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Full text of "The poems of Master Fran├žois Villon of Paris, now first done into English verse in the original forms with a biographical and critical introduction by John Payne"

Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

h 



II3J 



SOCIETY 






FROM THE 

i A r -T rvsrrj! 

*J . /-V, l I .,!- 

THEATRE CC L^C.iO'i 

BEQUEST 

10 NEW PLAY SOCIETY 



THE POEMS OF MASTER FRANCOIS 
VILLON OF PARIS 



500 copies of this book have 
been printed on Van Gelder 
hand-made paper and the type 
distributed. 




WtKUKM'T FROM AN EDITION OF THK 1 5TH CENTURY 



THE POEMS OF MASTER FRANCOIS 
VILLON OF PARIS NOW FIRST 
DONE INTO ENGLISH VERSE IN THE 
ORIGINAL FORMS WITH A BIOGRAPH- 
ICAL AND CRITICAL INTRODUCTION 
B Y JOHN PA YNE 




PRINTED FOR THOMAS B MOSHER AND 
PUBLISHED B Y HIM AT XLV EXCHANGE 
STREET PORTLAND MAINE MDCCCCIX 







'& 



FIRST EDITION (725 COPIES) OCTOBER, 1900 

SECOND EDITION (500 COPIES) NOVEMBER, 1905 
THIRD EDITION (500 COPIES) FEBRUARY, 1 909 



BALLADE A JOHN PAYNE, TRADUCTEUR 
DE VILLON 



/I TOI salut, cber Payne ! En vers Anglais 
-tJ. Tu mets Villon, que noire vigne inspire ? 
Entre lesfous, aieux de Rabelais, 

O bons rbytbmeurs du pays de Sbakspere, 

Vous en pouvie^, j'e crois, cboisir unpire. 
Ce doux railleur, au plaisir assidu, 
N'aima run tant que le fruit defendu; 

Son perruquier farouche etait la brise, 
Et son bumeur celle d'un cbien perdu. 

Prene^ Villon, c'est une bonne prise. 

Ce vagabond, pareil aux feux-follets, 

Contre la faim se debat et conspire. 
Epris du lutb moins que des flageolets, 

Cest a cbarmer faanneton qu'il aspire. 

Un cabaret fut sonjoyeux empire : 
II se montrait, en son rire eperdu, 
Si bon garqon qu'il fut presque pendu. 

Cbe^ les buveurs il obtint la mattrise, 
Humant le piot, toujours le cou tendu. 

Prene^ Villon, c'est une bonne prise. 



BALLADE 

// fut dufiel mains que Its oiseltts 
Et figlantier qui dans les bois respire. 

Loin fas bouffons de cour et des valets, 
Qut r ennui mord ainsi qu'un noir vampire, 
llfestoyait,fier comme un roi d'Epire. 

Aixc Margot sur la paille etendu, 

Estimant fort son chignon bien tordu 
Et son sein lourd aux rougeurs de cerise, 

II cajolait son couferme et dodu. 

Dillon, c'tst une bonne prise. 



La soif V avail en plein gosier mordu, 
Et par surcroit ilfut esclave du 

Cruel archer qui tous nous martyrise, 
II s'en allait, comme un compas fendu. 

Prene^ Dillon, c'est une bonne prise. 

THEODORE DE BANVILLE. 



VI 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

FOREWORD XIII 

PREFATORY NOTE, 3 

INTRODUCTION, 13 

THE LESSER TESTAMENT OF MASTER FRAN- 
COIS VILLON 103 

THE GREATER TESTAMENT OF MASTER FRAN- 
COIS VILLON, containing 

Octaves i-xli, . . . . . .119 

Ballad of Old -Time Ladies, . . . 133 
Ballad of Old-Time Lords, No. i, . .134 

Ballad of Old-Time Lords, No. 2, . . 136 

Octaves xlii-xlvi, 137 

The Complaint of the Fair Helm-maker 

grown old, 139 

The Doctrine of the Fair Helm-maker to the 

Light o' Loves, 142 

Octaves xlvii-liv, 143 

Double Ballad of Light Loves, . . . 146 

Octaves Iv-lxxix 148 

Ballad that Villon made for his Mother, etc., 157 

Octaves Ixxx-lxxxiii, . . . . 1 59 
Ballad of Villon to his Mistress, . . .160 

Octaves Ixxxiv, 161 

Lay, or Rather Roundel (To Death), . . 162 

Octaves Ixxxv-cxv 162 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

THE GREATER TESTAMENT (continued) 

Ballad and Orison (For Master Cotard's Soul), 173 

Octaves cxvi-cxxix, 174 

Ballad for a newly married Gentleman, . 179 

Octaves cxxx-cxxxiii, . . . . 180 

Ballad: Counterblast to Franc -Gon tier, . 182 

Octaves cxxxiv 183 

Ballad of the Women of Paris, . . .184 

Octaves cxxxv^-cxlv, . . . . 185 

Seemly Lesson to the Good-f or -Noughts, . 189 

Ballad of Good Doctrine to those of 111 Life, 190 

Octaves cxlvi-cliii, . . . . * . 191 

Roundel (On my Release), . . . 194 
Octaves cliv-clxv, . . ,\ . . .194 

Roundel (Requiem), . . . . 199 

Octaves clxvi-clxxiii, 199 

Ballad crying all Folk Mercy, . . . 202 

Ballad (Final), 203 

DIVERS POEMS 

Ballad of Villon in Prison, . . . 207 

Epitaph (Quatrain), 209 

Variant, 209 

Epitaph in Form of Ballad, . . . .210 

Request to the Court of Parliament, . 211 

Ballad of Villon's Appeal 213 

Ballad of Proverbs 214 

Ballad of Things known and unknown, . 216 

Ballad of Poor Chimneysweeps, . . 217 

Ballad of Fortune, 219 

VIII 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 
DIVERS POEMS (continued) 

Ballad of those that missay of France, . 220 
Ballad of the Debate of the Heart and 

Body of Villon, 222 

Ballad written by Villon upon a Subject 

proposed by Charles Due d'Orleans, . 224 
Ballad of Villon's Request to the Due de 

Bourbon, 226 

SUNDRY POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON 

Roundel, 231 

A Merry Ballad of Vintners, . . . 232 

Ballad of the Tree of Love, . . . 234 

Ballad of Ladies' Love, . . . . 235 
NOTES 

Notes to the Lesser Testament, . . . 241 

Notes to the Greater Testament, . . 245 

Notes to Divers and Sundry Poems, . . 254 

FACSIMILES, 257 



IX 



FOREWORD 



" Some charitable critics see no more than a jeu d' eiprit, a 
graceful and trifling exercise of the imagination, in the grimy ballad 
of Fat Peg (Grosst Margot). I am not able to follow these gentle- 
men to this polite extreme. Out of all Villon's works that ballad 
stands forth in flaring reality, gross and ghastly, as a thing written 
in a contraction of disgust. M. Longnon shows us more and more 
clearly at every page that we are to read our poet literally, that his 
names are the names of real persons, and the events he chronicles 
were actual events. But even if the tendency of criticism had run 
the other way, this ballad would have gone far to prove itself. I 
can well understand the reluctance of worthy persons in this mat- 
ter ; for of course it is unpleasant to think of a man of genius as 
one who held, in the words of Marina to Boult 

' A place, for which the pained'st fiend 
Of hell would not in reputation change.' 

But beyond this natural unwillingness, the whole difficulty of the 
case springs from a highly virtuous ignorance of life. Paris now is 
not so.different from the Paris of then ; and the whole of the doings 
of Bohemia are not written in the sugar-candy pastorals of Murger. 
It is really not at all surprising that a young man of the fifteenth 
century, with a knack of making verses, should accept his bread 
upon disgraceful terms. The race of those who do is not extinct ; 
and some of them to this day write the prettiest -'erses imaginable. 
. . . After this, it were impossible for Master Francis to fall 
lower : to go and steal for himself would be an admirable advance 
from every point of view, divine or human." ROBERT Louis 
STBVBNSON ( Familiar Studies of tMen and Books). 




FOREWORD 

HIS reprint of the Poems of Fran- 
9ois Villon is based upon three 
distinct editions : 

I. The Poems of Master Francis 
Villon of Paris, now first done into 
English Verse, in tbe original 
forms, by Jobn Payne. London : 
Trinted for tbe Villon Society, for Private Distribu- 
tion, MDCCCLXXV11I. Fcap4to. Full vellum gilt. 
Pp. xxiv: 1-187. 

From this, the editio princeps, we have reproduced 
the frontispiece, also facsimiles of a fifteenth century 
MS. and a black letter form of Ballad. In one instance 
the earlier reading of a single line was adopted in pref- 
erence to the later version. The Ballade a Jobn Payne 
by Theodore de Banville deserved preservation.' 
This was in response, as may be presumed, to the 
dedication which Mr. Payne prefixed to his translation : 
To my friend Theodore de Banville, tbe reviver of tbe 
Ballad.* 

1 Found also in the 1881, bat omitted from the 1892, edition. 

2 Retained in the 1881 edition. In iSgz, De Banville having died 
the previous year, the dedication reads as follows : 

To tbe memory of my friend Tbiodore de Banville, one of 
tbe sweetest souls that ever sanctified humanity, I dedicate this 
new edition of a book which was dear to him. 

XIII 



FOREWORD 

1 1. The poems of Master Francis l/illon of Paris, now 
first done into English l/erse, in tbt original forms, 
by John Payne. London : Reeves and Turner, 196 
Strand, MDCCCLXXXl. Crown 8vo. Boards. Pp. 
xcvi: 1-150. 

This, with an Introduction which appears for the 
first time, differs in one important respect from the 
preceding edition, as the following extract from Mr. 
Payne's Prefatory Note makes evident : 

"The limited issue (in 1878) of my translation of 
Villon's poems was found to be so completely inade- 
quate to the demand, and the interest of the reading 
classes in the famous poet of latter mediaeval France 
has of late years so steadily increased, that it has been 
thought well to publish the version in such a form as 
will place it within the reach of the general public. 
For this purpose it has been necessary to omit alto- 
gether three of the ballads, and to alter or suppress a 
few passages in the body of the Testament. These 
expurgations are, after all, inconsiderable ; * and 
although I cannot but regret the necessity of this 
sacrifice to the somewhat illogical squeamishness of 
the day, I do not feel that it detracts in any consider- 
able degree from the value, such as it is, of the version 
as a complete presentment to English readers of 
Villon's work." 

i Less than twenty lines all told, in the body of The Greater 
Testament, and three ballads, to wit: Ballad of Slanderous 
Tongues, Ballad of Villon and la Grosse OAargot, and Ballad of 
Ladies' Love, No. 2. As to this last ballad, it is very doubtfully 
ascribed to Villon. 



FOREWORD 

III. Tbe Poems of Master Francois Dillon of Paris, 
now first done into English Verse, in tbe original 
forms, with a Biographical and Critical Introduction, 
by John Payne. London : MDCCCXCII. Printed 
for tbe Villon Society, by Private Subscription and 
for "Private Circulation only. Octavo. Full vellum, 
gilt. Pp. cvi : 1-158. 

Here at last is the edition definitif, the entire trans- 
lation and notes having been rewritten and revised, 
while the Introduction is brought down to a date 
which gives what may be considered the latest, perhaps 
the final information we are likely to obtain concerning 
Villon.' 

This text with the few exceptions above noted, is 
the one we now place before the American reader. 
The slight omissions (necessary if the translation was 
not to remain a sealed book to the public at large) 
are of small moment weighed against the possession of 
a hitherto almost inaccessible version of this old world 
poet. Compared with the few scholars who can read 
Villon in his archaic French there are hundreds of 
cultured men and women who will never come to know 
him save in a translation. What Symonds has done 

i Since these words were written a long wished for addition to 
our knowledge of Villon has been announced : Le Petit et Le Grand 
Testament de Franfois Dillon, Lei Cinq Ballades en Jargon et des 
Poesies du circle de Dillon, etc. Reproduction facsimile du manu- 
scrit de Stockholm, i/lvec une introduction de [Marcel Scbwob. 
Paris, 1905. ( Issued to subscribers at 100 francs in a limited edition 
by Honord Champion, 9, Quai Voltaire.) 

XV 



FOREWORD 

to reveal the soul of poetry with a depth of human 
passion unsuspected almost, in the period covered by 
his Medieval Latin Student Songs, that Payne has 
accomplished in his present researches. Through 
these studies and the version of the poems, we are 
brought face to face with Franois Villon and that 
" long vanished world of sorry men and women, 
wherein 'our sad bad glad mad brother' lived and 
held his perilous way, and was at last engulphed." 
To have achieved such a rehabilitation is a work of 
supreme power, and to this work it is now time to turn 
our attention. 

