Thursday, December 3, 2009

Francois Villon - Le Testament

...I regret the days of my youth, when I enjoyed myself more
than another man, right up to the threshold of old age, while youth
was slipping away. He did not leave on foot, nor yet on horseback;
alas! how then? He suddenly flew away, and left no gift for
me behind him.

He is gone, and I am left, poor in wisdom and in knowledge,
sad, worn out, blacker than a mulberry, with neither property, income,
nor money. The least of my relations, I can truly say,
hastens to disown me, forgetting his natural obligations because I lack
a few worldly goods.

And I need have no regrets for having spend money on feasting and dissipation;
and too much loving has not made me sell anything that my friends
could reproach me with, nothing at least that cost them very dear.
I think I can say that without lying; from that accusation I can defend myself;
he who has done no wrong need not confess.

It is very true that I have loved and would willingly love again,
but a sad heart and a famished stomach, not a third part filled,
keep me from paths of love. Ah! well let someone with a well-filled
belly profit from my absence, for a man can't dance on an empty stomach.

Oh! God, if only I had studied in the days of my foolish youth,
and taken up good habits, I should now have a home and a soft bed.
But alas! I ran away from school like a naughty child.
As I write these words my heart is fit to break

I gave the Sage too much credit (much good did it do me!)
when he says, 'Rejoice, oh! young man in they youth'; but elsewhere
he serves up a very different dish, for 'Childhood and youth are vanity',
these are his words, neither more nor less.

My days have flown by, as Job says, like the threads of the weaver's cloth,
when he holds in his hand a burning straw: then if any end of thread projects
he has it off in a moment. And I have no fear now of anything
that may assail me, for Death pays all scores.

Where are those handsome gallants whose company I used to keep
in the old days, singing so true, speaking so fair, pleasant in all
they did and said? Some of them are dead and stiff, nothing now
is left of them; may they have have rest in Paradise,
and God save those that are left!

And others have become, thanks be to God, great lords and masters;
others go naked, begging, and never see bread except in shop windows;
others have gone into monasteries of Celestines or of Carthusians, booted
and gaitered like oyster-fishers: see to what varying estates they have come!

As for those in high estate, may God grant them to do good,
living in peace and quiet; in them there is nothing to amend,
and it is best to say no more about them. But to the poor who have
nothing to live on, like me, may God give patience; as for the rest,
they want for nothing, they have bread and they have their monk's

Good wines they have, often freshly broached, sauces, broth and fine fish,
flans, tarts, eggs fried, poached, scrambled, and in cooked in
every kind of way. They are not like the masons, who have to be served
with so much trouble; they do not need any butlers, each one takes
the trouble to pour out for himself.

I have embarked on this digression, which in no way serves
my purpose; for I am neither judge nor appointed to punish
or absolve crime. I am the most imperfect of all men,
praise be to the sweet Jesus Christ. Let them be satisfied as far as I'm concerned:
what I have written is written.

So much for that! Now let us speak of something more attractive;
for that subject does not please everyone, it is tiresome and unpleasant.
Vexed and grieving Poverty, spiteful and rebellious, is ever apt to speak
the wounding word-- and if she does not speak it,
still she thinks it.

I have been poor from my childhood, of poor and humble origins;
my father never had great riches, nor his father, who was called Horace.
Poverty follows us all, and tracks us down: on the tombs of my ancestors,
whose souls may God take to himself, you will see no crowns or sceptres.

When I lament my poverty, my heart often tells me: 'Do not grieve like that,
man, and bewail yourself so much: if you are not so well provided as Jacques Coeur,
it is better to be a poor man alive under the coarsest woolen garment than to have
been a lord and lie rotting in a rich tomb.'

Than to have been a lord? What am I saying? A lord-- alas! is he that
no longer? According to the words of David, 'Thou shalt not find
his place.' Further than that I will not venture; it would ill become me,
a sinner. I leave it to the theologians, for it is the province of a preacher.

And I am well aware that I am not the son of an angel crowned
with a star or any other heavenly body. My father is dead, God save his soul.
As for his body, it lies beneath the tombstone. I realize that my mother is going
to die, and she, poor woman, knows it well; and her son will not stay
long behind.

I know that poor and rich, wise and foolish, priests and laymen,
nobles, peasants, the open-handed and the miserly, the small, the great,
the handsome, and the ugly, ladies in their upturned collars,
whatever their rank, whether they wear atours or bourrelets, death
takes them all without exception.

And even if it be Paris or Helen who is dying, whoever dies, dies in such pain
that he loses air and breath; his gall bursts over his heart, and then he sweats,
God knows with what a sweat, and none can relieve him of his ills,
for he has neither child nor brother nor sister who would take his place.

Death makes him shiver and turn pale, curves his nose and draws tight his veins,
swells out his neck and makes his flesh go limp,
stretches and extends his joints and muscles. Body of woman,
so tender, polished, smooth, so precious, must you, too, expect these ills?

Yes, or go straight to Heaven alive.

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