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The Mediaeval Dance

( Originally Published 1935 )



It may seem that the development of stage-dancing is more accurately a record of the survival of an instinct towards the dance, which only at intervals of five hundred or a thousand years actually flowers into forms worthy of serious attention on purely esthetic grounds. And yet the more we study, this surviving, this persistence against odds is what genuinely absorbs us. Such culminations as `The Baccha',' the Catholic Mass, the ballets of Noverre and Vigano, Les Sylphides, or 'The Rites of Spring' are spectacles to be felt actually in seeing, in participation. But they are rare,—how rare it is difficult for most of us to remember, since the history of ballet in the last three hundred years is so richly documented, and so thinly in the three thousand before. Naturally we have a right to prefer what we have seen to what has merely been described to us. Our history teachers, in their haste, show us only high-lights, the towering monuments. We acquire a habit of assuming that unique masterpieces are immediately related, logically capping each other. But between a Bacchx and a Marienklage, between the pantomime of Pylades and the pantomime of Grimaldi, between a Saint George's mumming and 'A Masque of Blackness,' are networks of tenuous but indestructible threads, which, bound by innumerable ties of tradition, time and accident, set off the first-rate monuments in their truthful remoteness, their frank perspective.

The empty theaters of Orleans and Epidauros bleached in the sun, but the ideas of Aristotle were not entirely lost to the conquerors of Hellas. The tragedies of Seneca were written, read, yet not played; the Coliseum served as a quarry for building another Rome, and pillars of the imperial forums sup-ported the basilica of St. Lawrence Without the Walls. We have seen how the church made her Mass, entirely independent of the mimes, and how mimes reemerged from the very pages of the missal. But it was not entirely to the Roman Christian Church that the survival of theatrical-dancing, sometimes following the reestablishment of theaters, sometimes preceding them, would be entrusted. The Church provided one path for survival, but only one, how-ever indispensable, of several.

It was not long before the shows which, moving out onto the cathedral porches, transferring themselves into church-squares or market-places, had accumulated such a repertory that it could be divided into three important, distinct, if related categories. The mystery plays treated only of orthodox scriptural events, a general huge topic of world redemption through Christ's sacrifice, with picturesque tableaux from Old and New Testament. The miracle plays were a secondary, if not always distinguishable, addition. They told legends of the saints which increased from century to century with the facts of new martyrdoms and an identification of real people with scriptural precedent. The morality plays were a still later innovation, and though teaching and illustrating truths familiar to church-goers by homely allegorical personifications of virtues, vices, and qualities, they were the most purely secularized of the three. By the thirteenth century, France, England and Germany had a thriving interest in such spectacles and Devils, Salomes and Follies were dancing on their platforms.

But already in the tenth century, there exists a dramatic phenomenon, not only combining the features of mystery, miracle and morality, but illustrating other important threads: the dwindling legacy of the classic Roman stage. It persisted not only from the Italian peninsula but also from Byzantium, where shows which survived for a longer time were as magnificent as in Milan or Rome itself. Hrotsvitha, "the loud-voice of Gandersheim," was a young German gentlewoman, who, at the age of twenty, or a little older, entered a nunnery (ca. 955)• She received an excellent education, for her abbess, Geberga, was the highly intelligent niece of the Emperor Otto. Under the Saxon supremacy, such convents, being close to the Imperial Court, were havens for noblewomen. When Geberga died, she was succeeded by Princess Sophia, a worldly half-Byzantine girl who had been a nun with Hrotsvitha, and who brought her into vital contact with the Empire of the East. Her plays form a curious reference which is not impressive in itself until under-stood as a focus packed with cross-influence. For a practicing dramatist, Hrotsvitha had no audience, no stage; not even readers. Her plays seem to have been written to be acted. Only one actual performance is recorded and that, two hundred years after her death. No mediaeval writer mentions them; they were published complete for the first time only in 1501, with Albrecht Diirer's illustrations. Why then, if they were neither known by her contemporaries nor produced by her followers, are they, as plays without dancing, significant to us?

In the first place, although mediaeval scholars often thought that Roman comedies were monologues, to be declaimed by a single mime, and hence far more literary than dramatic in their appeal, and although the church had brought every weapon in her arsenal to bear against the Roman stage, a persistent thread of pure classic tradition did remain. This thread, however tenuous, stretches from Terence straight back to Aristophanes and Greek satyr-plays of goat-foot dances. Hrotsvitha, in the library of Gandersheim, had found a manuscript of Terence, and blushingly admitted she was seduced by his enchanting style to read his salacious plots. Hence, with a practicality which the Fathers would have commended, she utilized Roman dramatic forms, not in slavish imitation of their profanity, but rather to frame worthier legends of the inviolable chastity of Christian virgins, by that very instrument which the pagans provided. Far more than an accidental imitator of Terence, she was valuable as a link to the Byzantine Theater.

Byzantium not only conserved the traditions of Euripides in a purer form far longer than Rome, but also attempted to christianize the stage without destroying it, and met with considerable success some centuries before Hrotsvitha. Constantinople, the capital of an Emperor who persuaded every important Roman family he could find to migrate there, had not only classic comedy and tragedy, pantomime-ballet, but also Theodora, its harlot-dancerlion-taming Empress, its vaudeville, its theatrical sensations and claques and every parallel to ancient and modern theatrical excitements. We can only permit ourselves to be occupied with traces of Byzantium present in a Saxon poetess. For Hrotsvitha, although one might imagine her nearer the soil of Terence than the land of Hellas, took all of her six plots from the hagiography of the Greek church. Not only that, but Hrotsvitha had never seen a play, for there had been none in the west for centuries, nor had she even read a description of a stage, unless by an unlikely chance there was a manuscript of the Roman architect Vitruvius in Gandersheim's library. Nevertheless her plays bear performance as written, and her Gallicanus was presented often in the twelfth century at Alderspach. Where did she get her practical notions of dramaturgy? Probably through conversations with her new abbess and old school-fellow, the Princess Sophia, who had seen plays in the Greek Byzantium of her youth, and who was constantly traveling back and forth between eastern court and western cloister.

In the comic-tragedy, or tragic farce of Dulcitius, three virgins were secretly wooed at night by a seducer. But as soon as he came into their house he succumbed to a laughable delusion that pots and cooking-vessels were the chaste damsels and he emerged in the morning to appear before his officers of the guard, with sooty face.and dirty clothes. His lieutenant, Sisinnius, is ordered to avenge his captain, and is led a roaming dance through hill and dale, which reminds us of Ariel's foolery in 'The Tempest' and Puck's tricks with the Athenian lovers. In Sapientia (wisdom), Hrotsvitha dramatizes a fable from the time of Diocletian's last great persecution of the Christians. Sapientia was the mother of three beautiful daughters, Faith, Hope and Charity, who learned from their parent to be as good as she. After they were killed and dismembered by the Emperor's order, their holy mother collected their remains, buried them five miles outside Rome and herself perished forty days later. This allegorical parable is presented in a dramatic narrative and prophetically anticipates the Italian and English morality masques of four centuries later.