T. B. M. 



XVI 






PREFATORY NOTE 




PREFATORY NOTE 

I HE original version of my transla- 
tion of Villon's Poems was made 
in 1874, at a time when the crit- 
ical study of the old poet was far 
from having reached its present 
stage of comparative advance- 
ment ; indeed, four modern editions only (viz. those 
of M. Prompsault, 1832, M. Paul Lacroix, better 
known as Le Bibliophile Jacob, 1854 and 1866, and 
M. Jannet, 1867) of his works had then been pub- 
lished, all very incomplete and radically faulty in being 
founded mainly upon the printed texts, which are 
known to be terribly garbled and corrupt, and not 
upon the only sound basis, namely, a minute and 
critical collation of the various manuscript texts in 
existence. M. Lacroix's third edition (1877) and that 
of M. Moland (1879), though an improvement upon 
their predecessors, added little to our knowledge of 
Villon and an authoritative and definitive text of the 
poems was thus still lacking at the time (1880) when 
I revised my translation for republication in a popular 



PREFATORY NOTE 

form. In 1882-3, however, M. Bijvanck published his 
Essay on the Lesser Testament, perhaps, on the whole, 
the most important contribution yet made to the lit- 
erature of the subject and a work of such value and 
suggestiveness (despite occasional extra vagations of 
the perfervidum ingenium Batavorum) as to give great 
cause for regret that the accomplished Dutch scholar 
has not yet fulfilled his promise of giving the world 
the further results of his great erudition and critical 
ingenuity, as applied to the Greater Testament and 
the rest of the poems ; and the researches of MM. 
Vitu, Longnon, Schwob, Schone, Gaston Paris and 
others may be said to have in a manner revolutionized 
the study of Villon. The new material thus brought 
to light has for the most part been digested and incor- 
porated by M. Longnon in his definitive edition 
(published in the early part of the current year) of 
the Poems, in which he has given us the result of 
twenty -two years' labour and has at length provided 
us with a fairly representative critical text, marred, 
however, by no few defects, both of omission and 
commission, especially in the Vocabulaire-Index, 
which sadly requires completion and correction. On 
these latter, however, it would be ungracious to lay 
overmuch stress, in view of the material additions 



PREFATORY NOTE 

which the learned editor has made to our knowledge 
of Villon and of the many positive merits of his work. 
Indeed, so many and so important are the emenda- 
tions and restorations effected, whether of their own 
motion or at the instance of the many able scholars 
who have lately turned their attention to the subject 
by these two latest editors of the old Parisian poet 
and so many passages have they rescued for us from 
what had long been regarded as hopeless corruption 
and confusion that Villon may be said to be now by 
their means for the first time presented to the world 
in something like his -true shape. It is much to be 
regretted that my late friend, M. Auguste Vitu, should 
have died without putting the finishing touch to his 
life-long labours upon the same subject, as it is 
evident, from the taste of his quality which he has 
given us in his study of the Jargon,' (forming the 
third volume of his intended edition of Villon) that 
the complete work must have taken the highest rank 
in its own special line and it is to be hoped that his 
literary executors may yet find it possible to publish a 
part, if not the whole, of the remaining three volumes 
of his magnum opus. Under these circumstances I 

i Le Jargon du XVe Si^?le, par Auguste Vitu, Paris, 1884. 
S 



PREFATORY NOTE 

have found it necessary minutely to revise (and 
indeed in great part to re-write) my translation, so as 
to bring it into accordance with the labours of the 
above-mentioned scholars, the results of whose 
researches, in so far as they cast new light upon the 
work and personality of Villon, I have embodied in 
the additional notes appended to the Introduction and 
the text. Notwithstanding the achievements of mod- 
ern scholarship and the great revival of interest in 
French fifteenth -century literature which has marked 
the last twenty years, the text of Villon is still, in 
many places, terribly corrupt and obscure and we have 
yet but a minimum of information as to the detail and 
circumstance of his life, such as might avail to throw 
light upon doubtful or enigmatical passages. This 
being the case, I cannot, of course, hope to have 
altogether succeeded in avoiding errors and misread - 
ings and must ask the indulgence of my readers for 
those points of rendering upon which I have been 
obliged to trust to conjecture. 

A word as to those of the poems passing under 
Villon's name which I have left untranslated. M. 
Longnon follows the example of MM. Moland and 
Bijvanck in classing with the genuine work of our 
author the two pieces of verse ( I cannot bring myself 

6 



PREFATORY NOTE 

to dignify them with the name of poems) known as 
" Le Dit de la Naissance Marie " and " Double 
Ballade ; " but I cannot conceive how anyone 
acquainted with Villon's style can for a moment incline 
to pay him the ill compliment of attributing to him 
the authorship of these two pointless pieces, which 
are, indeed, the merest schoolboy doggerel. The first- 
named editor also adds to the " Poesies Diverses " a 
couple of ballads (" Des Contre-Verite's " and " De 
Bon Conseil ") first published by M. Bijvanck, which 
are (as he allows) worse than mediocre. These I have 
omitted, as they seem to me to be wrongly ascribed 
to Villon, upon the very insufficient evidence of the 
appearance of his name en acrostiche in the refrain, 
and to be saltless imitations of some of his genuine 
pieces, such as the Ballade des Proverbes and that in 
which he imagines himself hanged with his fellow- 
rogues. Under the rubric " Poems Attributed to 
Villon," M. Moland prints eighteen Roundels and 
twelve Ballads, besides the Monologue of the Frank - 
Archer of Baignolet, the Dialogue of Mallepaye and 
Baillevent and the collection of picaresque anecdotes 
in verse, known as " Les Repues Franches," all of 
which M. Longnon very rightly rejects as spurious 
additions. Of the roundels and ballads, some of 



PREFATORY NOTE 

considerable merit, none seems to me to bear the least 
trace of Villon's hand, save the " Merry Ballad of 
Vintners," which may, perhaps, be an early production 
of his and which, together with a roundel and three 
other ballads, I have translated. Nor can the two 
quasi-dramatic pieces (of which the Monologue is a 
rather amusing fanfaronnade) with any greater prob- 
ability be ascribed to the Parisian poet, whilst a glance 
at the " Repues Tranches " is enough to show that, 
though Villon is the hero, it is in no way pretended 
that he is the author of these " merrie gestes." 

It was my wish to add to the present edition a 
metrical version of the seven ballads in thieves' slang, 
known as the Jargon or Jobelin ; but I have found it 
impossible to carry out my intention, owing to the 
immature state of this special branch of Villon-litera- 
ture. Notwithstanding the fact that M. Marcel Schwob 
has at last identified, as the patter or lingo of the 
Coquillarts, the language in which the jargonesque 
pieces in question are written, the various scholars 
who have occupied themselves with this portion of 
Villon's work have hitherto been unable to agree upon 
any sufficient explanation of the countless difficulties 
and obscurities with which they abound, nor have they 
even succeeded in establishing a fairly satisfactory 



PREFATORY NOTE 

critical text of them. Under these circumstances, I 
have deemed it prudent to leave the Jargon unat- 
tempted, a result the less to be regretted that, so far 
as can be gathered from the tentative translations 
given us by M. Vitu and others, the (so-called) ballads 
of which it consists show little or no trace of the 
special qualities which distinguish the poet's better - 
known compositions. 



INTRODUCTION 




INTRODUCTION 



(HERE are few names in the history 
of literature over which the shad- 
ow has so long and so persistently 
lain as over that of the father of 
French poetry. Up to no more 
distant period than the early part 
of the year 1877, it was not even 
known what was his real name, nor were the admirers 
of his genius in possession of any other facts relative 
to his personal history than could be gleaned, by a 
laborious process of inference and deduction, from 
such works of his as have been handed down to 
posterity. The materials that exist for the biography 
of Shakespeare or Dante are scanty enough, but 
they present a very harvest of fact and suggestion 
compared with the pitiable fragments which have 
so long represented our sole personal knowledge 
of Villon. That he had been twice condemned to 
death for unknown offences ; that his father was dead 

i The following essay was written in 1878 and was first published 
in 1881, by way of introduction to the expurgated edition of the 
Poems. I have thought it best to leave it substantially unaltered, 
incorporating such supplementary matter as is necessary to bring 
it up to date in the form of additional notes, distinguished by 
brackets. 

13 



INTRODUCTION 

and his mother still living at the time he reached 
his thirtieth year ; that he attended the courses of the 
University of Paris in the capacity of scholar and 
presumably attained the quality of Licentiate in Arts, 
entitling him to the style of Dominus or Maitre; 
above all, that his companions and acquaintances 
were of the lowest and most disreputable class and, 
indeed, that he himself wasted his youth in riot and 
debauchery and scrupled not to resort to the meanest 
and most revolting expedients to furnish forth that 
life of alternate lewd plenty and sheer starvation 
which, Bohemian in grain as he was, he preferred 
to the decent dullness of a middleclass life; and 
that he owed his immunity from punishment partly 
to accidents, such as the succession of Louis XI to 
his father's throne, and partly to the intervention 
of influential protectors, probably attracted by his 
eminent literary merits, amongst whom stood promi- 
nent his namesake and supposed relative, Guillaume 
de Villon; such were the main scraps and parings 
of information upon which, until the publication of M. 
Longnon's " fitude Biographique," ' we had alone to 
rely for our conception of the man in his habit as he 
lived. Even now the facts and dates, which M. 
Longnon has so valiantly and so ingeniously rescued 
for us from the vast charnelhouse of mediaeval history, 



i Etude Biographique sur Francois Villon, d'apres les documents 
ine'dits conserve's aux Archives Nationales. Par Auguste Longnon. 
Paris, 1877. 



INTRODUCTION 

are in themselves scanty enough, and it is necessary 
to apply to their connection and elucidation no mean 
amount of study and labour before anything like a 
definite framework of biography can be constructed 
from them. Such as they are, however, they enable 
us for the first time to catch a glimpse of the strange 
mad life and dissolute yet attractive personality of the 
wild, reckless, unfortunate Parisian poet, whose splen- 
did if erratic verse flames out like a meteor from the 
somewhat dim twilight of French fifteen century 
literature. 

It is to be hoped that the example so ably set by M. 
Longnon will not be allowed to remain unfollowed 
and that new seekers in the labyrinth of mediaeval 
archives and records will succeed in filling up for us 
those yawning gaps in Villon's history which are yet 
too painfully apparent.* M. Longnon, indeed, seems 
to imply a promise that he himself has not yet said 
his last word upon the subject ; and we may fairly look, 
within the next few years, for new help and guidance 
at the hands of M. Auguste Vitu, when he at last 
gives to the world his long and anxiously awaited 
edition of the poems, a work which, considering the 
special qualifications and opportunities of the editor 
and the devotion with which he has applied himself 

[ i The hopes expressed in the above paragraph have now to a 
certain extent been realised by the labours of MM. Bijvanck, 
Schwob, Paris, Schone and others, as well as by those of M. 
Longnon himself ; but much yet remains to be done. See 
Prefatory Note.] 

15 



INTRODUCTION 

to the task, may be expected to prove the definitive 
edition of Villon.' 

In putting together the following pages I should be 
sorry to allow it to be supposed that I contemplated 
any exhaustive study of the man or of his work. My 
sole object has been to present the facts and hypotheses, 
of which we are in possession on the subject, in such 
a plain and accessible form as may furnish to those 
readers of the translation of his strange and splen- 
did verse who (and we know that they are as yet 
many) are unacquainted with the poems, and perhaps 
even with the name of Villon.z some unpretentious 

1 I owe to the kindness of M. Vitu the following particulars of 
the scheme of his forthcoming edition of Villon, which will serve 
to show the great scope and importance of the work, now in au 
advanced stage of preparation. It will form four volumes, the 
first of which will consist wholly of notices upon Villon and his 
contemporaries, completing and correcting all that has been hith- 
erto published on the subject. The second volume will comprise 
the complete text of Villon, augmented by several authentic poems 
hitherto unknown, an appendix containing pieces written in imita- 
tion of the old poet and a short treatise upon mediaeval prosody 
and versification, in correction of the errors and laches of modern 
scholars. The text presented will be founded wholly upon the 
manuscripts, the gothic editions being all, according to M. Vitu, 
incorrect, garbled and incomplete. The third volume will com- 
prise the " Jargon," with the addition of five unpublished ballads, 
besides a philological interpretation and a history of the work ; 
and the fourth will contain an exhaustive glossary. [Since the 
above note was written (in 1881), M. Vitu has died, leaving his 
work uncompleted. See Prefatory Note.] 

2 The uncertainty that has so long obscured every detail of 
Villon's life has extended even to the pronunciation of the name 

16 



INTRODUCTION 

introduction, as well to his personality and habit of 
thought as to the circumstance and local colouring 
of his verse. The rest I leave to more competent 
hands than my own, content if I have, in the follow- 
ing sketch and in the translation to which it is intended 
to serve as preface, set ajar one more door, long sadly 
moss-grown and ivy -hidden, into that enchanted won- 
derland of French poetry, which glows with such 
spring-tide glory of many-coloured bloom, such autumn 
majesty of matured fruit. 

by which he is known to posterity. It has been, and still is, the 
custom to pronounce the poet's adoptive name Vtton, as if written 
with one /, and it is only of late years that this error (no doubt due 
to the proverbial carelessness of the French, and more especially 
of the Parisian public, with regard to the pronunciation of proper 
names) has been authoritatively corrected. As M. Jannet remarks, 
it is only in the Midi that folk know how to sound the // tnouilUs 
or liquid //. It has now, however, been conclusively demonstrated 
that the correct pronunciation of the name is Vilion, the poet him- 
self (as was first pointed out by M. Jannet) always rhyming it with 
such words as pavilion, tourblllon, bouillon, aiguillon, etc., in 
which the //are liquid ; and a still more decisive argument is fur- 
nished by M. Longnon, who has noted, in the course of his 
researches, that the Latin form of the patronymic, as it appears in 
contemporary documents, is Villione, and that the name is spelt 
in error Vignon in a record of the Court of Parliament, dated 2Sth 
July, 1425, in which Guillaume de Villon is shown by internal 
evidence to be the person referred to, thus proving by inference 
that the //of the name, apparently imperfectly caught from dicta- 
tion, must necessarily have been liquid ; otherwise they could 
hardly have been mistaken for another liquid, git. Moreover (and 
this information also we owe to M. Longnon) the name of the 
village which gave birth to the Canon of St. Benoit is to this day 
pronounced Vilion. 

