Francois Villon. The Testament.
In this my thirtieth year of life
When I had drunk down all my shames,
While compos mentis (more or less)
Notwithstanding many pains,
Every one of which I’ve had
Under Thibault d-Aussigny —
If he’s a bishop, blessing streets,
That he is mine, this I deny;
My lord he’s not, my bishop not;
My holdings from him all lie waste;
To him I owe not faith nor homage;
I’m not his serf, nor yet his prey.
He fed me with a little loaf
And water, one whole summer through.
Liberal or mean, he scanted me.
As he to me, God be to him!
. . .
I mourn the season of my youth
(When, more than most, I lived it up
Until old age made its entree),
That time that’s vanished furtively.
It hasn’t gone away on foot
Nor yet on horseback. Ah! Then how?
It has abruptly taken wing
And left no gift behind for me.
Away it’s gone, and I remain,
Poor both in knowledge and in sense,
More sombre than a mulberry,
Who’ve no rents, no income, no goods;
The least of my kin (it’s the truth)
Steps forward to cast me off,
All natural duty quite forgot
For the lack of a little cash.
Yet I don’t fear that I’ve spent much
On feasting and on gluttony;
For love affairs nothing’s been sold
That my kin might reproach me for–
Nothing at least that costs them much.
I say it and don’t think I’m wrong;
This charge is one I can rebut.
Who hasn’t erred should not confess.
It’s true enough that I have loved
and gladly I should love again;
But gloomy heart and starving stomach
Not so much as one-third replete
Lead me away from amorous paths.
Well, let someone make up for it
Whose tun’s well-filled upon its frame,
For from the belly comes the dance.
If I had studied (well I know)
In the time of my imprudent youth,
And if I had been well-behaved,
I’d have a house and a soft couch now —
What then? I stayed away from school,
As a bad boy is wont to do.
While I am writing down these words
my heart is about to break.
Ecclesiastes’ words I took
Too favourably (much good it’s done!)
Which say, ‘Enjoy yourself, my son,
In your youth.’ On the other hand,
Elsewhere he serves a different dish,
For ‘Youth and adolescence too,’
So he says, neither more nor less,
‘Are but abuse and ignorance.’
My days gone speeding away
Just as, says Job, do the loose threads
Of woven cloth, when a weaver holds
In his fist a bit of burning straw;
If there’s an end sticking out,
He takes it off immediately.
So I no longer fear mischance,
For at death all comes to a close.
A captive, alone in a dungeon I dwell,
Entombed in the stillness and murk of a cell.
Outside, in the courtyard, in wild, frenzied play,
My comrade, an eagle, has pounced on his prey.
Then, leaving it, at me he looks as if he
In thought and in purpose at once were with me.
He looks at me so, and he utters a cry.
“‘Tis time,” he is saying, “from here let us fly!
“We’re both wed to freedom, so let us away
To where lonely storm clouds courageously stray,
Where turbulent seas rush to merge with the sky,
Where only the winds dare to venture and I! . . .”
To my nanny
Dear dotting sweetheart of my childhood,
Companion of my austere fate!
In the lone house deep in the wild wood
How patiently for me you wait.
Alone beside your window sitting
You wait for me and blame the clock,
While, in your wrinkled hands, your knitting
Fitfully falters to a stop.
Beyond the crumbling gates the pine trees
Shadow the road you watch so well.
Nameless forebodings, dark anxieties,
Oppress your heart. You cannot tell
What visions haunt you: Now you seem to
See . . .
Of my mad years the vanished mirth and laughter
Affect me like a fume-filled morning-after.
Not so past pain –like wine is it to me
That as the years go by gains potency.
Sad is the path before me: toil and sorrow
Lie on the restless seaways of the morrow.
And yet from thought of death, my friends, I shrink;
I want to live –to suffer and to think,
And amid care and grief and tribulation,
Taste of sweet rapture and exhilaration;
Be drunk with harmony; touch fancy’s strings
And freely weep o’er its imaginings . . .
And love’s last flash, its smile of farewell tender
My sad decline may yet less mournful render.