Men, in the middle ages, imagined and sensed indirectly. A chain of thought in a mediaeval mind was inclined to run as often from symbol to symbol as from fact to fact. Those manifestations of ideas, whether in verse, stone or paint, which bear another secret, figurative reference, a more pro-found connotation than their obvious, visible form, are allegories. We have seen how many meanings were appliqueed to the basic structure of the Mass. It was only natural for a nun like Hrotsvitha to write in symbolic- shorthand. It became second nature to carvers on churches, poets of hymns, designers of stained glass windows, and, as well, arrangers of the libretti in plays, ballets and opera, from the tenth century, down into the high renaissance. The best historian of the epoch's spirit tells us unforgettably that it

seemed to rely on everything except its sin-crushed self, and trusted every-thing except its senses; which in the actual looked for the ideal, in the concrete saw the symbol, in the earthly church beheld the heavenly, and in fleshly joys discerned the devil's lures; which lived in the unreconciled opposition between the lust and vain-glory of earth and the attainment of salvation; which felt life's terror and its pitifulness, and its eternal hope; around which waved concrete infinitudes, and over which flamed the terror of darkness and the judgment day'

If there is any single symbol which represents in instantaneous flash a lyric concept of mediaeval emotion it is the so-called Dance of Death. So-called, because in its most influential expressions it is not a dance, but a poem or a picture; and yet dance, for us, because of its origin, its associations, and because we shall frequently employ it as a touchstone to the medieval mentality. We have seen how, inside the Church and outside her doors dramatic essences were nourished, by Mass, miracle-play, and even from some salvaged mutations of the Roman stage. There remain two other important channels; the dramatic ritual-games arising from vegetation or survival ceremonies among indigenous folk, and the inventions of such individual artists as troubadour, jongleur or minstrel. Between morality-play and folk-rite stands the Dance of Death, with hands in both directions.

It was not the idea of death as peace, death as a blessed release, death as a dignified end to man's labor that obsessed the medixval brain. To the man of the middle ages death was a graveyard ghoul, a chilling spectral horror, a death frightening now only to listeners of ghost stories or children whistling past cemeteries. "Dies iroe, dies ilia," on that day, dread day of wrath, as the great chant rolled, graves belched up their burdens, and King Christ would come a second time to judge the quick and dead. "What is man ... but a stynkynge slyme, and after that a sake ful of donge, and at the laste mete to worms?" From their stone perch dismal preachers terrorized their congregations, pointing to the displayed skulls and bones of their departed.

Orcagna, or perhaps the brothers Lorenzetti, painted such a sermon in the Pisan Cloister.

In those piles of the promiscuous and abandoned dead, those fiends and angels poised in mid-air struggling for souls, those blind and mutilated beggars vainly besieging Death with prayers and imprecations for deliverance, while she descends in her robe of woven wire to mow down with her scythe the knights and ladies in their garden of delight; again in those horses snuffing at the open graves, those countesses and princes face to face with skeletons, those serpents coiling round the flesh of what was once fair youth or maid, those multitudes of guilty men and women trembling beneath the trump of the archangel—tearing their cheeks, their hair, their breasts in agony, because they see Hell through the prison-bars and hear the raging of its fiends, and feel the clasp upon their wrists and ankles of clawed hairy demon hands!

The term Danse Macabre refers to the Danse des Morts, the Totentanz, and English Dance of Death. Macabre or Macabree is a curious adjective. It may come from the name of Saint Macarius, an Egyptian hermit. Three live young men arrive at his cell and he shows them three open coffins containing three corpses. Thus it is shown in the cited fresco of the Pisan Campo Santo. More likely it comes from an Arabic word Maqbara (plural, Magdbir), a tomb. There are only two Dances of Death in Spain, and since both are copies of the French, it is unlikely, though possible, that the knightly companions of Du Guesclin brought the word back from Moorish Spain in 1366. Some derive it from the English: make-break or the Italian: macheria, a mural or wall. Perhaps the most plausible origin of the word connects it with the Biblical Maccabees, followers of Judas Macchabeus. There is a story, whose authenticity is doubtful, but typical of others similar, that among many Scotchmen who overran Paris in 1424 was one MacCaber, a kind of wizard who lived in a tower, thin as a skeleton. He is said to have instituted a kind of churchly procession which took place-in a cemetery, where a figure representing death invited all comers to a round.

It seems likely that French verses inspired wall-paintings, which in turn were imitated by dancers, but since, as is the case of other like phenomena, when an idea pervades the air, it explodes into spontaneous expression every-where, and one cannot fix any absolute priority. In the black-letter rhymes every human type in medieval society was given a verse and a woodcut portrait, from Pope to Emperor to Cardinal to King to Prince, Archbishop, Baron, Lady, Squire, Abbot, Prior, Lawyer, Bailiff, Astronomer, Deacon, Merchant, Monk, Physician, Minstrel, finally down to the Laboring Man. In printed versions, the dance is more of a parade; each type marches for-ward according to his rank, not eagerly, but solemnly, reluctantly: only Death dances a grotesque step, asking questions of all men and pointing to the inevitability of his triumph. Death, in a poem before 1480, says to the minstrel (Mynstralle or Mimus) :

O chow minstral: that cannest so note & pipe Unto folkes: for to do plesaunce

By the right honde anoon I shal the gripe With these others: to go upon my daunce There is no scape: nowther a-voydaunce

On no side: to contrarie my sentence For yn musik: be crafte & accordaunce Who maister is: show his science.

And the minstrel answers:

This new daunce: is to me so strange Wonder dyuerse: and parsyngli contrarie The dredful fotyng: doth so oft chaunge And the mesures: so ofte sithes varie Whiche now to me: is no thyng necessarie If hit were so: that I might asterte But many a man: if I shall not tarie Oft daunceth: but no thynge of herte.'

The original dance macabree showed only men. Its leader, Death, was not a personification of mortality but the living human shown as he would soon find himself. Its earliest extant wall painting is Swiss, and was executed in 1312 at Klingenthal in Little Basel, but the most famous example was French, ca. 1424, in the charnel cloisters of the Paris church of the Holy Innocents. Many mediaeval churchyards would be decorated with similar frescoes, in Lubeck, Dresden, Lucerne, in London's Old Saint Paul's and in the church Shakespeare knew in Stratford-on-Avon. Remember the hideous doubts of Juliet before she took the sleeping-draught:

Alack, alack, is it not like that I
So early waking, what with loathsome smells
And shrieks like mandrakes' torn out of the earth,
That living mortals hearing them run mad: O,
if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environed with all these hideous fears?
And madly play with my forefathers' joints.

There are three independent ideas in the Dance of Death, not the least of which is its satirical or ironic context. Before Death, all men whether they be great kings or poor laborers are equal. In feudal Europe this equality, almost an idea of revenge on the rich, contributed enormously to the popularity of the parable. Secondly, there is the conception of living people con-fronted with their dead images, a development of a thirteenth century French poem, `The Three Quick and the Three Dead.' A trio of young nobles were hawking in a wood when they stumbled on three corpses, who lectured them on human vanity. Finally there was the connection with actual miming and dancing.

In 1373, the Black Death, a bubonic plague, swept Europe. No town was free from terrible sights and sounds of a ravage which no prayer could stay. Single graves were too small. Infants and young girls, men in their life's prime, sickened and smoldered with unthinkable maladies. With the disease, ideas of the Dance of Death spread as a universal fable. Wakes for the dead took on an insane gayety. There was a game of some Slavonic origin, where guests took each other by pairs, dancing merrily, laughing and singing. Suddenly, on a shrill note, the music ceased. Silence and immobility fell on the company. Then a sober, sad melody was piped, which grew into a funeral march. One of the young men sank to the ground, playing dead. The girls and women danced around him, in graceful parody of mourning gestures. At the same time they sang an hilarious dirge, then one after the other, bent over the dead man and kissed him back to life, till a general round-dance concluded the first half. The second part was the same, except boys mourned a young girl. The kissing part was naturally popular, and no one worried about the transmission of plague germs from mouth to mouth. Theocritus de-scribed a Sicilian Grecian kissing contest in memory of a dead hero.