17 



The year 1431 may, without impropriety, be styled 
the grand climacteric of French national life. After 
a hundred years' struggle for national existence against 
the great soldiers produced in uninterrupted succes- 
sion b? England, apparently with no other object 
than the conquest of the neighbouring continent, as 
well as against far more dangerous and insidious 
intestine enemies; after having seen three-quarters of 
the kingdom, of which Charles VI was the nominal 
king, bowed in apparently permanent subjection to 
the foreign foe, the French people had at last suc- 
ceeded in placing on the head of Charles VII the 
crown of his fathers, thanks to the superhuman efforts 
of two of the noblest women that ever lived, Jeanne 
d'Arc and Agnes Sorel, and to the unselfish devotion 
of the great-hearted patriot Jacques Cceur. On the 
3ist of May 1431 the heroine of Domremy consum- 
mated the most glorious life of which the history of 
womankind affords example by an equally noble death 
upon the pyre of Rouen ; not, however, before she had 
fulfilled her sublime purpose. Before her death she 
had seen the achievement of the great object, the 
coronation of Charles VII at Rheims, which she had 
originally proposed to herself as the term of her un- 
paralleled political career; and the English, driven 
out of stronghold after stronghold, province after 
province, were now obliged to concentrate their efforts 

18 



INTRODUCTION 

on the retention of the provinces of Normandy and 
Guienne. Nor was it long ere even this limited pur- 
pose was perforce abandoned. Paris, after sixteen 
years of foreign occupation, opened her gates to her 
legitimate king and four or five more years sufficed to 
complete the permanent expulsion of the English from 
France. The heroic peasant girl of Lorraine had not 
only recovered for the Dauphin his lawful inheritance ; 
she had created the French people. Until her time 
France had been inhabited by Bretons, Angevins, 
Bourbonnais, Burgundians, Poitevins, Armagnacs; at 
last the baptism of fire through which the land had 
passed and the breath of heroism that emanated from 
the Maid of Orleans had welded together the con- 
flicting sections and had informed them with that 
breath of patriotism which is the beginning of all 
national life. France had at length become a nation. 
The change was not yet complete: there remained 
yet much to be done and suffered before the precious 
gift so hardly won could be definitively assured : Louis 
XI, with his cold wisdom and his unshrinking deter- 
mination, was yet to consolidate by the calculated 
severity of his administration and the supple firmness 
of his domestic and foreign policy (long so grossly 
misunderstood and calumniated) the unity and har- 
mony of the young realm. Still the new national life 
had been effectually conquered and it only remained 
for time and wisdom to confirm and substantiate it. 

One of the most salient symptoms of a national 
impulse of regeneration is commonly afforded by the 



INTRODUCTION 

consolidation and individualisation of the national 
speech. I should say rather, perhaps, that such a phe- 
nomenon is one of those most necessary to such a popu - 
lar movement and therefore most to be expected from 
it, though it may not always be possible to trace the 
correspondence of the one with the other. However, 
it is certain that the converse generally holds true, 
and it was undoubtedly so in the present instance. 
Up to the middle of the fifteenth century France can 
scarcely be said to have possessed a national language ; 
the Langue d'Oil, for want of writers of supreme 
genius, had hardly as yet become fashioned into an 
individual tongue. It is to poets rather than to prose 
writers that we must look for the influences that stim - 
ulate and direct the growth of a national speech, and 
there is, perhaps, no instance in which the power of a 
true poet is more decisively visible than in his control 
over the creation and definition of a language, espe- 
cially during periods of national formation andtransition. 
Up to the time of which I speak, this influence had 
been wanting in France. During the fourteenth 
century and the earlier part of the next, her poetic 
literature had consisted mainly of imitations of the 
elder poets, especially of Guillaume de Lorris and 
Jehan de Meung, of the Chansons de Geste and other 
heroic romances and probably also of the Troubadours 
or poets of the Langue d'Oc. Abundance of sweet 
singers had arisen and passed away, most of them 
modelled upon the Roman de la Rose, whose influence 
had been as that of the plane, beneath which, it is 

20 



INTRODUCTION 

said, no corn will ripen. Under its shadow there had 
sprung up abundance of flowers, but they were those 
rather of the hothouse and the garden than the 
robuster and healthier denizens of the woods and 
fields. There was hardly any breath of national life 
in the singers of the time: Guillaume de Machau, 
Eustache Deschamps, Jehan Froissart, Christine de 
Pisan, Alain Chartier, Charles d'Orleans, were indeed 
poets of the second order, of whom any country might 
be proud ; but they were poets who (if one should 
excerpt from their verse its accidental local colouring) 
might, for all that they evince of national life and 
national spirit, have been produced in any country 
where a like and sufficient culture prevailed. The 
thirteenth century had indeed produced one poet, 
Rutubeuf, in whose " Complaintes " ran some breath 
of popular feeling, sorely limited, however, by deficient 
power and lacking inspiration in the singer; and in 
some of the productions of the poets I have named 
above, notably in Deschamps' fine ballad on the death 
of the great Constable du Guesclin, in Christine de 
Pisan's pathetic lament over the madness of Charles 
VI and the state of the kingdom and in the anony- 
mous poem known as " Le Combat des Trente," there 
breathes some nobler and stronger spirit, some distant 
echo of popular passion ; nor is the sweet verse of 
Charles d'Orleans wanting in patriotic notes, touched, 
unfortunately, with too slight a hand. But these are 
few and far between ; the subjects usually chosen are 
love and chivalry, questions of honour, gallantry and 

21 



INTRODUCTION 

religion, treated allegorically and rhetorically after the 
extinct and artificial fashion of the Roman de la Rose. 
Beautiful as is often the colour and cadence of the 
verse, we cannot but feel that it is a beauty and a 
charm which belong to a past age and which have no 
living relation to that in which they saw the light. In 
perusing the poetry of the time, one seems to be gazing 
upon interminable stretches of antique tapestry, em- 
broidered in splendid but somewhat faded hues, 
wherein armed knights and ladies, clad in quaintly -cut 
raiment and adorned with ornaments of archaic form, 
sit at the banquet, stray a-toying in gardens, ride 
a-hawking in fields or pass a-hunting through woods, 
where every flower is moulded after a conventional 
pattern and no leaf dares assert itself save for the 
purpose of decoration. Here everything is prescribed : 
the bow of the knight as he kneels before his lady, 
the sweep of the cha'telaine's robe through the ban- 
nered galleries, the fall of the standard on the wind, 
the career of the war-horse through the lists, the flight 
of the birds through the air, the motions of the deer 
that stand at gaze in the woods, all are ordered in 
obedience to a certain strictly prescribed formula, 
in which one feels that nature and passion have ceased 
to have any sufficient part. Whether one wanders 
with Charles d'Orleans through the forest of Ennuy- 
euse Tristesse, conversing with Dangler, Amour, 
Beaulte d' Amours, Faux Dangler, Dame Merencolie 
and a host of other allegorical personages, or listens 
to Guillaume de Machau, as, with a thousand quaint 

22 






INTRODUCTION 

conceits and gallant devices, he compares his lady to 
David's harp with its twenty-five strings, one feels that 
one is gazing upon phantoms and moving in a dead 
world, from which the colour and the glory are hope- 
lessly faded. It is not poets of the trouvere or trou- 
badour order who can have any decisive effect upon 
the new growth of a nation, as it emerges from the 
fiery furnace of national regeneration ; it is for no 
mere sweet singer that the task of giving to the 
national speech that new impulse which shall corres- 
pond with its political and social advance is reserved. 
The chosen one may be rude, lacking in culture, gross 
in thought or form, but he must and will come with 
lips touched with the fire of heaven and voice ringing 
with the accents of a new world. Such a poet was 
called for by the necessities of the time and such an 
one was provided, by the subtle influences which order 
the mechanism of national formation, in the very year 
that saw the consecration of French nationality by the 
death of the Martyr of Rouen. 



2 3 



II 



de Montcorbier, better known as Villon, 
from the name of his lifelong patron and protector, 
was born in the year 1431, within a few weeks or days 
of the capital political event of which I have just 
spoken. It is uncertain what place may claim the 
honour of his birth, but the probabilities appear to be 
in favour of his having been born at some village near 
(or at least in the diocese of ) Paris, entitling him to 
the style of Parisiensis or de Paris, which he commonly 
adopts, and also, combined with residence and gradua- 
tion at the Paris University, to certain municipal and 
other privileges of citizenship, such as the right of 
voting at the election of Echevins or notables. It 
seems probable that he belonged to a decayed and 
impoverished branch of the noble family of Mont- 
corbier, who took their name from a fief and village 
(since disappeared) in the Bourbonnais, and that to 
this connection with the duchy he was indebted for 
the moderate countenance and assistance which he 
seems to have received at the hands of the Princes of 
the ducal family of Bourbon. The only fact certainly 
known about his relatives is that he had an uncle, a 
priest established at Angers in Anjou, to whom he 
paid at least one visit with a sufficiently questionable 
purpose, and that the rest of his family (with the ex- 
ception of hisj mother, as to whom we possess no 
biographical details whatever)*utterly and consistently 

24 






INTRODUCTION 

refused to recognise him, according to his own 
story, because of his lack of means, but, it may 
rather be assumed, on account of the very unsavoury 
nature of his connections and the incessant scandal of 
his life. Decent people (as we may presume these 
relatives of his to have been) might well be allowed 
to consider their connection with Master Francois 
Villon of brawling, wenching, lock -picking and cheat- 
ing notoriety as anything but a desirable one, and 
history will hardly reproach them with their unwilling- 
ness to cultivate it. However this may be, it is 
certain that the only relative who appears to have had 
any share in Villon's life was his mother; and it is 
little likely that she, whom he describes as a poor old 
woman, unlettered and feeble, and who (as he himself 
confesses) suffered on his account " bitter anguish 
and many sorrows," could have exercised any consid- 
erable influence over her brilliant, turbulent, ne'er-do- 
weel son. Yet he seems always, in the midst of the 
mire of his life, to have kept one place hi his heart 
white with that filial love which outlasts all others 
and which has so often been to poets the perfume of 
their lives. In the words of The*ophile Gautier, his 
love for his mother shines out of the turmoil and 
ferment of his life like a white and serene lily spring- 
ing from the heart of a marsh. His father he only 
mentions to tell us that he is dead, when or how there 
is nothing to show, and to state that he was poor and 
of mean extraction, nor have we any information as 
to his condition or the position in which he left his 

2 5 



INTRODUCTION 

family. We do not even know whether Villon's 
mother inhabited Paris or not, but it would appear 
probable that she did, from his mention in the ballad 
that bears her name of the monstier or convent church 
(probably 1'Eglise des Celestins') in which she was 
wont to say her orisons and which was decorated with 
paintings little likely to have then existed in any of 
the villages about Paris. However, the want of living 
and available family connections was amply compen- 
sated to Villon by the protecting care of a patron who 
seems to have taken him under his wing and perhaps 
even adopted him at an early age. Guillaume de 
Villon, the patron in question, was a respectable and 
apparently well-to-do ecclesiastic, belonging to a fam- 
ily established at a village of the same name (which I 
believe still exists), Villon, near Tonnerre, in the 
dominions of the ducal house of Burgundy, and the 
worthy priest appears to have turned his origin to 
good account in securing the patronage of that 

i I cannot agree with M. Longnon in considering the Abbe" 
Valentin Dufour wrong in his suggestion that the church to which 
Villon makes his mother refer might have been 1'Eglise des Celes- 
tins, which was decorated with pictures of heaven and hell 
precisely answering to the description in the ballad. The very 
word used by Villon (monstier, i. e. montuterium, the old form of 
the modern moutier) points to the probability of the church having 
been a conventual one ; and we need not read the words " dont je 
suis paroissienne " as meaning more than that the convent where 
she made her orisons was situated in her own parish or that she 
was a regular attendant at the services held there and so looked 
upon it as practically her parish church. 

26 






INTRODUCTION 

princely family, which in all probability he was able 
in some measure to divert to the benefit of his 
protege". We first hear of Messire Guillaume as one 
of the chaplains of the parish church of the little 
village of Gentilly, near Paris, during his occupancy 
of which cure he probably formed an acquaintance 
with the poet's family, which afterwards led to his 
undertaking the charge of their son. About the year 
of Fran9ois' birth, Messire Guillaume obtained a long- 
awaited promotion : through the influence, probably, 
of the Burgundian family he was appointed to a stall 
in the cathedral church of St. Benoit le Betourne or 
Bientourne" at Paris, a lucrative benefice, involving, 
besides a handsome residence called L' Hotel de la 
Porte Rouge, in the Close or Cloister of St. Benoit, a 
considerable piece of land and a stipend enabling him 
to live at his ease. In addition to his official income, 
he must have had some private fortune, as he pos- 
sessed, to our knowledge, at least two houses in the 
neighbourhood, which he let out to tenants, and a 
considerable rent-charge upon a third, which latter, 
however, the good easy man appears hardly to have 
troubled himself to collect, as, at the time it is men- 
tioned in the archives of the Chapter, we find it 
stated that no less than eight years' rent was then in 
arrear. In this position he remained till his death, 
which occurred in 1468; and there is every reason to 
believe that he survived his protege^ towards whom, 
during the whole of his life, he appears never to have 
relaxed from untiring and unobtrusive benevolence. 

27 



INTRODUCTION 

The disreputable nature of the poet's life and the 
perpetually recurring troubles in which he became 
involved seem to have had no effect in inducing the 
good Canon to withdraw his protection from so appar- 
ently unworthy an object, and (according to Villon 
himself ) he was the ordinary Deus ex machina to whom 
the poet looked for deliverance from the consequences 
of his own folly and misconduct. Of no other person 
does Villon speak in the same unqualified terms of 
grateful affection as of the Canon of St. Benoit, calling 
him " his more than father, who had been to him more 
tender than mothers to their sucking babes." Indeed, 
such honour and affection did he bear him that we 
find him on one occasion (with a consideration little 
to have been expected from such a scapegrace) actually 
begging the good Canon to leave him to his fate and 
not compromise his own reputation by taking any steps 
in the interest of so disreputable a connection. 

