E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Bow (to rhyme with flow).
(Anglo-Saxon, boga; verb, bogan or bugan, to arch.)
Draw not your bow till your arrow is fixed. Have everything ready before, you begin.
He has a famous bow up at the castle. Said of a braggart or pretender.
He has two strings to his bow. Two means of accomplishing his object; if one fails, he can try the other. The allusion is to the custom of the British bowmen carrying a reserve string in case of accident.
To draw a bow at a venture. To attack with a random remark; to make a random remark which may hit the truth.
A certain man drew a bow at a venture and smote the King of Israel.1 Kings xxii, 34.
To draw the long bow. To exaggerate. The long-bow was the famous English weapon till gunpowder was introduced, and it is said that a good archer could hit between the fingers of a mans hand at a considerable distance, and could propel his arrow a mile. The tales told about long-bow adventures are so wonderful that they fully justify the phrase given above.
To unstring the bow will not heal the wound (Italian). René of Anjou, king of Sicily, on the death of his wife, Isabeau of Lorraine, adopted the emblem of a bow with the string broken, and with the words given above for the motto, by which he meant, Lamentation for the loss of his wife was but poor satisfaction.