About his tomb, so surely as spring comes round, your children vie in a kissing-match, and who so sweediest presses lip upon lip, returns laden with garlands to his mother.

Medlaeval games were less pretty. In Hungary, for example, at wakes, one of the mourners lay down with a handkerchief over his face. Bagpipers struck up a dance of death. Then men and women, half singing, half wailing, crossed his hands on his chest, trussed him up, turned him over, played tricks with him, even set him on his legs and made him dance. The mock corpse was entirely limp, his arms sagged, his head lolled. Once indeed, God punished such foolery and when they went to rouse the player, he was dead in-deed. Perhaps he had already contracted plague from the nearby body.

In one of the English miracle-plays of the Coventry cycle, the `Slaughter of the Innocents,' a'Dethe, Goddys Messangere,' steps in to slay King Herod. In the time of John Chrysostom, one of the popular celebrations of the East-ern Church during the festival of the Kalends of January (New Year's), was a mock-funeral of the old year, and incidentally of all the dead.

As early as 1285, in Scotland there was an entertainment at Jedburgh Abbey. To celebrate the nuptials of Alexander the Third, and Joleta, daughter of the Comte de Dreux, Death, in his skeleton, joined maskers who danced before the King and Queen. The presence of Death on a marriage-night may have been a practical joke, a political hint, or merely an admonitory reminder. The Scotch poet, William Dunbar, who is familiar to lovers of English poetry for his `Lament for the Makirs' (Timor Mortis Conturbat Me), wrote in 1507 a `Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins.'* It was a satirical description of the masked ball given in that year at Edinburgh's court, on the day before Fastern's Eve, and combines the Dance of Death with a morality-masque. The Dance of Death would become, in the Renaissance, more elegant and sophisticated, and reappears again and again as a motif in love-poetry, on dagger-handles, mantel-pieces, tapestries and in Elizabethan tragedy.

The most magnificent Dance of Death effloresced at the Tuscan Court, when, in 1507, the painter Piero di Cosimo, designed a macabre masque for the Duke of Florence. The city was surrounded by sieges and imminent disaster; it was exquisitely tense, heedless, insecure, in imminent physical danger. It is worth reading Vasari's notice of this pageant which perfectly illustrates sophisticated embellishments upon a remote activity of the folk.

The triumphal car was covered with black cloth, and was of vast size; it had skeletons and white crosses painted upon its surface, and was drawn by buffaloes, all of which were totally black: within the car stood the colossal figure of Death, bearing the scythe in his hand; while around him were covered tombs, which opened at all the places where the procession halted, while those who formed it, chanted lugubrious songs, when certain figures stole forth, clothed in black cloth, on whose vestments the bones of a skeleton were depicted in white; the arms, breast, ribs and legs, namely, all which gleamed horribly forth on the black beneath. At a certain distance appeared figures bearing torches, and wearing masks presenting the face of a death's head both before and behind; these heads of death as well as the skeleton necks beneath them, also exhibited to view, were not only painted with the utmost fidelity to nature, but had besides a frightful expression which was horrible to behold. At the sound of a wailing summons, sent forth with a hollow moan from trumpets of muffled yet inexorable clangor, the figures of the dead raised them-selves half out of their tombs and seating their skeleton forms thereon, they sang the following words, now so much extolled and admired, to music of the most plaintive and melancholy character. Before and after the car rode a train of the dead on horses, carefully selected from the most wretched and meager animals that could be found: the caparisons of those worn, half-dying beasts were black, covered with white crosses; each was conducted by four attendants, clothed in the vestments of the grave; these last-mentioned figures, bearing black torches and a large black standard, covered with crosses, bones, and death's heads. While this train proceeded on its way, each sang, with a trembling voice, and all in dismal unison, that psalm of David called the Miserere.

There are innumerable graphic representations of the medixval dance of death, which gives us an unparalleled completeness of documentation for costume, manners, and science of the period. The clothes are suited each to that type who is the representative of his station in life, and in successive engravings one can trace the development of sleeves, shoes, hats, or gloves. En-gravers were unkind as Death itself, and spared neither fat bishop, foppish squire, lecherous housewife, or wise doctor gazing at his urine-glass. In the beginning, Death is shown as a rotting cadaver, his flapping belly full of intestinal snakes. Not until the Renaissance had destroyed superstitions against anatomical- research was Death shown as a correctly articulated bony skeleton.

One of the strangest side-lights on medixval dancing, and a phenomenon intimately connected with those pestilences of which the Black Death was most famous, is the so-called Danseomanie, or dancing-mania, which flared up in a dozen places, all over the European continent, from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. There is a legend that

on Christmas night, 1013, a Parisian priest named Robert could not chant his Mass in peace, because he was bothered by the singing and dancing of carolers, eighteen young men and fifteen young girls who clamored in the cemetery outside. He told them to hush up and go away, but they only laughed at him and sang louder. So he cursed these bad Christians, saying, "May God make you all sing and dance, the whole year through without missing one single day." And so it was they danced all night and all day, every day and every night. No one had ever seen such frenzy or such sadness, as they pounded the tombs of the dead. At the end of a year, Herbert, Bishop of Cologne, came to absolve them. As soon as the couples, joined together for twelve months, were permitted to separate, three of the girls, one of whom was the priest's daughter, fell down dead. The others slept for three days and three nights.

There is a similar story told of German dancers who were cursed at Kolbigk in 1021. The legend is of Frankish origin and was later exploited by the low-Saxons. The writer in the great Nuremberg world-chronicle of 1493, who signs himself Othbert the Sinner, writes that a girl's arm fell off into her partner's fingers, but she danced right on; that in spite of hunger, thirst, rain or shine, on they danced; that their sole-leather wore out and their clothes unravelled but they danced on; that the ground underfoot was treaded into a deep hole, but still they danced. At the year's end, the priest, (here of St. Magnus) undid them.

It must have been some form of pathological aberration, or group-hysteria of whole villages at a time, forcing them to dance until they fell. It does not seem so remote from us if we recall our "Dance Marathons," which have been held in such public places as Madison Square Garden, where couples jog on, pummeling each other to keep awake, for weeks at a stretch. To be sure the dancers of the middle-ages competed for no prize. But in 1237 a band of German children danced from Erfurt to Arnstadt; many of them died on the way, and the survivors suffered for the rest of their lives from nervous disorders, or tremblings like St. Guy's or St. Vitus' dance. In 1278, a crazy or perhaps drunken company of dancers danced down the bridge at Marburg; the bridge fell, and all were drowned. In 1347 a troop of men and women danced on to Aix-la-Chapelle, continuing into Belgium and the Low Countries. At Metz there were five hundred maniacs, and only a little further on, eleven hundred. A priest came out and tried to break the spell, but failed. In the course of dancing, the people suffered from hallucinations of extreme joy or deep melancholy, accompanied by violent aversions to the color red, and to long curved shoes in the style known as la poulaine. Needless to say, one can hardly rely on the absolute truth of such suspiciously repetitious reports which seldom seem to come from eye-witnesses. For ex-ample, at Utrecht in 1493, dancers on a bridge failed to do honor to the sacrament, which a passing priest was carrying to an extreme unction and in the collapse of its arch two hundred people drowned. Churches and cemeteries were often the scenes of these excesses, which frequently de-generated into orgies. In 1374, the year after the Black Death, the Chorisants, a sect believed by contemporaries to be under diabolic influence, arose in Flanders and on the Rhine and Moselle.