Of the early life of Villon we know nothing what- 
ever, except that he must have entered at the University 
of Paris about the year 1446, when he was fifteen 
years of Age. In March 1449 he was admitted to the 
Baccalaureate and became Licentiate in Theology or 
Ecclesiastical Law and Master of Arts in the summer 
of 1452. During the six years of his studies, it is 
probable that he resided with Guillaume de Villon at 
L' Hotel de la Porte Rouge, which adjoined the Col- 
lege de Sorbonne, and that the weekly payment of two 
sols Parisis, which as a scholar he was bound to make 
to the collegiate authorities, and the fees incurred on 

28 



INTRODUCTION 

the occasion of his proceeding to his degrees were 
provided by his patron. It frequently happened in 
mediaeval times, when colleges were far less richly 
endowed than is now the case, that the want of official 
means for providing such aids as exhibitions and 
bursaries for the education of poor scholars was sup- 
plied by private charity, and this was, indeed, a 
favourite mode of benefaction with rich and liberal- 
minded folk. The special college at which Villon 
followed the courses of the University was probably 
not the College de Sorbonne, notwithstanding its 
immediate neighbourhood to L'Hotel de la Porte 
Rouge, but (and this I am inclined to suppose from 
the intimate knowledge he displayed of its internal 
arrangements on a later occasion) the College de 
Navarre, also inclose vicinity to the Canon's residence. 
It is possible that the latter intended Villon for the 
church, in which direction lay the interest he could 
command: if so, his intentions were completely 
frustrated, for Villon never (as he himself tells us) 
achieved the necessary theological degree ; and sub- 
sequent events, hardly to be called beyond his own 
control, completely diverted him from the pursuit of 
the liberal professions and caused him to become the 
wolf that watches for an opportunity of spoiling the 
fold, rather than the shepherd whose duty it is to 
guard it. The interval between the matriculation of 
Villon and the year 1455 is an almost complete blank 
for us, the only materials we have to enable us to 
follow him being the allusions and references to be 

29 



INTRODUCTION 

gleaned from a study of his poems; but it was cer- 
tainly during this period of his life that he contracted 
the acquaintances, disreputable and otherwise, which 
exercised so decisive an influence over his future 
history. Amongst those belonging to the former 
category may be specially cited Rene" de Montigny, 
Colin de Cayeulx, Jehan le Loup, Casin Chollet and 
Philip Brunei, Seigneur de Grigny, all scoundrels of 
the first water ; and for women, Huguette du Hamel, 
Abbess of Port Royal or Pourras, as shining a light in 
debauchery as any of his male friends, and la petite 
Macee of Orleans, his first mistress (" avoit ma 
ceincture," says he), whom he characterises as " tres 
mauvaise ordure," a thoroughly bad lot, to say nothing 
of the obscure rogues, sharpers and women of ill-fame 
who defile in so endless a procession through his 
pages. The two first mentioned, who were fellow- 
students of our poet, were indeed rogues of no mean 
eminence and appear both to have attained that 
distinction of " dying upright in the sun " which was 
at once so fascinating and so terrible a contingency to 
Villon. Rene or Regnier de Montigny was the son of 
a man of noble family at Bourges, who, possessing 
certain fiefs in the neighbourhood of Paris and a 
charge in the royal household, accompanied Charles 
VII to his capital, on its reduction in 1436, and there 
died shortly after, leaving his family in poor circum- 
stances. Regnier, who was two years older than Villon, 
early distinguished himself by criminal exploits, pur- 
suing an ever ascending scale of gravity. In August 

30 






INTRODUCTION 

1452 he was banished by the Provost of Paris for a 
disreputable nocturnal brawl, in which he had beaten 
the sergeants of the watch before the hostelry of La 
Grosse Margot; whereupon he betook himself to the 
provinces, and after there exercising his peculiar 
talents to such effect as to be imprisoned for various 
offences at Rouen, Tours, Bordeaux and Poitiers, he 
once more ventured to Paris, where he speedily again 
came under the notice of the authorities. After a 
condemnation for the comparatively trifling offence of 
card-sharping, he was sentenced to death as accessory 
to a murder committed in the Cemetery of the Inno- 
cents ; but for this he succeeded in obtaining the royal 
pardon. This narrow escape, however, seems to have 
produced no salutary effect on him, for in 1457, after 
having escaped punishment for various offences by 
virtue of his quality of clerk, of which he availed him- 
self to claim protection at the hands of the Bishop of 
Paris, he was again condemned to death for divers 
sacrilegious thefts from the Parisian churches, and 
under this condemnation, notwithstanding a pardon 
obtained by family influence, which appears to have 
been quashed for irregularity, it seems certain that the 
world was at last made rid of him by that " longitudinal 
death " he had so richly deserved ; and it is even possi- 
ble that he had the honour of being the first to make 
essay of a new gibbet in that year erected by the city of 
Paris and afterwards known as le Gibet de Montigny. 
Colin de Cayeulx was no less eminent as a scoun- 
drel. The son of a Parisian locksmith, he made use 



INTRODUCTION 

of his knowledge of his father's trade to become one 
of the most artistic thieves presented by the criminal 
annals of Paris; and it is in this his especial quality 
of picklock that we shall again come across him in 
connection with Villon. After a long career of crime, 
he was in 1460 condemned to death as (in the words 
of the Procureur du Roi) "an incorrigible thief, pick- 
lock, marauder and sacrilegious scoundrel," unworthy 
to enjoy the much-abused benefit of clergy, by which 
he and rascals of his kidney had so often profited to 
escape the consequences of their crimes. Neverthe- 
less, the sentence was, for reasons unknown, not 
carried into effect, and he appears even to have been 
set at liberty. But his immunity was not of long 
duration ; we know from Villon himself that, certainly 
not later than the next year, his infamous companion 
was broken on the wheel for " esbats " or gambols (as 
he euphemistically styles them), the least of which 
appears to have been rape or highway robbery, 
perpetrated at the villages of Rueil near Paris and 
Montpippeau near Orleans. 

Of the Seigneur de Grigny we know little but 
through Villon himself, who places him in the same 
category as Montigny by bequeathing to him the right 
of shelter in various ruins round Paris, which were 
then the favourite resorts and strongholds of the 
choicest thieves and. vagabonds of the time, and 
speaks of him in such terms as leave little doubt that 
his "lay" or criminal specialty was the coining and 
uttering of false money. 

32 



INTRODUCTION 

Jehan le Loup and Casin Chollet were scoundrels 
of a lower rank or " sneak-thieves," dealing chiefly in 
petty thefts of poultry and other eatables : the former 
appears to have been a bargee and fisherman in the 
service of the municipality of Paris, by whom he was 
employed to keep the moats and wet ditches of the 
city clean and free from weeds, an occupation which 
afforded him peculiar facilities for marauding among 
the numerous herds of ducks and geese kept by the 
corporation and the adjacent commoners of the city 
upon the waters which he traversed in his dredging 
boat ; the latter, by the operation of that curious law 
of reciprocal attraction between the police and the 
criminal classes, of whose prevalence in countries of 
the Latin race so many instances exist, after a turbu- 
lent early life, became tipstaff at the Chatelet prison 
and was in 1465 deprived of his office, flogged at the 
cart's tail and imprisoned, for having spread false 
reports (probably with a professional eye to plunder) 
of the entry into Paris of the Burgundians, who then 
lay leaguer at the gates, under the command of 
Charles the Rash. 

The Abbess of Port Royal is another curious figure 
in the history of criminality. Of a good family and 
holding a rich abbacy, she early distinguished herself 
by leading a life of unbridled licentiousness, associat- 
ing with all the lewd characters of .her time, frequenting 
houses of ill-fame and debauchery in male attire, brawl- 
ing and fighting in the streets, holding orgies in the 
convent itself, which remind us of the legends of 

33 



INTRODUCTION 

Gilles de Retz, and selling the nuns under her control 
for the purposes of prostitution. So notorious were 
her excesses and misconduct in Paris that she became 
the subject of a satirical popular song, whose author 
she caused to be beaten to death. For these and 
many other shameless acts she was at last brought to 
account, imprisoned and finally, after many shifts of 
litigation, definitively deprived of her abbey, when she 
doubtless sank to the lowest depths of degradation. 
By reason of her wanton way of life, the people appear 
to have corrupted her title and to have dubbed her 
Abbesse de Poilras or Shaven-poll, a slang name then 
given to women of ill-fame who had been pilloried and 
had their heads shaved. We know from Villon him- 
self that she was a companion of his on at least one 
occasion, and it was probably during one of her 
excursions in man's attire that she and the poet in 
1455 paid their famous visit to Perrot Girard, the 
unfortunate barber of Bourg la Reine, near Paris, and 
lived for a week at his expense and that of his brood 
of sucking pigs. 

However, besides these disreputable acquaintances, 
Villon seems to have become intimate with many per- 
sons to whom his merry, devil-may-care disposition, 
and perhaps also his wit and genius, made him accept- 
able whilst he and they were young : of these some 
were fellow -students of his own, others apparently 
people of better rank and position, those "gracious 
gallants," "so fair of fashion and of show, in song and 
speech so excellent," whom, as he himself tells us, he 

34 



INTRODUCTION 

frequented in his youth. Some of these, says he, after 
became " masters and lords and great of grace ; " and it 
was no doubt to the kindly remembrance which these 
latter cherished of the jolly, brilliant companion of 
their youth that he owed something of his comparative 
immunity from punishment for the numberless faults 
and follies which he committed at a subsequent and 
less favoured period. Of -these (M. Longnon has 
discovered for us) were Martin Bellefaye, Lord of 
Ferric res en Brie, afterwards Advocate at the Chatelet 
and Lieutenant -Criminel of the Provost of Paris; 
Pierre Basanier, Notary and afterwards Clerc -Criminel 
at the Ch&telet ; Pierre Blaru, Guillaume Charriau, 
Robert Vale"e, Thomas Tricot, all men of some impor- 
tance in law or trade at Paris ; and (possibly through 
his son) Robert d'Estouteville, Provost of Paris, to 
whom Villon, in his student-days, dedicated the curi- 
ous ballad on the subject of his marriage with 
Ambroise de Lore. It is by no means impossible that 
from this time of pleasant companionship and com- 
parative respectability dates Villon's connection with 
the royal poet, Charles d'Orleans; and that he may 
also have become known to the then Dauphin (after- 
wards Louis XI) is almost equally likely, in view of 
the habits of familiar intercourse of the latter with the 
burghers and clerks of Paris and his well-known love 
of and taste for literature. It appears certain that 
Louis had some knowledge of and liking for Villon, 
ounded probably on admiration of his wit and genius ; 
md it was assuredly owing to this, and not to any 

35 






INTRODUCTION 

general amnesty de joyeux avtnement, that the poet 
owed his last remission of the capital penalty at the 
hands of so severe a monarch as the titular author of 
the " Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles," for which he shows 
(in the Greater Testament) so special and personal a 
gratitude as almost to preclude the idea of its having 
been granted otherwise than as a matter of peculiar 
and personal favour. 

This early period of Villon's life, extending at least 
up to his twenty -fourth year, appears to have been free 
from crime or misconduct of any very gross character. 
Although he himself laments that he had neglected to 
study in his youth, whereby he might have slept warm 
in his old age, and expressly states that he fled from 
school as bird from cage, we have seen that, if he did 
not achieve the presumable object of his college career, 
namely, the Maitrise or Doctorate of Theology, he yet 
paid sufficient attention to his studies to enable him 
to acquire the title of Master of Arts, and it would 
appear that he had even been presented to what he 
calls a simple -tonsure chapelty, possibly one of the 
numerous quasi-sinecure offices connected with the 
churches or ecclesiastical machinery of the diocese of, 
Paris, which were reserved as prizes for the more 
industrious and deserving scholars. M. Longnon 
is of opinion that he eked out the small revenue oi 
this office by taking pupils, and amongst them the three 
poor orphans to whom he so frequently alludes ; but 1 
confess I see no ground for this supposition witr 
regard to the latter, of whom he always speaks in sue? 

36 



INTRODUCTION 

terms as to lead us to suppose them to have been actually 
foundlings dependent wholly upon his bounty. In 1456 
he describes them as " three little children all bare, poor, 
unprovided orphans, shoeless and helpless, naked as a 
worm," and makes provision for their entertainment 
for at least one winter ; and I am unable, therefore, to 
discover how M. Longnon justifies his hypothesis that 
they were young men of good or well-to-do families 
confided to Villon's tuition. On the other hand it is 
by no means impossible that some of the numerous 
unidentified persons mentioned in the Testaments may 
have been pupils of the poet at the period of which I 
speak. At all events, however he may have earned 
his living, it seems certain that up to the early part of 
the year 1455 he committed no act which brought him 
under the unfavourable notice of the police; and we 
find, indeed, in a subsequent document under the 
royal seal, his assertion, that " he had till then well 
and honourably governed himself, without having been 
attaint, reproved or convicted of any ill case, blame or 
reproach," accepted without question, as would cer- 
tainly not have been the case had he been previously 
unfavourably known to the authorities. Yet it is evi- 
dent, both on his own showing and on the authority 
of popular report, especially of the curious collection 
of anecdotes in verse known as " Les Repues Franches " 
or " Free Feeds " (of which he was the hero, not the 
author, and in which one phase of his many-sided 
character and career is recorded), that his life during 
this interval, if not actually trenching upon the limits 

37 



INTRODUCTION 

of strictly punishable offences, was yet one of suffi- 
ciently disreputable character and marked by such 
license and misconduct as would assuredly, in more 
settled and law-abiding times, have early brought his 
career to a disgraceful close. He himself tells us that 
he lived more merrily than most in his youth; and we 
need only refer to the remarkable list of wine -shops, 
rogues and women of ill -fame with which he shows so 
familiar an acquaintance, to satisfy ourselves that 
much of his time must have been spent in debauchery 
and wantonness of the most uncompromising character. 
It is not likely that the supplies of money he could have 
obtained from legitimate sources, such as the kindness 
of Guillaume de Villon, the practice of tuition and 
the offices he may have gained as prizes during his 
scholastic career, would have sufficed for the prodigal 
expenditure naturally consequent upon his depraved 
tastes. On his own showing, he possessed a happy 
combination of most of the vices which lead a man to 
fling away his life in the quagmires of dissipation ; 
amorous, gluttonous, a drunkard, a spendthrift and a 
gambler, no thought of future consequences seems 
ever to have been allowed to intervene between him 
and the satisfaction of his debased desires; and it 
was only in the intervals of disaster and depression 
(naturally of frequent occurrence in such a life) that 
the better nature of the man breaks out in notes 
of bitter anguish and heartfelt sorrow, of which it is 
difficult to doubt the genuineness, although the mer- 
curial humour of the poet quickly allows them to merge 

38 



INTRODUCTION 

into mocking cadences of biting satire and scornful 
merriment. 

