+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

country dance, are perfect in themselves.
And, as he talks to the dog, his ingenuity in
carrying round his discourse to money
matters, and to the duty which his spectators owe
to themselves not to forget the little ceremony
of throwing a few centimes into the
arena, is a matter which gives zest to the
performance. He never appeals directly to the
peoplehe seldom recognises them in any
way; he talks at them in an incidental way,
to the old sergeant.

Another public exhibitor claims popular
attention behind the Louvre. He is said to
share a goodly proportion of Parisian
patronage, and to be rewarded with an indefinite
number of centimes. His performance is at
once rapid and astonishing.

All he does is to break a huge stoneto
crumble it up into small pieces. He begins
by declaring to the crowd that this process
may be performed by a blow of the hand.
He lets the crowd examine the stone he is
about to crush with a blow of his mighty
arm; all are satisfied that it is a solid mass.
He places it upon another stone, and, with
one blow with his naked hand, shatters it to
atoms. This performance is, of course, both
rapid and astonishing; and sagacious men
have endeavoured to account for it by
explaining that the underneath stone is so
arranged that the whole force of the blow
falls upon one point, and so acts like a sharp
instrument,—a pickaxe, for instance. This
may be the right or it may be a wrong
interpretation of the performance; but that it
is a legitimate thingthat there is no cheat
about itI am well assured.

I might linger here to watch other
performances of this class; but my attention is
drawn to a gentleman dressed quietly and
well, who has just taken his hat off, and is
bowing to us from the high curb-stone. His
expression is serious, even sad. He has an
intellectual face, a high forehead, a thoughtful
look. People flock about him very
fast; evidently he has something to say.
He has a bundle of papers under one arm.
He remains, while a crowd gathers, looking
sadly round, and still holding his hat
respectfully in his hand. Presently he murmurs
a few words; and, by degrees, bursts
into an oratorical display, at once dramatic
and effective. He is a poet. He felt the soul
of poetry within him when he was an obscure
boy in his native village. He longed to be
knownto catch the applauses of the world.
At last he resolved to travel to Paris; Paris,
where generous sentiments were always
welcomed; Paris, the natural home of the
poet. Full of youthful hope, he presented
himself to a publisher, offering his poems.
The reply he obtained was, that he was
unknown. He went to a second publisher, to a
third, to a fourth; all were polite to him, but
all rejected his works. He was in despair.
Was he, with the soul of poesy burning
within him, to starve in Paris, the cradle of
poesy? He was tempted often in that dark
time to sully the purity of his muse. But he
said, no; he might be poor, but he would be
without stain. At last he was compelled to
write songs for obscure cafés chantants; but
he should be unworthy to address that
assembly could he not assure them that all
these songs breathed a high moral purpose.
Well, one of these songs became last year the
ragethousands of copies were sold. And
what did the author get for that most
popular production? Here the orator pauses,
and looks sternly about him. Presently he
raises his arm, and, shaking it in the airy
shouts, with the countenance of a roused
fiend, "Trois francs!"

After this burst, he proceeds, in a
subdued voice, to describe his struggle. How
he resolved to fight his hard battle bravely;
and how, at last, stung by the neglect of
publishers, he resolved to place himself in
the streets, face to face with the Paris
public. He knew that they reverenced
poets. He believed that, while his muse
was pure, he might appeal to them with
confidence. They may judge by his language
that he is no common impostor; and he
confidently believes that the time will come
when it will be a popular wonder that the
known man once in that way sought a public
in the streets of Paris. To that time he looks
courageously forward; and only asks his
audience to buy a number of his works which
he has under his arm, and which may be had
for three sous each, in confirmation of all he
has said. And, forthwith, the poet bows to the
crowd, who press about him to buy his works.

This last exhibition behind the Louvre
sent me away thinking seriously of the
strange things to be seen in the byways of
Paris, where few strangers penetrate. Indeed,
these licensed street performers form a
class peculiar to the French capital. Their
ingenuity is as extraordinary, as their
knowledge of French taste and sentiment is truthful.
From the prosperous pencil manufacturer
down to the old man who carries a
magic-lantern about the neighbourhood of
the Luxembourg every night, for hire, all the
people who get their living in the streets of
this giddy place are worth loitering in a
byway to see and to hear.

published Weekly in HOUSEHOLD WORDS.
On the 15th of April will be published, in Household
Words, the Third Portion of a New Work of Fiction,
The publication of this Story will be continued in HOUSEHOLD
WORDS Week to Week, and completed in Five Months.
Price of each Weekly Number of HOUSEHOLD WORDS, (containing, besides, the usual variety of matter), Twopence; or Stamped,
is published also in Monthly Parts and in Half-yearly Volumes.