It being that the people began to dance and rush about; they formed groups of three and danced in one place for half a day, and while dancing they fell to the ground and allowed others to trample on their bodies. By this they believed that they could cure themselves of illness. And they walked from one town to another and collected money from the people, wherever they could procure any. And this was carried on to such an extent that in the town of Cologne alone more than five hundred dancers were to be found. And it was a swindle, undertaken for the purpose of obtaining money, and that a number of them both women and men might be tempted to unchastity and succumb to it.

But it was by no means all a fraud, and in Italy such mania was thought to have been induced by the bite of tarantula spiders. Later, the origin of their folk-dance, the tarantella, was attributed to therapeutic measures for curing the bite by making the person dance madly, since if he remained still the venom would kill him. Mediaeval women frequently passed through psychological crises, melancholia, or elation, preceding holy festivals, and on the Saint's Day were cured at Mass. The first physician who attempted to treat dansomania scientifically was the great Doctor Paracelsus, who died in Salzburg in 1541. He sensibly protested against the use of charms, and divided the disease into three aspects, chorea imaginativa (auto-suggestion or self-hypnosis), chorea lasciva (sexual excitement, to be cured by a plunge in cold water), and chorea naturalis, which was simply hysterical laughter.

The Dance of Death, besides its important connections with historic events, social customs and the Church, had genuine links with those vegetation ceremonies which are not so much traditional as ubiquitous and perennial. One could hardly say the games of Provencal or English May Day had a Greek or Roman ancestry, any more than one can assume the Roman Pyrrhic is a direct source of Nordic sword-dances. In every instance the year's weather and its influence on a particular soil whose crops it affects determines the nature of ritual forms. Inevitable and striking similarities tend to fuse and often a false descent is suggested. Nevertheless, separate from both the shattered literary heritage of Roman civilization and attempts to revive it, from the church that replaced it, and from individual artists who were active in spite of church domination, a living body of ritual be-lief, a real religion of the folk, farmers, poor city-workers, small merchants and villeins, existed well into the Renaissance and we must look into it for the sources of much of the later developments which by the end of the sixteenth century will absorb us; in particular the seasonal Magi or May plays in Florence, the New Year masques and May Day dances of England and France.

The advent of Christianity by no means completely displaced either Druid cults or the religion of Thor or Wotan. Catholic priests prevailed upon the Celts and Saxons to give up their more cruel forms of human sacrifice, but they did not attempt, wisely enough, to root out all the harmless nature superstitions, and these persisted, often only to be repeated as good-luck charms, with all realization of their tribal function or ritual use lost, or else as infrequent rustic amusements which were simple relaxations in the difficult lives of the people. As Sir E. K. Chambers explains:

It was of the customs themselves that the people were tenacious, not of their meaning, so far as there was still a meaning, attached to them, or of the names which their'priests had been wont to invoke. Leave them but their familiar revels, and the ritual so indissolubly bound up with their hopes of fertility for their flocks and crops, they would not stick upon the explicit consciousness that they drank or danced in the might of Eostre or of Freyr. And in time, as the Christian interpretation of life became an everyday thing, it passed out of sight that the customs had been ritual at all.

The spirit of fertilization persisted in May games. Before daybreak peasants would go into the forests, cut big hawthorn boughs and carry them with other May-greens into village streets to decorate their houses. A pole, festooned with wreaths and hung with ribbons, was the erect symbol of new growth. Boys, with branches tied all around them, hopped onto lawns like bouncing bushes. They were called `Jack i' the Green: There were May Kings and May Queens as well, the center of the dance-games or plays. At Midsummer's Night, or St. John's Eve, a night, in which, as Shakespeare has shown, strange happenings are not rare, there were fire festivals, when peasants to make their crops grow would drive cattle through a bonfire and leap over the flames, symbols of cleansed power. There was scarcely a rustic holiday without some sort of garlanded procession, usually followed by quetes, or requests. Children, or originally grown-ups, felt en-titled to take up collections of eggs, cakes or small coins. Carollers on Christmas Eve would serenade a house and expect at least a warming drink. Little boys and girls in America, sometimes on Halloween, more often in big cities on the national Thanksgiving Day still feel free to mask themselves, shoot off cap-pistols and ask for pennies. The Easter egg-rolling on the White House Lawn is a similar survival, and even the New England Puritans went out to gather arbutus or Mayflowers. Most of us know, through Hawthorne's tale, of the regrettable ceremonies on May Day 1628, performed by godless Morton of Quincy's Merrymount. Bradford, the historian, wrote,

They set up a Maypole, drinking and dancing about it many days togeather, inviting the Indian women for their consorts, dancing and frisking togeather like so many fairies or furies rather.

Endicott made short work of such profanity. This must be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, mention of dancing by the English in America. A Maypole, was set up again in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1689, and promptly hacked down.

Dancing was a very important adjunct to all folk festivals, and gave the Church considerable trouble. Upon important Saints' Days, which were superimposed upon the local gods, just as Dionysos had preempted earlier divinities, whole choirs of women entered the cathedral precincts with lewd cantica and ballationes. In 1338, the chapter of Wells Cathedral forbade chorea and other ludi (games) within the church grounds, not so much on account of their pagan scurrility as on account of the damage done to cathedral properties and furniture. Singing and dancing were inseparable, and the most frequently mentioned name of a dance is the carole, which we have still as a popular Christmas ballad or carol.

Originally the carole was a Provencal dance-song particular to May, but spread by traveling minstrels, it came to be sung and danced the whole year through at fairs, on Saints' Days, at midnight vigils and Christmas-tide. The churchmen openly may have condemned it, but nevertheless, the rhythm of its meter found its way into their devotional verse. From the middle of the twelfth century one sees pictures of it from Spain to Norway. It was particularly popular in Sweden, where it is first mentioned in 1260 as having been performed at a princely wedding, and there is a fresco of it in the Danish Cathedral of Orselev from about the year 1380. Numerous young Danes who were studying at the University of Paris saw it in the square before the Church of Our-Lady-of-the-Carole, and joined the dancers. The dance itself was a kind of processional. The dancers turned from right to left, in marching steps, beating one foot against the other. The choral-leader, or first-dancer, sported a glove, a nosegay or a flowery chaplet, a cup or a May-branch (the Dionysian Thyrsos), or at night a torch, and led his company in a rapid advance. In Germany, the Minnesingers knew it as Springtanz or Espringale, and filled it with small leaps and hops. In a simple prelude the leader would invoke nature, and other carollers took up a refrain. Its poetry had the sweet clean atmosphere of espaliered arbors, fresh leaf-shoots and the budding year. The choruses were full of roulades and sounds made with the tongue and lips, a vocalized yodelling, or onomatopoetic imitation of instrumental accompaniment: bagpipe, flute, drum, rebec or psaltery. Giovanni Boccaccio, writing about 1350, relates how, on the very first day of that country house-party which was to be the scene of his Decameron, where a company of young people had gone to escape the plague:

Breakfast done, the tables were removed, and the Queen (or elected story-leader) bade fetch instruments of music; for all, ladies and young men alike, knew how to tread a measure, and some of them played and sang with great skill; so, at her command Dioneo, (that is, Boccaccio himself) having taken a lute, and Fiammetta a viol, they struck up a dance in sweet concert; and the servants being dismissed to their repast, the queen, attended by the other ladies and the two young men, led off a stately carole.

