Arriving for a show, I’d sometimes spot performers warming up or relaxing amidst the cluster of small tents and caravans that constituted their homes. These colourful individuals had a quality of extraordinariness about them that set them apart from us, their audience: the sort of exotic strangeness that children might imagine a pirate or a highwayman to have.
Trawling through vintage photographs of circus acts from bygone days tends to confirm that early impression.
The photograph below inspired this bit of gentle fun.
HIS CAREER IN THE CIRCUS
He started as The Human Fly:
it was a buzz but he got bored.
He gave sword-swallowing a try
but couldn’t stand the taste of sword.
The High-Wire beckoned: with a shout,
he climbed up there in spangled tights
then hurried down. He had found out
he didn’t have a head for heights.
Billed as The Mighty Cannon-Ball,
it seemed this role was without flaws
but one misfire caused him to fall
into a hungry lion’s jaws.
Inside the fearsome beast’s abdomen,
he took his bow: consummate showman.