It was therefore to provide for the satisfaction of 
his inclinations towards debauchery that he became 
.gradually entangled in complications of bad company 
and questionable dealings which led him step by step 
to that maze of crime and disaster in which his whole 
after-life was wrecked. In " Les Repues Tranches " 
a work not published till long after his death, 
whose assertions, apparently founded upon popular 
tradition (for Villon, quickly as his memory faded after 
the middle of the next century, seems to have been a 
prominent and favourite personality among his con- 
temporaries of Paris) are' amply endorsed by the 
confessions of the poet himself we find him repre- 
sented as the head of a band of scholars, poor clerks 
and beggars, "learning at others' expense," all 
" gallants with sleeveless pourpoints," " having per- 
petual occasions for gratuitous feeds, both winter and 
summer," who are classed under the generic title of 
" Les Sujets Fran9ois Villon," and into whose mouth 
the author puts this admirable dogma of despotic 
equality worthy of that hero of our own times, the 
British working-man himself " Whoso hath nothing, 
it behoves that he fare better than anyone else." 
" Le bon Maitre Frangois Villon " comforts his " com- 
paignons," who are described as not being worth two 
sound onions, with the assurance that they shall want 
for nothing, but shall presently have bread, wine and 
roast-meat a grant foyson, and proceeds to practise a 

39 



INTRODUCTION 

series of tricks after the manner of Till Eulenspiegel, 
by which, chiefly through the persuasiveness of his hon- 
eyed tongue, he succeeds in procuring them where- 
withal to make merry and enjoy great good cheer. 
Provided with stolen bread, fish, meat and other 
victual to their hearts' desire, the jolly scoundrels re- 
member that they owe it as a duty to themselves to 
get drunk and that if they would fain arrive at that 
desirable consummation, they must needs furnish 
themselves with liquor at some one else's expense. 
Master Fran9ois is equal to the occasion ; taking two 
pitchers of precisely similar appearance, one filled 
with fair water and the other empty, he repairs to the 
celebrated tavern of the Fir Apple, situate in the Rue 
de la Juiverie, (of which and its landlord, Robin 
Turgis, mention is so often made in Villon's verse), 
and requests to have the empty pitcher filled with the 
best of their white wine. This being done, in a 
twinkling the accomplished sharper changes the 
pitchers and pretending to examine the contents, asks 
the tapster what kind of wine he has given him, to 
which he replies that it is white wine of Baigneux. 
" Do you take me for a fool ? " cries Villon. " Take 
back your rubbish. I asked for good white wine of 
Beaune and will have none other." So saying, he emp- 
ties the pitcher of water into the cask of Baigneux wine 
the tapster of course supposing it to be the liquor 
with which he had just served him and makes off, 
in triumph, with the pitcherful of white wine, which 
he has thus obtained at the unlucky vintner's expense. 

40 



INTRODUCTION 

The landlord of the Fir Apple seems to have been a 
favourite subject for the roguish tricks of the poet, 
who confesses in his Greater Testament that he had 
stolen from him fourteen hogsheads of white wine of 
Aulnis and adds insult to injury by offering to pay 
him, if he will come to him, but (says he slily) " if he 
find out my lodging, he'll be wiser than any wizard." 
This colossal theft of wine was probably perpetrated 
on a cartload on its way to Turgis, and perhaps fur- 
nished forth the great Repue Franche alluded to in 
Villon's Seemly Lesson to the Wastrils or Good-for- 
Noughts, apropos of which he so pathetically laments 
that even a load of wine is drunk out at last, " by fire 
in winter or woods in summer." 

From tricks of this kind, devoted to obtaining the 
materials for those orgies in which his soul delighted, 
there is no reason to suppose that he did not lightly 
pass to others more serious or that he shrank from 
the employment of more criminal means of obtaining 
the money which was equally necessary for the indul- 
gence of the licentious humours of himself and his 
companions. In the words of the anonymous author 
of " Les Repues Franches," " He was the nursing 
mother of those who had no money; in swindling 
behind and before he was a most diligent man." So 
celebrated was he, indeed, as a man of expedients, 
that he attained the rare honour of becoming a popu - 
lar type and the word " villonnerie " was long used 
among the lower classes of Paris to describe such 
sharping practices as were traditionally attributed to 



INTRODUCTION 

Villon as the great master of the art ; even as from 
the later roguish type of Till Eulenspiegel, Gallice 
Ulespiegle (many of the traditional stories of whose 
rogueries are founded upon Villon's exploits), is 
derived the still extant word " espieglerie." 

Villon, indeed, appears to have at once attained the 
summit of his roguish profession : ready of wit, elo- 
quent of tongue, he seems to have turned all the 
resources of his vivid poetical imagination to the serv- 
ice of his debauched desires and so generally was his 
superiority admitted that, when he afterwards more 
seriously adopted the profession of " hook and crook," 
he seems to have been at once recognised by the knights 
of the road and the prison as, if not their actual chief, 
at least the directing and devising head, upon whose 
ingenious and methodical ordering was dependent the 
success of all their more important operations. 

At this period, in all probability, came into action 
another personage, whose influence seems never to 
have ceased to affect Villon's life and who (if we may 
trust to his own oft-repeated asseve-ations) was mainly 
responsible for his ill -directed and untimely -ended 
career. This was a young lady named Catherine de 
Vaucelles or Vaucel and (according to M. Longnon's 
plausible conjecture) either the niece or cousin of one 
of the Canons of St. Benoit, Pierre de Vaucel, who 
occupied a house in the cloister, within a door or two of 
L' Hotel de la Porte Rouge. Her family inhabited the 
Rue St. Jacques, in which stood the Church of St. 
Benoit; and it is very probable that she may have 

42 



INTRODUCTION 

altogether resided with her uncle for the purpose of 
ordering his household, in accordance with a custom 
of general prevalence among ecclesiastics, on whom 
celibacy was enforced, or that through her connection 
with the cloister was afforded to Villon the opportunity 
of forming an intimate acquaintance with her, which 
speedily developed into courtship. Catherine de 
Vaucelles would appear (if we may accept Villon's 
designation of her as a demoiselle) to have been a 
young lady of good or at least respectable family and 
it would seem also that she was a finished coquette. 
Throughout the whole of Villon's verse the remem- 
brance of the one chaste and real love of his life is 
ever present and he is fertile in invective against the 
cruelty and infidelity of his mistress. According to 
his own account, however, the love seems to have 
been entirely on his side ; for, although she amused 
him by feigned kindness and unimportant concessions, 
he himself allows that she never gave him any suffi- 
cient reason to hope, reproaching her bitterly for not 
having at first told him her true intent, in which case 
he would have enforced himself to break the ties that 
bound him to her. She appears, indeed, to have taken 
delight in making mock of him and playing with his 
affections ; but, often as he bethought himself to 
renounce his unhappy attachment, to 

" Resign and be at peace," 

he seems, with the true temper of a lover, to have 
always returned before long to his vainly -caressed 
hope. No assertion does he more frequently repeat 

43 



INTRODUCTION 

than that this his early love was the cause of all his 
misfortunes and of his untimely death. " I die a mar- 
tyr to love," he says, " enrolled among the saints 
thereof ; " and the expression of his anguish is often 
so poignant that we can hardly refuse to believe in the 
reality of his passion. Nevertheless, he does not 
accuse the girl of having favoured others at his 
expense. " Though I never got a spark of hope from 
her," he says, " I know not nor care if she be as harsh 
to others as to me ; " and indeed he seems to imply 
that she was too fond of money to be accessible to 
any other passion. One of the persons mentioned in 
the poems was perhaps a rival of his, as he tells us, 
in his Ballad of Light Loves, that a certain Noe or 
Noel was present when he (Villon) was beaten as 
washerwomen beat clothes by the river, all naked, and 
that on account of the aforesaid Catherine de Vau- 
celles ; and as he says " Noel was the third who was 
there," assuming the other person present to have been 
the lady, we may fairly suppose that Noel was a more 
favoured lover of Catherine's, by v?hom was admin- 
istered to Villon the correction of which he speaks so 
bitterly, probably on the occasion of a sham rendezvous, 
in the nature of a trap, devised by Catherine to get 
rid of an importunate lover. This presumption is 
strengthened by the fact that in the Lesser Testament, 
speaking of his unhappy love affair, he says, " Other 
than I, who is younger and can rattle more coin, is in 
favour with her ; " and that in the Greater Testament 
i I quote a variant of Oct. vii. 

44 



INTRODUCTION 

he bequeaths to Noel le Jolys (who may fairly be 
taken to be the Noe" mentioned above) the unpleasant 
legacy of two hundred and twenty strokes, to be hand- 
somely laid on with a handful of green osier rods by 
Maitre Henriot, the executioner of Paris. It is possi- 
ble that Catherine may, for a while, have encouraged 
Villon out of cupidity, and after getting all she could 
out of him, have thrown him off for a better -furnished 
admirer ; but of this we find no assertion in his poems, 
although, if we may believe in the authenticity of 
certain pieces attributed to him in the "Jardin de 
Plaisance," he accuses her of compelling him to be 
always putting his hand in his pocket to purchase her 
good graces, now asking for a velvet gown and now 
for " high headgear " (haults atours) or the like costly 
articles of dress; and (in a ballad coming under the 
same category) he speaks of her " corps tant vicieux " 
and reproaches her with having sold him her favours 
for twenty rose-crowns and having, after draining him 
dry, transferred her interested affections to a hideous 
but rich old man, although (says he) " I was so devoted 
to her, that had she asked me to give her the moon, I 
had essayed to scale the heavens." However, these 
pieces seem to be wrongly assigned to Villon ; and in 
despite of the epithet, " foul wanton," applied to her, 
probably in a passing fit of irritability and jealousy, 
such as at times overcomes the most respectful and 
devoted of unrequited lovers, all the authentic 
evidence we possess points to the conclusion that the 
young lady was guilty of no serious misconduct towards 

45 



INTRODUCTION 

Villon beyond that ordinary coquetry and love of ad- 
miration, and perhaps of amusement, which may have 
led her to give some passing encouragement to the 
merry, witty poet of the early days; and this hypoth- 
esis he himself confirms by the pure and beautiful 
ballad which he dedicates to her, prefacing it, however, 
with the delicately deprecatory qualification that he 
had composed it to acquit himself towards Love rather 
than her, a ballad which breathes the chastest and 
most romantic spirit of wistful love and anticipates for 
us Ronsard, as he pictures his lady in her old age, 
sitting with her maidens at the veillee and proudly 
recalling to herself and her companions that she had 
been celebrated by her poet -lover " du temps que 
j'etais belle." 

True and permanent as was the love of Villon for 
Catherine, it does not seem to have restrained him 
from the frequentation of those light o' loves, whose 
names so jostle each other in his pages. La Belle 
Heaulmiere, Blanche the Slippermaker, Guillemette 
the Upholsteress, Mace"e of Orleans, Katherine the 
Spurmaker, Denise, Jacqueline, Perrette, Isabeau, 
Marion the Statue, tall Jehanne of Brittany, a cloud of 
lorettes and grisettes, trip and chatter through his 
reminiscences; and with two of them, Jehanneton la 
Chaperonniere and La Grosse Margot, he appears 
to have formed permanent connections. No doubt 
the femmes folles de leur corps, with whom Paris has 
ever abounded, were not wanting at the fantastic 
revels carried on by our Bohemian and his band of 

46 



INTRODUCTION 

scapegraces in the ruins of Nygeon, Billy and Bicetre, 
or the woods to be met with at a bowshot in every 
direction round the Paris of his time. " 111 cat to ill 
rat," as he himself says ; the feminine element was 
hardly likely to be wanting for the completion of the 
perfect disreputable harmony of his surroundings. 



47 



Ill 



This early period of comparative innocence, or at 
least obscurity, was now drawing to a close and its 
conclusion was marked for Villon by a disaster which 
in all probability arose from his connection with Cath- 
erine de Vaucelles and which fell like a thunderbolt 
on the careless merriment of his life. On the even- 
ing of the 5th June 1455, the day of the Fete-Dieu, 
Villon was seated on a stone bench under the clock- 
tower of the Church of St. Benoit, in the Rue St. 
Jacques, in company with a priest called Gilles and the 
girl Isabeau above mentioned (who is noted in the 
Greater Testament as making constant use of a partic- 
ular phrase, " Enne " or " Is it not ?"), * with whom he 
had supped and sallied out at about nine o'clock to 
enjoy the coolness of the night air. As they sat talk- 
ing, there came up to them a priest called Philippe 
Chermoye or Sermoise and a friend of his named 
Jehan le Merdi, a graduate of the University. Cher- 
moye, who was probably a rival of Villon for the good 
graces of Catherine de Vaucelles, appeared in a furious 
state of exasperation against the poet and swaggered 
up to him, exclaiming, " So I have found you at last ! " 
Villon rose and courteously offered him room to sit 
down ; but the other pushed him rudely back into his 



i Lot. Anne" ? Isabeau would probably have used the French 
equivalent of " Ain't it? " 

48 



INTRODUCTION 

place, saying, "I warrant I'll anger you! " To which 
the poet replied, " Why do you accost me thus angrily, 
Master Philip ? What harm have I done you ? 
What is your will of me ? " and would have retired 
into the cloister for safety ; but Chermoye, pursuing 
him to the gate of the close, drew a great rapier from 
under his gown and smote him grieviously on the lower 
part of the face, slitting his underlip and causing 
great effusion of blood. At this Gilles and Isabeau 
took the alarm and apparently fearing to be involved 
in the affray, made off, leaving Villon alone and unsup - 
ported. Maddened by the pain of his wound and by 
the blood with which he felt himself covered, the lat- 
ter drew a short sword that he carried under his walk - 
ing cloak and in endeavouring to defend himself, 
wounded his aggressor in the groin, without being at 
the time aware of what he had done. At this juncture 
Jehan le Merdi came up and seeing his friend wounded, 
crept treacherously behind Villon and caught away his 
sword. Finding himself defenceless against Chermoye, 
who persisted in loading him with abuse and sought 
to give him the finishing stroke with his long sword, 
the wretched Fra^ois looked about for some means 
of defence and seeing a big stone at his feet, snatched 
it up and flung it in the priest's face with such force 
and precision that the latter fell to the ground insen- 
sible. Villon immediately went off to get his wounds 
dressed by a barber named Fouquet, who, in accord- 
ance with the police regulations affecting such cases, 
demanded of him his name and that of his assailant. 