In the Town Hall at Siena, Pietro Lorenzetti pictures such a dance, of young girls clad in parti-colored, heraldic, embroidered robes, with ribbons in their hair, hands linked, and to the accompaniment of a singer who strikes a tambourine, they pass through a kind of London-Bridge. In a detail of Fra Angelico's Last Judgment' in the Florentine Monastery of Saint Mark, a heavenly carole is trod on holy ground studded with such starry blossoms as only this angelic master could conceive. Enchanted monks alternate with haloed beauties, lead off a winged saint who draws on a carolling candidate for eternal life. At the end of the chain an angel invites a blessed monk from whose tonsure gilt rays spike out, to join the celestial dance. Perhaps Angelico knew the recommendation of Saint Basil, who urged his faithful to practice dancing as much as possible upon earth, since it was the principal occupation of angels in heaven.

M. de Montaiglon, in his Doctrinal des Filles, urges the young ladies to step it modestly.

Fille, quant serez en Karolle Dansez gentiment par mesure Car, quant fille se demesure Tel la voit la tient pour folle.

Lass, when you dance Karolle, Dance it neatly, measured tread For, when lassie leaps too wild Such that see her hold her mad.

Before 1372 Geoffrey Chaucer had turned the Roman de la Rose into English verse. The original author was one Guillaume de Loris, writing about 1237, and in his dream Sir Mirth, Gladness, Courtesy, Cupid, Frankness, such qualities one after another are imagined in a fanciful garden of love, dancing the Carole.

Then mightest thou caroles seen, And folk ther daunce and mery been, And make many a fair tourning Upon the grene gras springing.

Ther mightest thou see these floutours, (flautists)

Minstrales, and eek jogelours,

That wel to singe did her peyne (did carefully)

Somme songe songes of Loreyne. For in Loreyen his notes be

Ful swelter than in this contree.

Ther was many a timbestere (female tambourine-player)

And saylours (dancers who leap): that I dar well sweare

Couthe (knew) hir craft ful parfitly.

The timbres (tambourines) up ful stilly (skilfully)

They caste, and hente (caught) ful ofte

Upon a finger faire and softe, That they ne fayled never-mo. Ful fetis (neat) damiselles two, Right yonge, and fulle of semlihede,

In Kirtles, and non other wede, (dress) And faire tressed every tresse, Had mirthe doon, for his noblesse, Amidde the carole for to daunce;

But her-of lyth (her litheness) no remembraunce,

How that they daunted queyntly. That oon wolde come al prively Agayn that other: and whan they were

Togidre (together) almost, they threwe y-fare (out)

Hir mouthes so, that through hir play It semed as they kiste alway;

To dauncen wel coude they the gyse; (manner)

What shulde I more to you devyse? No bede (offer) I never thennes go, Whyles that I saw hem daunce so.

Watching the progress of the carole, (which seems also to have elements of a French kissing-game perhaps from Lorraine) the poet is observed by Courtesy.

"What do ye there, beau Sire?" quod she

Come her, and if it lyke you

To dauncen, daunceth with us now."

And I, withoute tarying, Wente into the caroling.

And so each dances, and in the simple, precise tapestry filled with clothes, qualities and manners of ideal lady and type cavalier one gets a very clear notion of a social dance, which was at the same time a processional display, a verdant pageant of medixval dancers.

Parallel to May Day, the sign of spring's arrival, is another folk-custom known as `The Carrying-out of Winter' or the `Expulsion of Death.' Its forms are familiar to us. Often, on the fourth Sunday in Lent (in Germany, Todten-Sonntag), a straw doll is made, or a beech-bough or birch-twig pup-pet of rags or such. This is Winter-Death. He is treated with every expression of hatred and fear and a procession of the folk bear him well beyond the town limits where he is burned, or buried or drowned. Even today, we burn in effigy unpopular political figures. In Florence, the dummy of an old woman was hung on a ladder. In the middle of Lent there was a ceremony of sawing her through. Stuffings of nuts and dried fruit fell into the square where crowds scrambled for them. In South Germany there is a leafy fool, similar to the May-Day Jack-i'-the-green. As a `wild man' he suffers a mock-death, and then another boy, dressed to parody the village doctor, pretending to bleed him brings him back to life. In French Dauphine there was a variation on this death-and-survival game, when the leaf-lad lies dead on the ground, and is revived by a girl's kiss. There is a similar Russian custom. Recall the Sleeping Beauty in the Enchanted Wood, the subject of Marius Petipa's greatest ballet.

At this seasonal change there are many mock-battles, sometimes no more than a conversation between summer and winter, at others a rough football game, where the ball was once a head of winter-death or a slain enemy. Wandering mediaeval minstrels were well known for their juggling tricks with swords, and we recall the mock-combat of the Spartan Pyrrhic and the Roman Troy-Game. In 1350, in Nuremberg, there was a folk-game using a Sword-Dance, and from that day onward it has, under numerous forms and mutations, constantly recurred at Shrovetide or Yule, and the revels at nuptials, royal entries, and births of kingly heirs.

There is a description of the `figuir' (figure), of a Shetland Island sword dance, transcribed around 1788, but it unquestionably refers to a form which is- ancient, typical of many others of a Nordic nature.

The six stand in rank with their swords reclining on their shoulders. The Master (Saint George) dances, and then strikes the sword. of James of Spain, who follows George, then dances, strikes, the sword of Dennis, who follows be-hind James. In like manner the rest—the music playing—swords as before. After the six are brought out of rank, they and the Master form a circle, and hold the swords point and hilt. The circle is danced round twice. The whole, headed by the Master, pass under the swords held in a vaulted manner. They jump over the swords. This naturally places the swords across, which they disentangle by passing under their right sword. They take up the seven swords, and form a circle, in which they dance around, (and so on, until at the end,) after several other evolutions, they throw themselves into a circle, with their arms across the breast. They afterwards form such figures as to form a shield of their swords, and the shield (a star of David) is so compact that the Master and his knights dance alternately with, this shield upon their, heads. It is then laid down upon the floor. Each knight lays hold of their former points and hilts with their hands across, which disentangle by figuirs (figures) directly contrary to those that formed the shield. This finishes the ballet.

The Scotch sword-dance is usually a solo. The characteristic: thing about its English variant is the presence of two buffoon-characters, :mock-king and queen, which are also found in Italy, Germany and Bohemia. There is a fool, or Tommy, who sports a fox-skin and a fox-tail, and a Bessy, who is a man dressed as a girl. They are accompanied by a set of other personae, differing according to the country. There is a Yorkshire version which has Thomas, the clown-fool, his son Tom, a Captain Brown, Obadiah Trim, a tailor; a foppish Knight; Love-Ale, a vintner; and Bridget (Bessy), the clown's wife. At Christmas time the dancers come. The clown indicates a circle with his flat wooden sword, and calls on the others for little verses, which generally result in a quarrel where one of the grotesques is killed, in order to be revived. At the collection, the fool is bursar. Sometimes local celebrities are replaced by the seven champions of Christendom, St. George for England, St. James for Spain, St. Denys for France, St. David for Wales, St. Patrick for Ireland, St. Anthony for Italy and St. Andrew for Scotland. A dance from the Harz Mountains employs the five kinds of England, Saxony, Poland, Denmark and Moorland, Hans, a serving-boy, and one Schnortison, treasurer for the guete.

Similar to the sword-dance and far more famous is the Morris, whose chief badge is the bells on knees and ankles of its dancers. It is ancient and was frequently, but not always, performed at May games, being particularly popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially in the south of England.

