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222 THE FOLK-SONGS OF POITOU.
The Poitevin peasant is naturally gay, and his light-heartedness is manifested in the great number, as well as in the good humor and cheerfulness, of his folk-songs. Of course the common sorrows of mankind weigh upon him ; he feels the stings of poverty and the pains and sordidness of labor; the conscription tears him from his home and his beloved ; and he experiences the tragedies of love and death. These things stir his mind and find a place in his folk-songs, but the prevailing spirit which governs his expression in music and song is not of melancholy brooding and sorrow, like that of his Celtic neighbors, but gayety and joyousness. He finds the smiling world a pleasant place to live in; his love is the natural and happy ebullition of his warm temperament; and his experiences of life are cheerful.
The gayety of the Poitevin temperament finds its expression in the immense number of " rounds " as they are called in English, which give the vocal measure and accompaniment to the vigorous and joyous dances. The youths and the maidens, when they meet at the rustic gatherings, or even in the intervals of labor in the fields, join hands by a natural instinct, and improvise a dance to the rhythm of their own voices, and the " rounds " which they sing, although often mere nonsense, or at least without a consecutive meaning, have a note of