49 



INTRODUCTION 

To him Villon accordingly related the whole affair, 
giving his own name as Michel Mouton and stating 
his intention on the morrow to procure Chermoye's 
arrest for the unprovoked assault. Meantime, some 
passers-by found the priest lying unconscious on the 
pavement of the cloister, with his drawn sword in his 
hand, and carried him into one of the houses in the 
close, where his wounds were dressed and whence he 
was next day transferred to the Hospital of L'Hotel 
Dieu, where on the Saturday following he died ; the 
words of the record (" pour faute de bon gouvernement 
ou autrement ") leaving it doubtful whether his death 
was not rather due to unskilful treatment than to his 
actual wounds. Before his death, however, he had 
been visited and examined by one of the apparitors of 
the Chatelet, to whom he related the whole affair, 
expressing a wish that no proceedings should be taken 
against Villon, to whom, he said, he forgave his death, 
"by reason of certain causes moving him thereunto ;" 
words which seem to tell strongly in favour of the 
hypothesis that the quarrel bore some relation to 
Catherine de Vaucelles. However, Villon was sum- 
moned before the Chatelet Court to answer for Cher- 
moye's death, but (as the record says) "fearing rigour 
of justice," he had availed himself of the interval to 
take to flight and appears to have left Paris. No record 
of the proceedings against him appears to be extant, 
but the probabilities point to his having been convicted 
in his absence and condemned, in default, to banish- 
ment from the kingdom. However, his exile did not 

50 



INTRODUCTION 

last long. In January 1456 he presented a petition 
to the Crown, setting forth that up to the time of the 
brawl " he had been known as a man of good life and 
renown and honest conversation and had in all things 
well and honourably governed himself, without having 
been attaint, reproved or convicted of any other ill 
case, blame or reproach whatsoever," and praying the 
king, in view of this and of the fact that the dead man 
had deprecated any proceedings against his adversary, 
to impart to him his grace and mercy in the remission 
of the sentence. Thanks, no doubt, to the assistance 
of Villon's powerful friends, as well as to the circum- 
stances of the case, which appears to have been an 
unusually clear one of justifiable homicide in self- 
defence, reflecting no blame whatever on the poet, 
letters of grace and remission were in the same month 
accorded to him by Charles VII and he presently 
returned to Paris, where he perhaps endeavoured to 
resume his former life of comparative respectability ; 
at all events, we may be sure that he so far resumed 
his old habits as to renew his acquaintance with 
Catherine de Vaucelles. 

The six months of his banishment, which had in 
all probability been passed in the company of the 
thieves and vagabonds who infested the neighbourhood 
of Paris, had, however, sufficed hopelessly to compro- 
mise his life. It is impossible to suppose that he can, 
in the interval, have supported himself by any honest 
means; and it is clearly to this period that may be 
traced his definitive affiliation to the band or bands of 

5' 



INTRODUCTION 

robbers of which Guy Tabarie, Petit Jean, Colin de 
Cayeulx and Regnier de Montigny were the most dis- 
tinguished ornaments and of which he himself was 
destined to become an important member.' It is to 
this time of need that Villon himself assigns the raid 
upon the barber of Bourg-la-Reine, in company with 
Huguette du Hamel ; and excursions of this kind were 
doubtless amongst the least reprehensible of his 
expedients to keep body and soul together. On his 
return to Paris, he appears to have been badly received 
by his lady-love and in despair quickly reverted to the 
habits of criminality which had now obtained a firm 
hold on him. We have it, on undoubted authority, 

[ i The researches of M. Marcel Schwob have brought to light 
the fact that the language, hitherto unidentified, in which the 
" Jargon " or " Jobelin " of Villon is written, was a thieves' slang 
or lingo peculiar to a notable association of robbers and outlaws 
known as the Coquillarts or Compagnons de la Coquille, a title 
probably derived from the circumstance that the Company was 
largely recruited from the swarms of false palmers or professional 
visitants to various shrines and especially to that of St. James of 
Compostella (whose emblem was the scallop or cockleshell habit- 
ually worn in the hat as a token of accomplishment of the pilgrim- 
age to his shrine hence the term coquiUart or cockle-shell 
wearer vulgarly applied to the palmer ) who availed themselves 
o f the quasi-sacred character of the pilgrim to rob and murder with 
impunity on all the high roads of mediaeval France. Of this law- 
less association Villon's comrades Montigny and Cayeulx are 
known to have formed part and the poet himself doubtless became 
affiliated to the Company during his six months of exile. The 
generic name (Coquillarts) of the Companions of the Cockleshell 
figures in the poems composing the " Jargon," which were doubt, 
less written expressly for the members of the band.] 

5* 



INTRODUCTION 

that during the eleven months which followed his 
return to Paris he was concerned in three robberies 
committed or attempted by his band, namely, a bur- 
glary perpetrated on the house of a priest called 
Guillaume Coiffier, by which they netted five or six 
hundred gold crowns ; an attempt (frustrated by the 
vigilance of a dog) to steal the sacred vessels from 
the Church of St. Maturin; and the breaking open of 
the treasury of the College de Navarre, whence they 
stole another five or six hundred gold crowns, thanks 
to the intimate knowledge of its interior acquired by 
Villon during his scholastic career and to the lock- 
picking talents of Colin de Cayeulx. These were 
doubtless but a few of the operations undertaken by 
the band of desperadoes with whom Villon was now 
inseparably associated ; and as they rejoiced in such 
accomplices as a goldsmith, who made them false keys 
and melted down for them their purchase or booty, 
when it assumed the inconvenient form of holy or 
other vessels, and in the protection of the Cloister of 
Notre Dame, of which sanctuary they seem to have 
made their headquarters, besides other refuges, to 
which they could flee when hard pressed, in the houses 
of priests and clerks, of whom several seem to have 
been affiliated to the band, the poet and his compan- 
ions appear for a while to have pursued their hazardous 
profession to highly lucrative account. The success- 
ful attempt upon the College de Navarre took place 
shortly before Christmas 1456 and almost immedi- 
ately afterwards the poet, who seems to have thrown 

53 



INTRODUCTION 

himself heart and soul into his new vocation and to 
have gained such appreciation among his comrades as 
led them to entrust him with the more delicate and 
imaginative branches of the craft, left Paris for 
Angers, where an uncle of his was (as I have already 
said) a priest residing in a convent; according to 
Villon's own account (see the Lesser Testament) in 
consequence of the despair to which he was driven by 
Catherine's unkindness and which led him to exile 
himself from Paris, for the purpose of endeavouring, 
by change of scene and occupation, to break away 
from the "very amorous bondage" in which he felt 
his heart withering away ; but in reality (as we learn 
from irrecusable evidence) with the view of examining 
into the possibility of a business operation upon the 
goods of a rich ecclesiastic of the Angevin town and 
of devising such a plan as should, from a careful 
artistic study of the localities and circumstance, com- 
mend itself to his ingenious wit, for the purpose of 
enabling the band to relieve the good priest of the five 
or six hundred crowns 1 which t'iey believed him to 
possess. Whether this scheme was carried out or not 
we have no information; however this may be, it does 
not appear that Villon returned to Paris for more than 
two years afterwards and his long sojourn in the 
provinces is probably to be accounted for on the sup- 
position that he received warning from some of his 

i " Five or six hundred gold crowns " was decidedly the sacra- 
mental sum with the Companions, who apparently disdained to fly 
at more trifling game. 

54 



INTRODUCTION 

comrades of the discovery of the burglary committed 
at the College de Navarre and feeling himself incon- 
veniently well known to the Parisian police, thought 
it best to remain awhile in hiding where he was less 
notorious. 

The discovery and consequent (at least temporary) 
break-up of the band was due to the drunken folly of 
Guy Tabarie, who could not refrain from boasting, in 
his cups, of the nefarious exploits of himself and his 
comrades, who (he said) possessed such powerful and 
efficient instruments of eff raction that no locks or bolts 
could resist them. By a curious hazard, a country 
priest, the Prior of Paray-le-Moniau, a connection of 
Guillaume Coiffier, to whose despoilment by Villon and 
his companions I have already referred, became the 
chance recipient of the drunken confidences of Tabarie, 
whilst staying in Paris and breakfasting at the Pulpit 
Tavern on the Petit Pont, and by feigning a desire 
to take part in his burglarious operations, succeeded 
in eliciting from him sufficient details of the affaire 
Coiffier and that of the College de Navarre to enable 
him to procure Tabarie's arrest and committal to the 
Chatelet prison in the summer of 1458. Claimed by the 
Bishop of Paris in his quality of clerk, he was trans- 
ferred to the prison of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction 
and after suffering the question ordinary and extraor- 
dinary, made a full confession, denouncing the various 
members of the band and naming Villon and Colin 
de Cayeulx as the acting chiefs. This happened more 
than two and a half years after the poet's departure 

55 



INTRODUCTION 

from Paris, nor is it known when he was arrested 
in consequence of the revelations of Guy Tabarie ; 
but it is probable, looking at the comparatively full 
manner in which his time may be accounted for 
between that date and 1461, that his arrest took place 
shortly afterwards. It is certain, on his own showing, 
that he was again tried and condemned to death, after 
having undergone the question by water, and that he 
made an appeal (the text of which has not reached us) 
to the High Court of Parliament, which, being proba- 
bly supported by some of his influential friends, 
resulted in the commutation of the capital penalty into 
that of perpetual exile from the kingdom. It was 
apparently in the interval between the pronunciation 
of his condemnation to death and the allowance of 
the appeal that he composed the magnificent ballad, 
in which he imagines himself and his companions in 
infamy hanging dead upon the gibbet of Montfaucon, 
with faces dinted with bird -pecks, alternately dried up 
and blackened by the sun and blanched and soddened 
by the rain, and in whose lines one seems to hear the 
grisly rattle of the wind through the dry bones of the 
wretched criminals "done to death by justice," as they 
swing to and fro, making weird music in " the ghosts' 
moonshine." This poem establishes the fact that five 
of his band were condemned with him and it is prob- 
able that these unhappy wretches, less fortunate than 
himself in possessing influential friends, actually real- 
ised the ghastly picture conjured up by the poet's 
fantastic imagination. 

56 






INTRODUCTION 

On receiving notification of the judgment commut- 
ing his sentence, he addressed to the Parliament the 
curious ballad (called in error his Appeal), 1 requesting 
a delay of three days for the purpose of providing him- 
self and bidding his friends adieu, before setting out 
for the place of his exile, and presently left Paris on 
his wanderings. Of his itinerary we possess no indica- 
tions save those to be laboriously culled from his 
poems ; but, by a process of inference, we may fairly 
assume that he took his way to Orleans and followed 
the course of the Loire nearly to its sources, whence he 
struck off for the town of Roussillon in Dauphine, a 
possession of the Duke of Bourbon, who had lately 
made gift of it to his bastard brother, Louis de Bour- 
bon, Mareschal and Seneschal of the Bourbonnais, 
supposed to be the Seneschal to whom Villon alludes 
as having once paid his debts. Under the wing of 
this friend, he probably established his headquarters, 
during the term of his exile, at Roussillon, making 
excursions now and then to other places notably to 
Salins in Burgundy, where it seems he had managed 
to establish the three poor orphans of whom he speaks 
in the Lesser Testament. In the Greater Testament 

[i M. Longonis manifestly in error in attributing the composition 
of this Ballad and .that last before mentioned to the interval between 
Villon's condemnation for the homicide of Chermoye and his par- 
don, as is sufficiently evident from the fact that he describes himself 
in the latter as one of six done to death by justice. M. Longnon's 
statement of the judicial consequences of the prosecution in ques- 
tion is also at variance with the terms of the letters of remission, 
at set out in his appendix.] 

57 



INTRODUCTION 

he represents himself as having visited them, referring 
to them in such terms as to leave no doubt that they 
were still children, and moreover makes a bequest for 
the purpose of completing their education and buying 
them cates. To this period of exile (or perhaps, 
rather, to the time of his preceding visit to Angers) 
must also be assigned his stay at St. Generoux in the 
marches of Poitou, where he made the acquaintance 
of the two pretty Poitevin ladies " filles belles et 
gentes," as he calls them who taught him to speak 
the Poitou dialect; and his visit to Blois, where 
Charles d'Orldans was then residing and where Villon 
took part in a sort of poetical contest established by 
the poet -prince, from which resulted the curious bal- 
lad, " Je meurs de soif aupres de la fontaine," com- 
posed (as were poems of a like character by a number 
of other poets') upon the theme indicated by the 
refrain and offering a notable example of the inferi- 
ority to which a great and original poet could descend, 
when forced painfully to elaborate the unsympathetic 
ideas of others and to bend his Lee and natural style 
to the artificial conceits and rhetorical niceties of the 
other rhymers of the day. A well-known anecdote of 
Rabelais attributes to the poet, at this period of his 
life, a voyage to England, where he is said to have 
ingratiated himself with the then regnant king and to 
have made him a celebrated speech distinguished 
equally by wit and patriotism; but the story carries 

i Cf. Les Poe'sies de Charles d'Orldans. Ed. Guichard, 1842, 
pp. 128-138. 

