Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Two Famous Entertainments
By Pierre de Bourdeille, Seigneur de Brantôme (d. 1614)
From ‘Lives of Courtly Women’

I HAVE read in a Spanish book called ‘El Viaje del Principe’ (The Voyage of the Prince), made by the King of Spain in the Pays-Bas in the time of the Emperor Charles, his father, about the wonderful entertainments given in the rich cities. The most famous was that of the Queen of Hungary in the lovely town of Bains, which passed into a proverb, “Mas bravas que las festas de Bains” (more magnificent than the festivals of Bains). Among the displays which were seen during the siege of a counterfeit castle, she ordered for one day a fête in honor of the Emperor her brother, Queen Eleanor her sister, and the gentlemen and ladies of the court.  1
  Toward the end of the feast a lady appeared with six Oread-nymphs, dressed as huntresses in classic costumes of silver and green, glittering with jewels to imitate the light of the moon. Each one carried a bow and arrows in her hand and wore a quiver on her shoulder; their buskins were of cloth of silver. They entered the hall, leading their dogs after them, and placed on the table in front of the Emperor all kinds of venison pasties, supposed to have been the spoils of the chase. After them came the Goddess of Shepherds and her six nymphs, dressed in cloth of silver, garnished with pearls. They wore knee-breeches beneath their flowing robes, and white pumps, and brought in various products of the dairy.  2
  Then entered the third division—Pomona and her nymphs—bearing fruit of all descriptions. This goddess was the daughter of Donna Beatrix Pacheco, Countess d’Autremont, lady-in-waiting to Queen Eleanor, and was but nine years old. She was now Madame l’Admirale de Chastillon, whom the Admiral married for his second wife. Approaching with her companions, she presented her gifts to the Emperor with an eloquent speech, delivered so beautifully that she received the admiration of the entire assembly, and all predicted that she would become a beautiful, charming, graceful, and captivating lady. She was dressed in cloth of silver and white, with white buskins, and a profusion of precious stones—emeralds, colored like some of the fruit she bore. After making these presentations, she gave the Emperor a Palm of Victory, made of green enamel, the fronds tipped with pearls and jewels. This was very rich and gorgeous. To Queen Eleanor she gave a fan containing a mirror set with gems of great value. Indeed, the Queen of Hungary showed that she was a very excellent lady, and the Emperor was proud of a sister worthy of himself. All the young ladies who impersonated these mythical characters were selected from the suites of France, Hungary, and Madame de Lorraine; and were therefore French, Italian, Flemish, German, and of Lorraine. None of them lacked beauty.  3
  At the same time that these fêtes were taking place at Bains, Henry II. made his entrée in Piedmont and at his garrisons in Lyons, where were assembled the most brilliant of his courtiers and court ladies. If the representation of Diana and her chase given by the Queen of Hungary was found beautiful, the one at Lyons was more beautiful and complete. As the king entered the city, he saw obelisks of antiquity to the right and left, and a wall of six feet was constructed along the road to the courtyard, which was filled with underbrush and planted thickly with trees and shrubbery. In this miniature forest were hidden deer and other animals.  4
  As soon as his Majesty approached, to the sound of horns and trumpets Diana issued forth with her companions, dressed in the fashion of a classic nymph with her quiver at her side and her bow in her hand. Her figure was draped in black and gold sprinkled with silver stars, the sleeves were of crimson satin bordered with gold, and the garment, looped up above the knee, revealed her buskins of crimson satin covered with pearls and embroidery. Her hair was entwined with magnificent strings of rich pearls and gems of much value, and above her brow was placed a crescent of silver, surrounded by little diamonds. Gold could never have suggested half so well as the shining silver the white light of the real crescent. Her companions were attired in classic costumes made of taffetas of various colors, shot with gold, and their ringlets were adorned with all kinds of glittering gems….  5
  Other nymphs carried darts of Brazil-wood tipped with black and white tassels, and carried horns and trumpets suspended by ribbons of white and black. When the King appeared, a lion, which had long been under training, ran from the wood and lay at the feet of the Goddess, who bound him with a leash of white and black and led him to the king, accompanying her action with a poem of ten verses, which she delivered most beautifully. Like the lion—so ran the lines—the city of Lyons lay at his Majesty’s feet, gentle, gracious, and obedient to his command. This spoken, Diana and her nymphs made low bows and retired.  6
  Note that Diana and her companions were married women, widows, and young girls, taken from the best society in Lyons, and there was no fault to be found with the way they performed their parts. The King, the princes, and the ladies and gentlemen of the court were ravished. Madame de Valentinois, called Diana of Poitiers,—whom the King served and in whose name the mock chase was arranged,—was not less content.  7

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.