The engraving presents two public entertainers who, with saber and shield, and in the presence of a referee, pass, posture and belay each other to the music of drum and pipe. The costumes of the pair, while retaining in the portraits much of their novelty and picturesqueness, are heightened in actual life by vivid colors and sharp contrasts The civilized Caucasian finds but small satisfaction in the efforts of the Asian to be interesting and entertaining. The juggler alone really captivates his audience, for prestidigitation has become a western art. But the dances and music of the Far East went begging on Midway Plaisance. The reason was easily found in the monotony and ear-piercing nature of the music to which all dancing must be done. It may be admitted that there was a peculiar rhythm to the Turkish drums, and a certain minor roulade in the pipe-tunes; but the unceasing repetition of these sounds, with the attendant misery to the hearer of an increasing tempo as the dance progressed, drove away the “Christian,” and kept him at a wise distance. In watching this saber-dance, the spectator had the feeling that the combatants were much more likely to put out his eye than to hurt each other; and, indeed, to study the faces and actions of the performers, was only to add force to this unhappy thought. Still, the saber-dance was considered more agreeable than the dance du ventre of the young women, wherein Western people might see how the head of St. John Baptist was lost to Herodias.
From ‘Rebecca Edwards’