58 



INTRODUCTION 

in itself its own refutation and M. Longnon has shown 
that it is a mere modernisation of a precisely similar 
trait attributed to another French scholar of earlier 
date, Hugues le Noir, who is said to have taken refuge 
at the court of King John of England in the thirteenth 
century. It may be remarked, by the by, as a curious 
instance of the vitality of these old popular jests, that 
the trait above alluded to has, in our own times, be- 
come the foundation of one of the wittiest of modern 
Yankee stories. There is nothing whatever either in 
the works of Villon or in any comtemporary documents, 
in which his name is mentioned, to show that he at 
any time visited England. Had he done so, the effect 
of so radical a change in his habits and surroundings 
would certainly have left no inconsiderable trace in 
the verse of so shrewd and keen an observer of men 
and manners : and it is probable that the whole story 
arose from the fact of his banishment from the king- 
dom of France, the concoctor forgetting at that later 
period that the France of Villon's time was a com- 
paratively small country, from which banishment was 
possible into many independent or tributary states, 
which afterwards became an integral portion of the 
French realm. 

During the term of his banishment, Villon does not 
appear to have been under any kind of police super- 
vision. At that time there existed no court exercising 
supreme authority over the whole kingdom ; each 
province, nay, each ecclesiastical diocese possessed its 
own independent civil and criminal jurisdiction, having 

59 



INTRODUCTION 

little or no connection with the better organised tribu- 
nals of Paris, which city had not yet begun to be that 
nucleus of centralisation it afterwards became. So 
that he appears to have been comparatively free to 
move about at will : and from a passage in his Greater 
Testament, in which he speaks of himself as " pauvre 
mercerot de Rennes " poor hawker or pedlar of 
Rennes it seems possible that he eked out the 
scanty doles to be obtained from the kindness of 
friends (such as Duke de Bourbon, who lent him 
six crowns and to whom we find him again applying 
for a loan, and Jean le Cornu, a Parisian ecclesiastic, 
of whom says Villon, " he has always furnished me in 
my great need and distress ") by traveling as a pedlar 
from town to town, and this would explain his wan- 
derings hither and thither.' However, if he ever 

[ i Since the above was written, M. Vitu has shown in his learned 
introduction to his great work on the " Jargon " that the mer- 
cerots or mercelott formed the lowest grade of the great trade- 
guild of the Merciert and were mostly rogues and vagabonds of 
the lowest order, whose misdeeds, committed under the convenient 
cover of the pedlar's pack, were winked at and to whom protection 
was extended by the powerful parent society in consideration of 
the large addition to its revenues derived from the redevances or 
annual dues paid by them. The name of mercelot or pedlar 
appears to have been, indeed, practically synonymous with " sturdy 
rogue and vagabond;" many of the class were secretly affiliated 
to such criminal associations as the Gueux and the Coquillarts and 
it seems probable, therefore, that Villon's adoption of a nominally 
honest calling was only a mask for a continuation of the career of 
lawlessness to which he must long have been irretrievably com- 
mitted. Rennes was doubtless the headquarters of the provincial 
branch of the Mercers' Guild to which he was directly affiliated.] 

60 



INTRODUCTION 

really essayed this honest and laborious existence, he 
quickly tired of it and there is no doubt that before 
long he came again in contact with some of his old 
comrades in crime members of the dispersed band, 
either exiled like himself or hiding from justice in the 
provinces and was easily led to resume in their 
company that career of dishonesty and turbulence 
which had so fatal an attraction for him. Among 
these was notably Colin de Cayeulx, in whose com- 
pany he no doubt assisted at some of those " esbats " 
for which, in the year 1461, his old master in roguery 
was (as he tells us in the Second Ballad of the Jargon) 
at last subjected to the extreme penalty of the law, 
being broken on the wheel, probably at Montpippeau 
near Orleans, where the crimes for which he suffered 
and of which rape seems to have been the most venial 
were committed. At this last-named place, Villon 
again appears in the centre of France, trusting appar- 
ently to lapse of time for the avoidance of his 
banishment ; and here it was not long before he again 
came in collision with the authorities. In the early 
part of the year 1461 we find him, in company with 
others of unknown condition, committing a crime 
(said to have been the theft of a silver lamp from the 
parish church of Baccon near Orleans) for which he 
was arrested by the police of the ecclesiastical juris- 
diction and brought before the tribunal of the Bishop 
of Orleans, that Jacques Thibault d'Aussigny against 
whom he so bitterly inveighs in the Greater Testa- 
ment. We have no record of his conviction, but it 

61 



INTRODUCTION 

cannot be doubted that he was again condemned to 
death, although (with his usual luck) a more powerful 
protector than had ever before intervened in his 
favour appeared in time to prevent the execution of 
the sentence. It appears from his own statements 
that he was, during the whole summer of 1461, con- 
fined in what he calls a " fosse " in the castle of 
Meung-sur- Loire a name reserved for the horrible 
dens without light or air, dripping with water and 
swarming with rats, toads and snakes, adjoining the 
castle moat. Here he was (if we may credit his own 
statements) more than once subjected to the question 
or torture by water and (what seems to have been a 
more terrible hardship than all the rest to a man of 
Villon's passionate devotion to rich and delicate eat- 
ing and drinking) he was "passing scurvily fed" on 
dry bread and water. At Meung, it can hardly be 
doubted, he composed the curious ballad in which he 
presents his heart and body, or soul and sense, arguing 
one against the other, and sets before us, in a pithy 
and well-sustained dialogue, the sentiments of remorse 
and despair not unrelieved by the inevitable stroke 
of covert satire which seem to have formed the 
normal state of his mind during any interval of en- 
forced retirement from the light of the sun and the 
pursuit of his nefarious profession. To this period 
also belongs the beautiful and pathetic ballad, in which 
he calls upon all to whom Fortune has made gift of 
freedom from other service than that of God in Para- 
dise, all for whom life is light with glad laughter and 

62 



INTRODUCTION 

pleasant song, to have compassion on him as he lies 
on the cold earth, fasting feast and fast-days alike, in 
the dreary dungeon, whither neither light of levin nor 
noise of whirlwind can penetrate for the thickness of 
the walls that enfold him like the cerecloths of a 
corpse. From an expression in this ballad, it would 
seem that there were no steps to Villon's cell, but that 
he was let down into it by ropes, as was the prophet 
Jeremiah in the dungeon of Malchiah the son of 
Hammelech, in the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah. 
Here, too, he seems to have been chained up in fetters 
(" enferre ") and (if we may believe him when he 
accuses the bishop of having made him chew many a 
" poire d'angoisse ") gagged to prevent his crying out. 
To all this were added the tortures of hunger, for even 
the wretched food supplied to him seems to have been 
so small in quantity ("une petite miche," says he) as 
barely to stave off starvation, a wretched state of 
things for a man who had always, on his own confes- 
sion, too well nourished his body; and it is very 
possible that, had his imprisonment been of long 
duration, hardship and privation might have ended 
his life. However, this was not destined to be the 
case. In July 1461 the old King Charles VII died 
and was succeeded by the Dauphin, Louis XI ; and 
on the 2nd October following, the latter remitted 
Villon's penalty and ordered his release by letters of 
grace dated at Meung-sur-Loire, where he had proba- 
bly learnt the fate of the poet, whilst passing in the 
course of the royal progress customary on a new 

63 



INTRODUCTION 

king's accession. It seems probable that he remem- 
bered Villon's name as that of an old acquaintance, if 
not as that of a brilliant and ingenious poet ; and the 
saying is indeed traditionally attributed to Louis XI, 
whose taste in literature was of the acutest, that he 
could not afford to hang Villon, as the kingdom could 
boast of 100,000 rascals of equal eminence, but not of 
one other poet so accomplished in "gentilz dictz et j 
inge"nieux S9avoir." At all events, it is certain that > 
Charles d' Orleans, to whom most commentators have 
ascribed the merit of procuring Villon's release by 
intercession with the king, could not have successfully 
intervened, as he was at that time in disgrace with the 
new monarch, between whom and himself a bitter 
personal hostility had long existed: and " Le Dit de 
la naissance Marie d'Orle'ans" by which poem, 
addressed to the father of the new-born princess, 
Villon is conjectured to have secured his good offices 
is most assuredly the production neither of Villon 
nor of any one else in any way worthy of the name 
of poet. 



IV 



Immediately upon his release, Villon seems to have 
returned to Paris and there appears to be some little 
warrant for the supposition that he endeavoured to 
earn his living as an avoue or in some similar capacity 
about the ecclesiastical courts. However this may be, 
he was probably speedily obliged to renounce all 
efforts of this kind on account of the failing state of 
his health and the exhaustion consequent upon the 
privations he had undergone and the irregularity of 
his debauched and licentious life. It would appear, 
too, from an allusion in his later verse, that his goods, 
little as they were (" even to the bed under me," says 
he), had been seized by three creditors, named Moreau, 
Provins and Turgis, in satisfaction apparently of debts 
due by him to them, or to reimburse themselves for 
thefts practised at their expense, at the time of " Les 
Repues Tranches," two of which, carried out at Tur- 
gis's cost, I have already noticed : and as the scanty 
proceeds of the execution are not likely to have satis- 
fied any considerable portion of his liabilities, it would 
seem that his creditors took further proceedings 
against him, from the consequences of which he was 
compelled to seek safety in some place of concealment, 
whither he defies Turgisto follow him. That he did not 
:ake refuge with Guillaume de Villon is obvious (as is 
Uso the honourable motive that prompted him to hold 
iloof from his old friend and patron) from Octave 77 

65 



INTRODUCTION 

of the Greater Testament, in which he begs his " more 
than father," who was (says he) saddened enough by 
this last scrape of his protege", to leave him to disen- 
tangle himself as best he could. It is possible that 
he may have retired to one of the hiding-places before 
mentioned, whither he and his comrades were wont to 
resort when hard pressed by the police ; but (pace M. 
Longnon) it seems to me that the probabilities are in 
favour of his having sheltered himself with the woman 
whom he calls " La Grosse Margot " and who, he implies, 
had alone retained a real and faithful attachment to 
him. That attachments of such a nature have never 
been rare among women of her class ("poor liberal 
girls I " as Villon calls them), in whom the very nature 
of their terrible trade seems to engender an ardent 
longing for real and unselfish affection which has 
often led them to the utmost extremities of devotion 
and self-sacrifice, none can doubt who knows any- 
thing of their history and habits as a class ; and one 
need go no further than Dufour's curious History of 
Prostitution or Dumas' sympathetic study, " Filles, 
Lorettes et Courtisanes," for touching instances of the 
pathetic abnegation of which these unhappy creatures 
are capable. M. Longnon has endeavoured, with a 
motive in which all admirers of the poet must sym- 
pathise with him, to contend that Villon's connection 
with La Grosse Margot had no real existence and that 
his most explicit references to it should be taken as 
nothing but a playful and figurative description of 
his presumed devotion to some tavern, for which a 

66 



INTRODUCTION 

portrait of the woman in question served as sign. With 
all respect for M. Longnon's most honourable intention 
and all possible willingness to accept any reasonable 
conjecture that might tend to remove from the poet's 
name a stigma of which his lovers must be painfully 
sensible, I am yet utterly at a loss to discover any 
warrant for the above-mentioned theory. It is of 
course possible that the ballad in which Villon so 
circumstantially exposes the connection in question 
may have been intended as a mere piece of bravado 
or mystification ; but, failing evidence of this, I defy 
any candid reader to place such a construction upon 
the text as will justify any other conclusion than the 
very unsavoury one usually adopted. 

Rejected by the only woman of his own rank whom 
he seems to have loved with a real and tender passion 
and even cast off by his sometime mistress Jehanne- 
ton la Chaperonni^re, one can hardly blame Villon for 
not refusing the shelter of the one attachment, low 
and debased as it was, which remained to him. 