The legendary source of the Morris, Morrice, Morrisk or Morisco traces its importation into England by John of Gaunt, who went on an embassy from Edward the Third to Moorish Spain, but very similar folk-plays were performed in Normandy and probably in England itself long before that. Nevertheless it is not until about the time of Henry the Seventh that records appear testifying to its popularity at parochial festivals. Early historians connect it not only to the Roman Floralia (purely a May festival), but to Provencal and Florentine Magi or May games.

The dancers, then, carry bells and often wave kerchiefs. Sometimes their faces are blackened, or among their number is one Blackamoor, his presence explaining perhaps the persistence of the name. But far more likely such sooty faces depend on a tradition even older than Moors in Granada, from that epoch when Saxon or Celtic tribesmen smeared their faces from the holy-ashes of a sacrificial fire. Later, May-Day would be the particular property of chimney-sweeps. Much further on, characters from the legend of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Little John and Friar Tuck would be identified with the Morris, as well as a hobby-horse and a dragon, who would be killed by Saint George of Cappadocia or England, and restored to life by a Doctor. Maid Marian was sometimes Mother Eve, a shepherdess, or the Fool's wife. The Blackamoor would be Beelzebub or even Mahomet. With the arrival of these characters, their speeches and requests, the element of dancing retires into the back-ground, and literary drama evolves.

Aside from its ethnic and ritual significance, the Morris was also interesting from a choreographic point of view, and is still widely performed in England and America by the good offices of Folk Dancing Societies, stemming from researches of the late Cecil Sharp. The figures are extremely ingenious and elaborate. There is little use of the whole body; the arms only wave handkerchiefs; a kind of jog-trot is always maintained, but the feet, jingling bells, carry the dancers in an orderly maze of complex steps, changing and replacing each other in delightful precision. Such a dance is naturally more fun to do than to watch, but the Morris would later become a spectacular court-dance during the renaissance, known in Italy as the Matacino, in France and England as Danse des Bougons or Matachins. It would be performed theatrically in such Elizabethan dramas as `The Two Noble Kinsmen,' where it was a reproduction of one of the anti-masques in Beaumont's `Masque of the Inner Temple.'

A curious variation of the Morris was danced in 1599 by William Kemp, a famous comedian. He jogged with his bells, from London to Norwich, and in the broadside he issued after his marathon, a woodcut shows him in shirt, collar and hat, very like portraits of Shakespeare, in whose `Romeo and Juliet' he achieved a great success as Peter, the lovable page. He is accompanied by a man with a drum and pipe. His apologia was as much "to refute the lying ballads put forth concerning this exploit, as to testify his gratitude for the favours he had received during his gambols." In Marston's play, `The Scourge of Villanie,' Kemp's jig is referred to, neither as a song nor a ballad, but as a theatrical-dance:

A halll a halll

Roome for the spheres; the orbs celestial Will daunce Kempe's jigge!

Kemp said of himself that he "spent his life in mad jigges," and the music of his longest one, or, at least, a Morris bearing his name, exists.

The contribution made by the Church and by the folk, however indispensable as background and as source-material, is an indirect continuation of the tradition of theatrical dancing, and in a strict sense, secondary to the creations of individual professional dancers who, though dispersed as a class at the fall of Rome by ecclesiastical edict, nevertheless persisted as individual artists, in all corners of Europe. And, accidentally or consciously, these often forlorn and always insecure wanderers, would do much to create and develop not only a new poetic metric for a reborn narrative and dramatic literature, but a new musical style as well; and most important, for our purposes, they would lay foundations for our techniques of theatrical-dancing.

By the fourth century, there were rules that clergy officiating at weddings and christenings must, without fail, quit the room before actors came in. Such private engagements were about the only means of support for the outlawed scenici. Exiled from theaters, they were still popular at private dinner-parties, or rural festivals or merry-makings before taverns in city streets, or wherever they could attract the fragments of their old audience. Hardship and a new economic system in emergence changed the whole nature of their repertory and performance.

In particular, the pantomime suffered. Their highly developed and, subtle medium of expression, so dependent on all the ancient surroundings of stage and imperial society, however corrupt it may have become, was nevertheless a fine art. There was little place for it in Gothic civilization. Some of these dispossessed actor-dancers were perhaps the ancestors of the Italian Mattacini, buffoon-dancers of the early renaissance. The Mimi, as such, had always a larger appeal to the mass-audience, though they were now reduced from their once exalted position, and competed for a pittance with acrobats, tight-rope walkers and down-at-the-heel gladiators, who, often as not, would turn into animal-trainers, making tame bears dance or dogs jig on their hind legs. They used their wits as best they could, even to the extent of learning flip-flops and cartwheels, and memorizing interminable narratives which so pleased the German and English barbarians.

Nevertheless, in essentials they remained the same; still jesters and buffoons, still irrepressible, still obscene. In little companies of two or three, they padded the hoof along the roads, traveling from gathering to gathering, making their own welcome in castle or tavern, or if need were, sleeping in some grange or beneath a wayside in the white moonlight. They were, in fact, absorbed into that vast body of Nomad entertainers on whom so much of the gayety of the middle ages depended. They became ioculatores, jougleurs, minstrels.*

The land par excellence of the minstrel was Provence, that once rich Roman province which still boasts its circuses and theaters at Nimes, Arles, Orange and Marseilles. Not only did it preserve valuable relics of Latin culture, but it was also a transfer station of Moorish civilizations both in Spanish Granada, the Mediterranean islands, and Saracen capitals as far East as Constantinople and even Bagdad and Persia.

Islamic gifts to the western mediaeval science, astronomy, mathematics, and anatomy are more or less appreciated. They also had a somewhat more obscure effect on poetry, music, and, since most of Provencal songs were to be danced, upon dancing. The successive crusades precipitated an exchange of influences between Orient and Occident, but even aside from the crusades, there were peaceful infiltrations of minstrelsy from beyond the Pyrenees, along the adjoining sea-coast. The Moors not only prized singing and instrumental music in the peace of the harem, but also as an epic reminder and incitement to bravery in battle. Nevertheless, the transcriber of the Koran, we may be surprised to discover, considered music much as did Saint Augustine. The prophet insisted that it must be kept in check. "Your prayers," he told the faithful at Mecca, "will end only in piping or hand-clapping if music forms a part of them." From a similar attitude the Islamic plastic arts do not portray human-figures but only foliage, or infrequently, animal-life. "Music and singing," said Mahomet, "cause hypocrisy to grow in the heart, as water makes the corn grow." There was no music in mosques, no bells tolled in minarets; the Muezzin called with his own far-carrying voice, the hours of prayer. Banished from natural alliance with religion, the Mohammedans enjoyed music as an illicit indulgence, like wine, which they were also forbidden. They developed a number of virtuoso instruments, the most popular of which was the lute, in its many forms.

In the days of ignorance, before Mahomet came, shepherds watching sheep in the desert were wont to while away the night by answering one another on their flutes, with which they poured out alternate melodies, one flute responding to the other.

And later, though still before the Hejira, two flutes were displaced by two singing voices, which answered each other singing questions and answers of a poem. We have already seen how parallelism, the statement and response of the Hymn of David which demanded who is the King of Glory?, had in it a germ of dance-drama. Similarly, Moors in Spain had a form of minstrelsy which was a dialogue, a contention, of two points of view or of two testimonies to some fact, dealing generally with love. Both the poems of Theocritus and the Eclogues of Virgil employed conversations between spring and winter. In Provence there was the Tenzon, a kind of verbal tournament which turned into rhetorical exercises, not into drama, but was at least an element of the atmosphere from which other dance-songs emerged.

