The Exhibitor of strange Animals
From Twelfth Century Manuscript, Royal Library of Brussels.
Representation of a Ballet before Henri III. and his Court, in the Gallery of the Louvre.--Fac-simile of an Engraving on Copper of the "Ballet de la Royne," by Balthazar de Beaujoyeulx (folio, Paris, Mamert Patisson, 1582.)
Tournaments in honour of the Entry of Queen Isabel into Paris--From a Miniature in the "Chroniques" of Froissart, Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (National Library of Paris).
Notwithstanding the miseries to which they were generally subject, the rural population had their days of rest and amusement, which were then much more numerous than at present. At that period the festivals of the Church were frequent and rigidly kept, and as each of them was the pretext for a forced holiday from manual labour, the peasants thought of nothing, after church, but of amusing themselves; they drank, talked, sang, danced, and, above all, laughed, for the laugh of our forefathers quite rivalled the Homeric laugh, and burst forth with a noisy joviality.
Most of the bourgeois and the villagers played a variety of games of agility, many of which have descended to our times, and are still to be found at our schools and colleges. Wrestling, running races, the game of bars, high and wide jumping, leap-frog, blind-man's buff, games of ball of all sorts, gymnastics, and all exercises which strengthened the body or added to the suppleness of the limbs, were long in use among the youth of the nobility
Sword-dance to the sound of the Bagpipe.--Fac-simile of a Manuscript in the British Museum (Fourteenth Century).
Somersaults.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in "Exercises in Leaping and Vaulting," by A. Tuccaro: 4to (Paris, 1599).
Musicians accompanying the Dancing.--Fac-simile of a Wood Engraving in the "Orchésographie" of Thoinot Arbeau (Jehan Tabourot): 4to (Langres, 1588).
-The Dance called "La Gaillarde."--Fac-simile of Wood Engravings from the "Orchésographie" of Thoinot Arbeau (Jehan Tabourot): 4to (Langres, 1588).
At first, and down to the thirteenth century, the profession of a juggler was a most lucrative one. There was no public or private feast of any importance without the profession being represented. Their mimicry and acrobatic feats were less thought of than their long poems or lays of wars and adventures, which they recited in doggerel rhyme to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument. The doors of the châteaux were always open to them, and they had a place assigned to them at all feasts.
Jugglers exhibiting Monkeys and Bears.--Fac-simile of a Manuscript in the British Museum (Thirteenth Century).
A troubadour's story of this period shows that the jugglers wandered about the country with their trained animals nearly starved; they were half naked, and were often without anything on their heads, without coats, without shoes, and always without money. The lower orders welcomed them, and continued to admire and idolize them for their clever tricks, but the bourgeois class, following the example of the nobility, turned their backs upon them.
Jugglers performing in public.--From a Miniature of the Manuscript of "Guarin de Loherane" (Thirteenth Century).--Library of the Arsenal, Paris.
The Great Drinkers of the North.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut of the "Histoires des Pays Septentrionaux," by Olaus Magnus, 16mo., Antwerp, 1560.
Fireworks could not fail to be attractive at the Court of the Valois, to which Catherine de Médicis had introduced the manners and customs of Italy. The French, who up to that time had only been accustomed to the illuminations of St. John's Day and of the first Sunday in Lent, received those fireworks with great enthusiasm, and they soon became a regular part of the programme for public festivals.
Fireworks on the Water, with an Imitation of a Naval Combat.--Fac-simile of an Engraving on Copper of the "Pyrotechnie" of Hanzelet le Lorrain: 4to (Pont-à-Mousson, 1630).
These kings of jugglers exercised a supreme authority over the art of jugglery and over all the members of this jovial fraternity. It must not be imagined that these jugglers merely recited snatches from tales and fables in rhyme; this was the least of their talents. The cleverest of them played all sorts of musical instruments, sung songs, and repeated by heart a multitude of stories, after the example of their reputed forefather, King Borgabed, or Bédabie, who, according to these troubadours, was King of Great Britain at the time that Alexander the Great was King of Macedonia. The jugglers of a lower order especially excelled in tumbling and in tricks of legerdemain.
Feats in Balancing.--Fac-simile of a Miniature in a Manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (Thirteenth Century).