Our Lady’s Juggler

Our Lady’s Juggler – Anatole France (Anatole Thibault) (1844-1924)

Anatole France was born at Paris in 1844 and lived there most of his life. He was par excellence a man of letters. For over forty years he has written about Paris, the ancient world and the Middle Ages, en­dowing each novel or story with the philosophy of enlightened scep­ticism which is his contribution to modern thought.

Among the several volumes of stories he has written, L’Etui de nacre includes some of his very best. From this is taken Our Lady’s Juggler, which is a retelling of one of the most beautiful of the French mediaeval tales.

Our Lady’s Juggler – The present’ version is translated for this collection by Barrett H. Clark, by permission of Anatole France’s English publishers, John Lane, Ltd., the Bodley Head.

Our Lady’s Juggler

In the days of King Louis there lived a poor juggler by the name of Barnabas, a native of Compiegne, who wandered from city to city performing tricks of skill and prowess.

On fair days he would lay down in the public square a worn and aged carpet, and after having attracted a group of children and idlers by certain amusing remarks which he had learned from an old juggler, and which he invariably repeated in the same fashion without altering a word, he would assume the strangest postures, and balance a pewter plate on the tip of his nose.

At first the crowd regarded him with indifference, but when, with his hands and head on the ground he threw into the air and caught with his feet six copper balls that glit­tered in the sunlight, or when, throwing himself back until his neck touched his heels, he assumed the form of a perfect wheel and in that position juggled with twelve knives, he elicited a murmur of admi­ration from his audience, and small coins rained on his carpet.

Still, Barnabas of Compiegne, like most of those who exist by their accomplishments, had a hard time making a living. Earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, he bore rather more than his share of those miseries we are all heir to through the fault of our Father Adam.

Our Lady`s Juggler part 4

At times he represented Her as a graceful child, and Her image seemed to say, “Lord, Thou art My Lord!”

There were also in the Monastery poets who composed prose writ¬ings in Latin and hymns in honor of the Most Gracious Virgin Mary; there was, indeed, one among them—a Picard—who translated the Miracles of Our Lady into rimed verses in the vulgar tongue.

Perceiving so great a competition in praise and so fine a harvest of good works, Barnabas fell to lamenting his ignorance and simplicity.

“Alas!” he sighed as he walked by himself one day in the little garden shaded by the Monastery wall, “I am so unhappy because I cannot, like my brothers, give worthy praise to the Holy Mother of God to whom I have consecrated all the love in my heart.

Alas, I am a stupid fellow, without art, and for your service, Madame, I have no edifying sermons, no fine treatises nicely prepared according to the rules, no beautiful paintings, no cunningly

Our Lady`s Juggler part 3

The monk was touched by the simplicity of the juggler, and as he was not lacking in discernment, he recognized in Barnabas one of those well-disposed men of whom Our Lord has said, “Let peace be with them on earth.” And he made answer therefore:

“Friend Barnabas, come with me and I will see that you enter the monastery of which I am the Prior. He who led Mary the Egyptian through the desert put me across your path in order that I might lead you to salvation.”

Thus did Barnabas become a monk. In the monastery which he entered, the monks celebrated most magnificently the cult of the Holy Virgin, each of them bringing to her service all the knowledge and skill which God had given him.

The Prior, for his part, wrote books, setting forth, according to the rules of scholasticism, all the virtues of the Mother of God. Brother Maurice copied these treatises with a cunning hand on pages of parch¬ment, while Brother Alexandre decorated them with delicate

Our Lady`s Juggler part 2

He had never thought much about the origin of wealth nor about the inequality of human conditions. He firmly believed that if this world was evil the next could not but be good, and this faith upheld him. He was not like the clever fellows who sell their souls to the devil; he never took the name of God in vain; he lived the life of an honest man, and though he had no wife of his own, he did not covet his neighbor s, for woman is the enemy of strong men, as we learn by the story of Samson which is written in the Scriptures.

Verily, his mind was not turned in the direction of carnal desire, and it caused him far greater pain to renounce drinking than to forego the pleasure of women. For, though he was not a drunkard, he enjoyed drinking when the weather was warm. He was a good man, fearing God, and devout in his adoration of the Holy Virgin. When he went into a church he never failed to kneel before the image of the Mother of God and to address her with this prayer:

Our Lady`s Juggler part 1

Anatole France (Anatole Thibault) (1844-1924)

Anatole France was born at Paris in 1844 and lived there most of his life. He was par excellence a man of letters. For over forty years he has written about Paris, the ancient world and the Middle Ages, en¬dowing each novel or story with the philosophy of enlightened scep¬ticism which is his contribution to modern thought.

Among the several volumes of stories he has written, L`Etui de nacre includes some of his very best. From this is taken Our Lady’s Juggler, which is a retelling of one of the most beautiful of the French mediaeval tales.

The present’ version is translated for this collection by Barrett H. Clark, by permission of Anatole France`s English publishers, John Lane, Ltd., the Bodley Head.

Our Lady`s Juggler

In the days of King Louis there lived a poor juggler by the name of Barnabas, a native of Compiegne, who wandered from city to city performing trick