Provence with its intense, shifting mistral currents, its craggy towering volcanic rocks, perfect for a castle perch, has a curious position not only geographically but also historically and socially, as well. The extraordinary energy of its creative period, the curiously sensitive intense though minor quality of its verse, much of which seems so attractive to contemporary readers, the elaboration of its manners and ideas and the sudden terrible collapse of its civilization, is a puzzling and absorbing problem. Favored by mild weather, small isolated communities gathered around over-lords. Gothic invasions had ceased. Aside from incidental feudal robbery, there was, after a long nightmare of *barbarian chaos, comparative security. But no urban society, and what must have been a really oppressive boredom, was relieved by the welcome amusements of wandering minstrels. It is perhaps hard for us to realize, with the immediate accessibility of all forms of entertainment, what it would be like for a whole world to have nothing really resembling it for five hundred years. Suddenly, after the year 1033, when the Millennium, after Christ's birth and death had passed and earth was still whole underfoot without Doomsday's arrival, there was leisure for something other than starving, fighting, escaping, or, for the luckier ones, securing a thin existence.

The entertainers were as frequently castle lords and ladies as wandering artists. There is some misunderstanding in their terminology; if we define the words, the categories will be clear. The Latin-word minister means `inferior,' hence personal attendant. The ministeriales of the late Empire were personal appointees of Emperors. By the end of the thirteenth century, the diminutive ministrallus or French menestral achieves a special sense of household ioculator. An ioculator could be both a mime (Roman actor) or scop (Germanic folk-singer). Ioculator becomes the French jongleur, and ioca is jeu (game), the same as Latin Ludus. In Provengal there is the joglar which Chaucer knew as jogelour and we, as `juggler.' By 1273, the last of the troubadours, Guiraut de Riquier of Narbonne, found it necessary in a verse letter to Alfonso the Learned of Castile, to clear up all confusions by which poets, singers and every sort of entertainer were indiscriminately lumped together. Most important are doctors de trobar (French trouver, to find or invent), or trobaires, the (usually) noble composers of verse and music; the troubadours themselves. The joglars were, properly speaking, their instrumentalists, their accompanists or executants. Lowest of all were bufos, entertainers of the lower-classes, who could not be considered as joglars at all. The Provencal trobaire would become French and Norman-English trouvere.

Troubadours were aristocratic composers, travelling in considerable style from castle to castle, often with a whole train of joglars and serving-men; in such style on occasion, that the only way they could recoup their bankrupt coffers was to enlist in a crusade. The troubadour was expected to arrange fetes at castles he visited, and they regarded him as an arbiter of taste in the vicinity. Some troubadours, because of their expenses, even sank into the class of joglar.

Although it is an entirely different time and society, we can perhaps understand more clearly the importance of Provencal dance-song, if we remember without a strict comparison, the dithyrambic contest, that gave rise to much of the formal structure of Greek tragedy. Both in Provenge and Attica there is an atmosphere of greening seasons, a vocal and physical expression of spring-freshets and the way men feel in April and May. The Dithyramb was the hymn of the springtide of antique culture. The Mairoles or May songs of the troubadours announced a renewal of that culture, heralding an imminent renaissance, the fabric of modern civilization.

The chansons de danse, or dancing songs, were written for a Provencal stringed instrument known as viele, a type of viol as an accompaniment to the estampie. The name of the dance comes from the participle of the estamper, to strike or stamp the foot. Old German is stamfon; modern: stampfen. The chief characteristic of this dance seems to have been an accentual tap on every third beat. The troubadour, Rambaut de Vaqueiras, wrote a famous estampida which was sung to strings, called Kalenda Maia, or First of May.

Neither May dawn, nor beech-bud, nor bird-song, nor gladioli, can touch my heart, fair one, till I spy your quick messenger arrive, bringing love's comfort from you to me, till I am at your feet, till I can see my jealous foe struck by the lightning of your wrath.

Here, as in early Greece, music, poetry and dance united, and here also a protagonist is introduced, the principal singer, either gentleman or lady, and his chorus. This convention necessitated a definite allocation of the various musical parts. The importance of solos over their choral background naturally led to mimed or danced scenes called baleries. The English word `ballad,' in its earliest sense can be taken as close to this. Solomon's `Songs of Songs' which is a dramatic lyric, was known as the `Ballad of Ballads.' There were rondeau, round-dances, similar to those used for May-poles, and combinations of all the various forms. There is, for example, Bele AElis, a great favorite in the thirteenth century, which is indeed a little opera-ballet, with choruses like rubrics indicating the action.

And at its end the two dancers sing, together with the chorus. These aristocratic pastimes seem more like children's games to us. Their innocence is less simple when we recall Cabestanh, whose heart was served up to his lady in a dish, or mad Piere Vidal, whose passion for his lady was such that he literally took her name, Louve (lupa), clothing himself in a wolf's pelt to be worried by hounds in a hunt.

There was also the reverdie, a special spring-dance song appropriate to May Day; the pastourelles or songs of the shepherdess; the alba or dawn-songs, a beautifully conventionalized love lyric which cursed dawn which came so soon to part the lovers.

Yet Provence was not to have a great dance-drama; indeed Provence was to have no theater at all, though long after she has been absorbed into united France her melodies and metric provided measures, under very different names, for later dances.

But the Middle Ages had other entertainers beside the troubadours. In Rome we recall the Saturnalia, when on New Year's Day all class distinctions were dropped, while master and slave danced and drank at a common feast. Similarly, with Christians on the day of Circumcision, the eighth after Christ's birth, symbol of his first blood shed, there were extraordinary demonstrations in cathedrals.

Priests and clerks may be seen wearing masks and monstrous visages at the hours of office. They dance in the choir dressed as women, panders or minstrels. They sing wanton songs. They eat black puddings at the hour of the altar while the celebrant is saying mass. They play at dice there. They cerise with stinking smoke from the soles of old shoes. They run and leap through the church, without a blush at their own shame. Finally they drive about the town and its theaters in shabby traps and carts; and rouse the laughter of their fellows and the bystanders in infamous performances, with indecent gestures and verses scurrilous and unchaste.

Thus, in 1445, Eustache de Menil, dean of the faculty of theology at the University of Paris, addressed the bishops and chapters of France on the abuses of the Fete des Fous. He denies that such games are relics of antiquity. They are devices of the Devil, the toils of original sin. But the Feast of Fools at Rheims, in 1490, was occasion for a satirical onslaught by vicars and choir-boys on the fashion of hoods worn by the bourgeoises. This led to anti-ecclesiastical reprisals. In a sense, the Feast of Fools was a safety-valve by which once a year people felt free of the sacred system, and in unrepressed and sacrilegious parody, exhausted themselves of stored-up boredom and rancor against the liturgy, its class of celebrants and everything for which it stood. It was a rare holiday for the lay clergy against their superiors, and was paid for by levies on its watchers. In our news-reels we constantly see newsboys, caddies or Wall Street runners who are made Mayors for a day as sheepish symbols of equality. At the Feast of the Ass, a live donkey or a priest disguised as one, or a man on a hobby-horse (as in the Morris-Dance) was dressed in vestments and put through a mock Mass.

