Daily Archives: August 10, 2009

A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy!

Observe the craftsman sat on the porch of his rickety weather-beaten workshop. His tanned arms, sinewy and dextrous, carefully manipulate a bow, sanding off the final imperfections.

It’s taken him an age to make.

The yew he collected himself from the ancient forest that surrounds his cabin, dried for a year before it was ready to be carved. A single piece, the sapwood and the heartwood coexist in laminate felicity, together they form that bond of harmonious cooperation that all marriages would aspire to but very few attain: there is flexibility, and with that flexibility comes strength.

The bow string is formed from the sinews of a deer that he hunted himself, his neighbour the forest is a generous giver of gifts and yet asks for nothing in return. The craftsman is conscientious, however: he plants new trees each year and attempts to improve his neighbour’s lot. The bow string is scraped using tools that have been passed down through the generations, each as lovingly made and cared for as the weapons which they are used to create.

The grip is formed from the leather of the deer, boiled and preserved and stretched and cut. A carving runs the length of the bow; Artemis accompanied by a deer hunts the wolf who flees before them, and so the carving runs. The carvings are inlaid with silver, ore that he mined himself and smelted in small quantities. It is applied with a fine brush, its bristles made from the tail of the deer. Nothing goes to waste: the bow is formed of the deer, the deer is slain by the bow, and the cycle begins anew.

When he is finished he looks over his work. It is art and appliance: form and function. He turns it over and over in his hands checking for any imperfection, rests it by its midpoint on his outstretched index finger and confirms that it is perfectly balanced. He leans back and takes a single arrow from the basket next to the door. Unhurriedly he gets up and steps down from the porch, draws the bow and feels the tension in his arms. The arms of the bow pull back, as if the bow was trying to draw him. He launches the arrow, the air whistles as if in admiration as the arrow passes, and is then stunned into silence as the arrow strikes the tree straight and true.

The craftsman nods to himself as he takes a cloth from the pocket of his worn leather apron and begins to slowly massage oil into the limbs of the bow. As with any act of love, he takes his time and is thoughtful and considerate with every action. By the time he is finished, the sun has begun its inexorable rise, throwing back the blanket of morning mist and lifting its head from the pillow of the forest canopy.

The craftsman holds the bow before him one more time, with a wistful look on his face, his eyes full of pride and fatherly love.

Then he chucks it on the pile with the twenty other bows he made earlier, takes the lot down to Norman the Merchant and sells them all for a few measly copper pieces.