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Poems of Francois Villon

The Legacy, The Testament and Other Poems

Francois Villon

Translated by Peter Dale

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Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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Paperback (272 pages)
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    From The Testament: Another Ballade

    [Ballade in Old French]

    Now whether it’s the holy Pope,
    The alb, the amice his attire,
    Who girds on just the stole and cope
    To seize the devil’s throat, afire
    With ill intent – a do-and-dier,
    Just like the servants in his pay,
    One gust and gone like any squire.
    That much the wind blows right away.

    Yes, or that lord of golden grope,
    Constantinople’s, or, none higher,
    The noble king of France, past hope
    In fame for other king or sire,
    Who founded convent, church and choir
    For God’s great glory. Though, in his day,
    As honoured as he could desire,
    That much the wind blows right away.

    Whether Grenoble’s, Vienne’s hope,
    The Dauphin, the brave, the flier;
    Or Doles, Dijon, Salins; the scope
    Of great men and the lines they sire;
    The same goes for the men they hire,
    Trumpeters, heralds, lackeys, they
    Stuffed, didn’t they, all they’d desire?
    That much the wind blows right away.

    Princes are destined to expire
    And all the living go that way.
    If this upsets or raises ire,
    That much the wind blows right away.

    Translated by Peter Dale

    François Villon was born in Paris in 1431. His life was blighted by destitution and ill health, robbery and murder, torture and exile. While we do not know what became of Villon after his 32nd year, the poems he produced in just six years capture in forceful, intelligent and candid verse the low and high life of Paris. They constitute a body of work with few rivals in the literature of his own country or in that of any other. His work was greatly admired by Ezra Pound, who ranked him with Sappho and Catullus in his pantheon of great lyric poets.

    Peter Dale has revised his translations for this new edition.

    Francois Villon
    François Villon, poet, thief and murderer, was born in Paris in 1431 but there is no trace of him after about 1463. This iconic figure in French poetry is the subject of a lively biographical and historical study by Aubrey Burl, Danse Macabre (2000). ... read more
    Peter Dale
    Peter Dale was born in Addleston, Surrey in 1938 and educated at St Peter’s College, Oxford. He worked as a secondary school teacher before becoming a freelance writer in 1993. He was co-editor of the poetry journal Agenda for many years. He is renowned for his translations from French (Corbière, Laforgue, ... read more
    Awards won by Francois Villon Short-listed, 1999 T S Eliot Prize (Poems of Francois Villon)
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