Thursday, December 30, 2010

from "The Testament" lines 413-444 by Francois Villon

from The Testament

Puis que papes, roys, filz de roys
Et couceus en ventres de roynes
Sont ensevelis mors et frois
En autruy mains passent leurs regnes
Moy povre mercerot de Renes
Mourray je pas? Oy, se Dieu plaist
Mais que j'aye fait mes estraines,
Honneste mort ne me desplaist.

Ce monde n'est perpetuel
Quoy que pense riche pillart
Tous sommes soubz mortel coutel
Ce confort prent povre viellart
Lequel d’estre plaisant raillart
Ot le bruit lors que jeune estoit
Qu’on tendroit a fol et paillart
Se viel a raillery se mettoit.

Or luy convient-il mendier
Car a ce force le contraint
Regrette huy sa mort et hier
Tristesse son cuer si estraint
Se souvent n’estoit Dieu qu’il craint
Il feroit ung orrible fait
Et advient qu’en ce Dieu enfraint
Et que luy mesmes se desfait.

Car s’en jeunesse il fut plaisant
Ores plus riens ne dit qui plaise
Tousjours viel cinge est desplaisant
Moue ne fait qui ne desplaise
S’il se taist affin qu’il complaise
Il est tenu pour fol recreu
S’il parle on luy dit qu’il se taise
Et qu’en son prunier n’a pas creu.

      English translation by Galway Kinnell:

Since popes, kings, and kings’ sons
Conceived in wombs of queens
Lie dead and cold under the ground
And their reigns pass into other hands
I a poor packman out of Rennes
Won’t I also die? Yes, God willing
But as long as I’ve sown my wild oats
I won’t mind an honest death.

The world won’t last forever
Whatever the robber baron may think
The mortal knife hangs over us all
A thought which consoles the old-timer
Who was well known in his day
For the gaiety of his wit
Who’d be thought a dirty old man
If in old age he tried to poke fun.

Now he’s got to go begging
Necessity obliges it
Day after day he longs to die
Sadness so works on his heart
Often but for the fear of God
He’d commit a horrible act
And it may yet happen he breaks God’s law
And does away with himself.

For if he was amusing once
Now nothing he says gets a laugh
An old monkey is always unpleasant
And every face it makes is ugly
If trying to please he keeps quiet
Everybody thinks he’s senile
If he speaks they tell him “Pipe down
That plum didn’t grow on your tree.”

Source of the text - Villon, Francois.  The Poems of Francois Villon, translated with an introduction and notes by Galway Kinnell.  Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1977, pp. 52-55.

TJB: Senile pendu. A gob of spit in the face of self-slaughter, this speech uses oddly exact rhymes & long phrase-clusters to speak its peace.

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