26 August 1346, during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, with the battle being won by the English forces, led by Edward III (it is considered that the English longbowmen played a decisive role in the victory)
See: 1) “Battle of Crécy”, Wikipedia
2) “Crécy-en-Ponthieu”, Wikipedia
green = an area of grassy public land (a common or park), especially one located in the centre of a village or a small town (often known as the village green)
rustics = country people, rural folk (from rustic: of or relating to the countryside or rural areas; plain, rough, or simple in appearance or fashion; something typical of rural places or of the countryside; lacking refined etiquette or social graces; characteristic of or resembling rural people)
sanguine = cheerful and confident; hopeful, optimistic; characterised by an active circulation of blood; characterised by a healthy ruddy complexion; blood-red in colour