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François Villon, Le Testament.

Translation (c) Jeay and Garay.

Villon's poems, written in French, date from the late fifteenth century.

The old prostitute who is now a procuress gives her instructions to the young ones.

Think about it now, pretty glover girl
You have been a novice until now;
And you, Blanche, the cobbler girl,
The time has come for knowing yourself.
Grab to your right and at your left;
Do not spare one man, I beg you,
For old women have no value nor status,
No more than do devalued coins.

And you, the noble sausage girl,
Who are a so agile dancer,
Guillemette, the tapestry girl,
Don’t despise your master:
Soon you will have to shut up shop.
When you will become old, withered,
You will have no more use than an old priest,
No more than do devalued coins.

Jeanneton, the bonnet girl,
Beware that your friend does not deprive you;
And Katherine, the purse girl,
Don’t send men away;
For the unattractive one should not provoke
Their bad grace, but smile to them.
Ugly old age does not arouse love,
No more than do devalued coins.

Girls, will you pay attention
And listen to why I weep and cry:
Because I have no place for myself,
No more than do devalued coins.

This is the lesson given them
By the one who was formerly pretty and pleasant.
Well said or not, for what they are worth,
I have had her words written down
By my clerk, Fremin the Absent-minded,
Earnest as I consider myself to be,
If he contradicts me, I curse him:
Those like the clerk must be the master.

François Villon, Ballad of the Gibbet

Translation (c) Jeay and Garay.

Brother men, who still live after us,
Don’t let your hearts be hardened
For if you have pity for us, poor men,
The sooner will God have mercy on us.
You see five, six of us hanging here;
As for the flesh, which we have nourished too well,
It’s torn to pieces and rotten long ago,
And we, the bones, turn to ash and dust.
Let no one mock our pain,
But pray God He may absolve us all.

If we call you “brothers”, you must not be
Offended by that, even if we were executed
Justly; nonetheless you know
That not all men are equally wise.
Intercede for us, since we are wretched,
Before the Virgin Mary’s son,
That he may save us by his grace,
Preserving us from the infernal fire.
We are dead; let us not burn in hell,
But pray God He may absolve us all.

The rain has soaked and washed us
And the sun dried us up and turned us black.
Magpies, crows have gouged out our eyes
And torn out our beards and eyebrows for their nests.
We never have a moment's rest;
This way and there, at the wild wind's will,
It does not stop shaking our bodies as it likes,
More pecked by birds than a sewing thimble.
Do not, therefore, be of our brotherhood,
But pray God He may absolve us all.

Prince Jesus, who govern us all,
Keep Hell from ruling over us.
Keep us safe from coming near that place.
Humans, there is no cause here for mockery
But pray God He may absolve us all.

 

 
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