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Fete Days in France - Harper's




The French are a very merry nation, and for their fête or festival days have many jolly games to amuse both the children and older people. In one of these a weighted string is hung up at one end of a tent, and the children, starting from the other end, try to cut it with a pair of scissors. This would be easy enough, were it not that each player is blindfolded by a great hollow head with a grinning, ugly face, something like the comic masks we see in the shop windows. There are no holes for the eyes, and the head rests down on the shoulders of the player, like a great extinguisher, making her look like the caricatures in which little bodies are represented with big heads. The player turns around several times before starting, and having no idea of the proper direction, sometimes walks toward the sides, and snips the scissors in the faces of the spectators. A drummer marches toward the string, making a loud noise with his drum, but the sound oftener confuses than guides. If the player really succeeds in cutting the string, a present is awarded as a prize.

The same play-ground also serves at night as a dancing hall, for the French are very fond of dancing. Here is a little poem about French fêtes, which perhaps some of your grandparents will remember, as it was written about sixty years ago.

"Come with the fiddle, and play us a tune or two;
Lasses and lads, bring your dancing-shoes.
Here on the green is the light of the moon for you—
None but the lazy or lame can refuse.
Jig it with tweedledum,
Let frolic wheedle 'em,
Making Anxiety laugh as she views.

"Come, little Annette, with tresses all curling bright,
Sporting and frisking like lambkin or kid,
Foot it so sprightly, and dance it all down aright—
Never for languor shall Annette be chid.
Right hand and left again,
Round about set amain,
Jokingly, laughingly, just as you're bid.

"See, there is Lubin and Javotte already there—
Hark! 'tis the fife and the jerked tambourine—
Mother and granddad sitting all steady there,
Smiling and nodding, enjoying the scene.
They will delighted be,
While all benighted we
Dance in the moonlight that checkers the green.

"Farewell to misery, poverty, sorrowing;
While we've a fiddle we gayly will dance;
Supper we've none, nor can we go borrowing;
Dance and forget is the fashion of France.
Long live gay jollity!
'Tis a good quality—
Caper all, sing all, and laugh all, and prance."