The mediaeval Fool, in parti-colored red and yellow clothes, his ass-ear hood, cox-combed wattles (perhaps relics of ancient animal-sacrifice), his bells and bladder-bauble, symbol of the world's folly, is that jester, tolerated in noble homes no matter how cruel his jokes, how biting his remarks about his keepers. Sometimes he hid under the protection of insanity. The Middle Ages, like many savage tribes today, thought madness holy. Sometimes a madman would be dwarfed or hunchbacked, and the little monsters gave illusions of mercy and tolerance to brutal or infantile masters. The dancing-Fool and Death, the Dancer are not far apart. The idea that the whole topsy-turvy world was mad; that no one, no matter how rich or wise was wholly sane has parallels in the cheery concept of the tomb's ultimate equality.

The Church, naturally, held an unfriendly attitude towards fools and minstrels. Its canon law wrote strict ordinances against them, though in actual practice the law was seldom enforced. They enjoyed enormous popularity among courtiers, town merchants and peasantry, but their hard life was scarcely relieved by a promise of eternal damnation assured by the church to ,all of their profession. Nevertheless, infrequently, to be sure, minstrels had not only friends at court, but at church as well. One of the most superb of all mediaeval characters, Francis of Assisi, who in his youth had known troubadour life to his fill, called his order of Minorites, loculatores Domini, Minstrels of our Master. Religious words would be more and more set to their secular, popular tunes.

During the reigns of the Angevin and Plantagenet Kings the minstrels were ubiquitous. They wandered at their will from castle to castle, and in time from borough to borough, sure of their ready welcome alike in the village tavern, the guildhall, and the Baron's keep. They sang and jested in the market-places, stopping cunningly at a critical moment in the performance, to gather their harvest of small coins from the bystanders. In the great castles, while lords and ladies supped or sat around the fire, it was theirs to while away many a long bookless evening with courtly geste or witty sally. At wedding or betrothal, baptism or knight dubbing, treaty or tournament, their presence was indispensable. The greater festivities saw them literally in their hundreds, and rich was their reward in money and in jewels, in costly garments, and in broad acres. They were licensed vagabonds, with free right, of entry into the presence-chambers of the land. You might know them from afar by their .coats of many colors, gaudier than any knight might respectably wear, by the instruments upon their backs and those of their servants, and by the shaven faces, close-clipped hair and flat shoes proper to their profession. This hen-speckle appearance, together with the privilege of easy access, made the ministrel's dress a favorite disguise in ages when disguise was often imperative.

The earliest English poem is 'Widsith,' the far-traveler. Though amplified and edited by Christian Englishmen, it is in essence a heathen narrative, the autobiographical epic of a wandering gledman, dating from around 40o A. D. The gleemen, scalds or scops, were bards and harpers, common to most Nordic communities.

The Saxon words for dance were hoppan, saltian or stellan, to leap; and tombian or tomban, in an acrobatic connotation. Piers Plowman could "neither saylen ne saute" (French: sauter: leap). In Ardgar's oration to Dunstan, the minstrels are said 'to fling and dance: There is preserved an odd tale of Gaimar, how in 978, King Edward was murdered by his stepmother. She paid a dancing dwarf to lure the young King alone to her chamber, and he, fascinated by the dancer's tricks, fell into her trap. The gleomen themselves were not dancers, but their heirs were.

Disguised as a harper, Alfred the Great is supposed to have eluded the Danish invaders. The specifically Anglo-Saxon gleoman disappear after the Conquest, but they do not cease to sing. They hide, and from secret coverts, in field and fen, are ralliers of nationalist sentiment, English chanters of the songs of Hereward the Wake against the Norman French, in whose train the trouveres are coming to displace them. Three hundred years later, these native minstrels will do much to establish the supremacy of the English language. But the Norman trouvere were really the conquerors, and they brought to Britain all the diverse traditions of Italy, Provence and Moorish Spain. The minstrel of the Digby manuscript, (Les Deux Menestriers) in the Bodleian Library at Oxford boasts:

I can play the lute, the violin, the pipe, the bagpipe, the syrinx, the harp, the gigue, the gittern, the symphony, the psaltery, the organistrum, the regals, the tabor and the rote. I can sing a song well, and make tales and fables. I can tell a story against any man. I can make love verses to please young ladies, and can play the gallant for them if necessary. Then I can throw knives into the air, and catch them without cutting my fingers. I can do dodges with string, most extraordinary and amusing. I can balance chairs and make tables dance. I can throw a somersault, and walk on my head.

There is a tenth century Saxon codex which shows one gleeman juggling three balls and three knives to the music of a viol. Taillefer, the minstrel of William the Conqueror's army, amazed the English at Senlac. He begged leave to strike the first Norman blow; his request granted, he dashed in front of his host, hurled a lance three times in the air, caught it by the handle; did the same with a sword, singing the while a geste of Charles the Great, Roland, Oliver and the vassals who died at Roncevals. Later minstrels were not only masters of sleight-of-hand, of music and verse, but dancing masters as well.

I remember to have seen Martin Baraton, an aged minstrel of Orleans, who was accustomed to play upon the tambourine at weddings, and on other occasions of festivity. His instrument was silver, decorated with small plates of the same metal, on which were engraved the arms of those he had taught to dance!

There was also a type of minstrel known as tregetour, (sometimes prestigiatore) or conjuror. His tricks were deemed possible only on account of an understanding between tregetour and the Foul Fiend. With the aid of rude glass lenses and a candle they could construct a simple magic lantern. Chaucer in his Frankeleyn's Tale, describes one making wild deer appear; falconers on a river bank displayed their hawks pursuing and slaying herons, and knights jousted on a plain.

Tho (then) saugh he knightes justing in a playn; And after this, he did him swich plesaunce, That he him shewed his lady on a daunce on-which himself he daunced, as him thoughte. And when this maister, that this magik wroughte, Saugh it was time, he clapte his handes two, And farewel! al our revel was ago.

The tregetour was popular enough to warrant him a place in a Dance of Death. In a poem written about 1430, John Lydgate, a famous organizer of mummery, places an actual person in his Daunce de Macabre.

Women dancers or glee-maidens were also tumblers, tomblesteres or tombesteres, from Saxon, tomban. Salome is frequently shown on her hands, her seven veils reduced to a single flying night-dress; "When the daughter of Herodyas was in comyn, and had tomblyde and pleside Harowde." A pious French writer of the thirteenth century attributes John Baptist's death to the "well-skilled tumbling and cheating tricks" of that dancing-girl. There were dances involving a blindfolded man who would pass back and forth between eggs laid on the ground, without breaking them. This was alternated with a sword-dance where knives, their handles stuck in earth, blades up, were missed by nimble feet. There were also slack-rope walking and dancing, and dancers used stilts as well. There is hardly a one of these semi-acrobatic dances which did not have an antique precedent. Remember the tumblers and the accompanying bard in the Iliad; even to stilt-dancers who in Greece wore pink skin-tights, and were called gypones. There was considerable skill at the command of the minstrel-dancer, of a somewhat grotesque sort to be sure, but nevertheless of a definitely spectacular and theatrical nature.

A party of gleemen and glee-maidcns came to the village, leading a pair of dancing bears with them. As soon as the gleemen touched the strings, the bears reared themselves up to dance, and marked the time with their feet, springing very high at times, and often feinting to come to blows with one another, and doing other antics while the music lasted. Then the bears would dance with the glee-maidens, who sang the song of the (lance with most melodious voices; and the bears would dance with them, putting their great paws in their pretty hands, and footing step by step and quite correctly the measure of the dance, growling contentedly the while.



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