In this retirement, whatever it was, deserted by all 
his friends and accompanied only by his boy-clerk 
Fremin, Villon appears to have at once addressed 
himself to the composition of the capital work of his 
life, the Greater Testament. He had now attained 
the age of thirty, and young as he still was, he felt 
that he had not much longer to live. The terrible 
life of debauchery, privation and hardship he had led 

i Possibly (and even probably) an imaginary character. 
6 7 



INTRODUCTION 

had at last begun to produce its natural effect. To 
the maladies contracted in his youth and to the natu- 
ral exhaustion caused by an incessant alternation of 
the wildest debauch and the most cruel privation, 
appears now to have been added some disease of the 
lungs, probably consumption, which caused him to 
burn with insatiable thirst and to vomit masses of 
snow-white phlegm as big as tennis-balls (the student 
of our own old poets will recall the expression " to spit 
white," so commonly applied to those attacked with a 
fatal affection of the lungs, consequent upon excess), 
a disorder probably contracted in the reeking dungeon 
of the castle of Meung and aggravated by the terrible 
effects of the question by water, which he had so often 
undergone and from which the patient rarely entirely 
recovered. Indeed, he expressly attributes these latter 
symptoms to his having been forced by the Bishop of 
Orleans to drink so much cold water. He tells us, at 
the commencement of his Greater Testament, that his 
youth had left him, how he knew not, and that, though 
yet in reality a cockerel, he had the voice and appear- 
ance of an old rook. Sad, dejected and despairing,: 
with face blacker, as he says, than a mulberry for; 
stress of weather and privation, without hair, beard or 
eye -brows, bare as a turnip from disease, with body 
emaciated with hunger (" The worms will have no 
great purchase thereof," says he; "hunger has waged 
too stern a war on it ; ") and every limb one anguish 
for disease, with empty purse and stomach, dependent 
on charity for subsistence, so sick at heart and feeble 

68 



INTRODUCTION 

that he could hardly speak, his eyes seem at last to 
have been definitively opened to the terrible folly of 
his past life. He renounces at last those delusive 
pleasures for which he retains neither hope nor 
capacity : " No more desire in me is hot," he cries ; 
" I've put my lute beneath the seat : " travail and 
misery have sharpened his wit : he confesses and 
repents of his sins, forgives his enemies and turns for 
comfort to religion and maternal love, consoling him- 
self with the reflection that all must die, great and 
small, and that after such a life as he has led, an 
honest death had nothing that should displease him, 
seeing that in life, as in love, " each pleasure's bought 
with fifty pains." After a long and magnificent pre- 
lude, in which he laments the excesses of his youth, 
justifying himself by his favourite argument that 
necessity compels folk to do evil, as want drives 
wolves out of the brake, and sues for the favourable 
and compassionate consideration of those whose lot 
in life has placed them above necessity, interrupted 
by numerous episodes, some humorous, some pathetic, 
the individual beauty of which is so great that (like 
the so-called diffuse digressions which abound in the 
music of Schubert) one cannot quarrel with their want 
of proportion to the general theme, he commends 
his soul to the various persons of the Trinity in Ian - 
guage of the most exalted piety and proceeds, in view 
of his approaching death, to dictate to his clerk what 
he calls his Testament, being a long series of huitains 
or eight -line octosyllabic stanzas, in each of which he 

69 



INTRODUCTION 

makes some mention, humorous, pathetic or satirical, 
of some one or more of the numerous personages who 
had trodden with him the short but vari-coloured scene 
of his life. Many are the men, women, places and 
things he sets before us in a few keen and incisive 
words, from which often spring the swiftest lightnings 
of humour and the most poignant flashes of pathos, 
blending together in extricable harmony, with a care- 
less skill worthy of Heine or Laforgue, the maddest 
laughter and the most bitter tears. Lamartine or De 
Mussel contains no tenderer or more plaintive notes 
than those which break, like a primrose, from the 
Spring-ferment of his verse, nor is there to be found 
in Vaughan or Christina Rossetti a holier or sweeter 
strain than the ballad which bears his mother's name. 
Among the lighter pieces, by which his more serious 
efforts are relieved, I may mention the delightfully 
humorous orison for the soul of his notary, Master 
Jehan Cotard; the brightly -coloured ballad called 
" Les Contredictz de Franc-Gontier," in which, with 
comic emphasis, he denounces the so-called pleasures 
of a country life ; and the tripping lilt that he devotes 
to the praise of the women of Paris. In the Ballad of 
La Grosse Margot, he gives us a terrible picture 
of the degrading expedients to which he was forced 
by the frightful necessities of his misguided existence 
and dedicates to Fran9ois Perdryer above named 
" The Ballad of Slanderous Tongues," perhaps the 
most uncompromising example of pure invective that 
exists in any known literature. Towards the end of 

70 



INTRODUCTION 

his poem, in verses pregnant with serious and well- 
illustrated meaning, he addresses himself to the 
companions of his crimes and follies " ill souls and 
bodies well bestead," as he calls them and bids 
them beware of " that ill sun which tans a man when 
he is dead," warning them that all their crimes and 
extravagances have brought them nothing but misery 
and privation, with the prospect of a shameful death 
at last, that ill-gotten goods are nobody's gain, but 
drift away to wanton uses, like chaff before the wind, 
and exhorting them to mend their lives and turn to 
honest labour. When he has to his satisfaction 
exhausted his budget of memories, tears and laughter, 
he strikes once more the fatalist keynote of the whole 
work in a noble " mediation " on the equality of all 
earthly things before the inexorable might of Death 
and adds a Roundel, in which he deprecates the 
further rigour of Fate and expresses a hope that his 
repentance may find acceptance at the hands of God. 
Finally, he names his executors, gives directions for 
his burial, orders an epitaph to be scratched over him, 
to preserve his memory as that of a good honest wag 
(" un bon folatre "), and concludes by determining, in 
view of his approaching death, to beg forgiveness of 
all men, which he does in a magnificent ballad, bearing 
the refrain, " I cry folk mercy, one and all " (from 
which, however, he still excepts the Bishop of 
Orleans), winding up with a second ballad, in which 
he solemnly repeats his assertion that he dies a martyr 
to Love and invites all lovers to his funeral. 



INTRODUCTION 

No work of Villon's, posterior to the Greater Tes- 
tament, is known to us, nor is there any trace of its 
existence; indeed, from the date, 1461, with which he 
himself heads his principal work, we entirely lose sight 
of him: and it may be supposed, in view of the condi- 
tion of mental and bodily weakness in which we 
find him at that time, that he did not long survive its 
completion. Indeed (as M. Longnon justly observes), 
in the case of so eminent a poet, there could be no 
stronger proof of his death than his cessation to pro- i 
duce verses. The Codicil (so named by some compiler 
or editor after the poet's death) is a collection of poems 
which contain internal evidence of having been 
composed at an earlier period; and the other pieces 
Les Repues Franches, the Dialogue of Mallepaye 
and Baillevent and the Monologue of the Franc 
Archier de Baignolet which are generally joined to 
the Testaments and Codicil, bear no trace whatever of 
Villon's handiwork. They were not even added to 
his works until 1532 and were in the following year 
summarily rejected as spurious by Clement Marot 
from his definite edition, prepared by order of Francis 
I. Nevertheless, I do not entirely agree with M. 
Longnon in supposing that Villon died immediately i 
after 1461. This would be to assume that the whole 
of the Greater Testament was written at one time : 
and for this assumption there seems to me to be no 
warrant. On the contrary, even as the interpolated 
ballads and rondeaux bear for the most part signs of 
an earlier origin, there seems to me to exist in the 

72 



INTRODUCTION 

body of the Greater Testament internal evidence that 
the principal portion of the poem (*'. e., that written in 
huitains) was composed at four or iive, perhaps more, 
different returns ; and it is, therefore, probable that 
Villon survived for two or three years after his release 
from Meung gaol.* Rabelais, indeed, states in his 
" Pantagruel " that the poet, in his old age, retired to 
St. Maixent in Poitou, where, under the patronage of 
an honest abbot of that ilk, he amused himself and 
entertained the people with a representation of the 
Passion " en gestes et en langage Poitevins ; " but 
this tradition (if tradition it be) which Rabelais puts 
into the mouth of the Seigneur de Basche, is as com- 
pletely improbable, destitute of confirmation and 
unworthy of serious attention as that of Villon's 
journey to England and seems to me to prove nothing, 
save, perhaps, that Villon at that time (1550), when 
his works had already begun to fall into disuse, had 
become a mere traditional lay-figure, on which to hang 
vague stories of " villonneries," adaptable to all kinds 
of heroes and mostly suggested by the Repues 

[i The opinion expressed in the above lines (which were written 
in 1878) has recently been completely confirmed by the terms of 
a judicial document discovered in the Archives Nationales and 
first published by M. Longnon (1892), to wit, the Letters of Remis- 
sion granted by Louis XI in November 1463 to Robin Dogis for 
the wounding of one Francois Ferrebouc, in an affray which took 
place near the church of St. Benoit and at which Villon is men- 
tioned as having been present, though not implicated therein, thus 
proving that the poet was still alive in 1463, two years after the 
date of the Greater Testament.] 

73 



INTRODUCTION 

Tranches. There occurs also, in a Gazetteer pub- 
lished in 1726, an assertion that Villon was burnt for 
impiety ; but, although to a reader of his works this 
would seem by no means unlikely not by reason of 
any real impiety on the part of Villon (for it is evident 
that, as is so often the case with men of loose and 
even criminal life, his faith in religion was sincere 
and deep-seated), but because of the continual jests and 
sarcasms he permits himself at the expense of the 
monks and secular clergy, always far more ready to 
pardon actual heresy or infidelity than such personal 
attacks, having no relation to religion, as tend to dis- 
credit themselves among the people yet, looking at 
the utter want of confirmation and of any previous 
mention of the alleged fact and considering the 
grotesque ignorance of the eighteenth century with 
regard to the old writers and especially the old poets 
of France, we are fully justified in treating the assertion 
as an absurd invention. 

No edition of Villon's works is extant which is 
known to have been published in his lifetime and to 
which we might therefore have turned for information. 
The first edition, though undated, was evidently pub- 
lished without his concurrence and almost certainly 
after his death; and the second, published in 1489, 
affords no clue to the date of that event, though 
printed after the year mentioned as an extreme limit 
by those of his commentators who have ascribed to him 
the longest life. It is much to be regretted that the 
will of Guillaume de Villon is not extant, as it would 

74 




INTRODUCTION 

almost certainly have contained some reference to the 
good canon's unhappy protege, whether dead or alive, 
in the latter case, for the purpose of making some 
provision for him, and in the former, with some men- 
tion of his death and some pious wish for the repose 
of his soul. It probably perished, with many other 
valuable records and archives, from which we might 
have fairly expected to glean important supplementary 
information relative to Villon, in the Saturnalia of 
criminal and purposeless destruction which disgraced 
the French Revolution. 



75 



There can be no doubt that Villon was appreciated 
at something like his real literary value by the people 
of his time. Little as we know of his life, everything 
points to the conclusion that his writings were highly 
popular during his lifetime, not only among those 
princes and gallants whom he had made his friends, but 
among that Parisian public of the lower orders, with 
which he was so intimately identified. Allusions here 
and there lead us to suppose that his ballads and 
shorter pieces were known among the people long 
before their publication in a collective form and it is 
probable, indeed, that they were hawked about in 
manuscript and afterwards printed on broadsheets in 
black-letter, as were such early English poems as the 
Childe of Bristowe and the History of Tom Thumb. 
For many years after his death the Ballads were always 
distinguished from the rest by the descriptive headings 
of the various editions, in which the printers announce 
" The Testaments of Villon and his Ballads]' as if the 
latter had previously been a separate and well-known 
specialty of the poet's. We may even suppose them 
to have been set to music and sung, as were the odes 
of Ronsard a hundred years later, and indeed many 
of them seem imperatively to call for such treatment. 
Who cannot fancy the Ballad of the Women of Paris 
"II n'est bon bee que de Paris" being carolled 
about the streets by the students and street -boys of 

76 



INTRODUCTION 

the day, or the Orison for Master Cotard's Soul being 
trolled out as a drinking-song by that jolly toper at 
some jovial reunion of the notaries and " chicquanous" 
of his acquaintance ? 

The thirty -four editions, known to have been pub- 
lished before the end of the year 1542, ' are sufficient 
evidence of the demand (probably for the time unprece- 
dented) which existed for his poems during the seventy 
or eighty years that followed his death ; and it is a 
significant fact that the greatest poet of the first half 
of the sixteenth century should have applied himself, 
at the special request of Francis I (who is said to have 
known Villon by rote), to rescue the works of the 
Parisian poet from the labyrinth of corruption and 
misrepresentation into which they had fallen through 
the carelessness of printers and the indifference of the 
public, who seem to have had his verses too well by 
heart to trouble themselves to protest against mis- 
prints and misreadings. In the preface to this edition 
(of which twelve reprints in nine years sufficiently 
attest the estimation in which Villon was held by the 
cultivated intellects of the early Renaissance period) 
Marot pays a high tribute to " le premier poete parisien," 
as he styles Villon, declaring the better part of his 
work to be of such artifice, so full of fair doctrine and 
so emblazoned in a thousand bright colours, that 
Time, which effaces all things, had not thitherto suc- 
ceeded in effacing it nor should still less efface it 

[ See M. Longnon's Bibliographic des Imprimis.] 

77 



INTRODUCTION 

thenceforward, so long as good French letters should 
be known and preserved. Marot's own writings bear 
evident traces of the care and love with which he had 
studied the first poet of his time, who indeed appears 
to have given the tone to all the rhymers Gringoire, 
Henri Baude, Martial D'Auvergne, Cretin, Coquillart, 
Jean Marot, Roger de Collerye, Guillaume Alexis 
who continued, though with no great brilliancy, to 
keep alive the sound and cadence of French song 
during the latter part of the fifteenth and the first years 
of the sixteenth centuries. The advent of the poets 
of the Pleiad and the deluge of Latin and Greek form 
and sentiment with which they flooded the poetic 
literature of France seem at once to have arrested the 
popularity of the older poets : imitations of Horace, 
Catullus, Anacreon, Pindar took the place of the more 
spontaneous and original style of poetry founded upon 
the innate capacities of the language and that " esprit 
Gaulois" which represented the national sentiment 
and tendencies. The memory of Villon, enfant de 
Paris, child of the Parisian gutter, as he was, went 
down before the new movement, characterised at once 
by its extreme pursuit of refinement at all hazards and ! 
its neglect of those stronger and deeper currents of 
sympathy and passion, for which one must dive deep 
into the troubled waters of popular life and activity. 
For nearly three centuries the name and fame of the 
singer of the Ladies of Old Time remained practically 
forgotten, buried under wave upon wave of literary 
and political movement, all apparently equally hostile 

78 



INTRODUCTION 

to the tendency and spirit of his work. We find, 
indeed, the three greatest spirits of the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries, Rabelais, Regnier and La 
Fontaine, evincing by their works and style, if not by 
any more explicit declaration, their profound knowl- 
edge and sincere appreciation of Villon ; but their 
admiration had no effect upon the universal consent 
with which the tastes and tendencies of their respec- 
tive times appear to have decreed the complete oblivion 
of the early poet. The first half of the eighteenth 
century, indeed, produced three several editions of 
Villon ; but the critics and readers of the age were 
little likely to prefer the robust and high -flavoured 
food, that Villon set before them, to the whipped 
creams, the rose and musk -scented confections with 
which the literary pastry-cooks of the day so liberally 
supplied them ; and it was not until the full develop- 
ment, towards the end of the first half of the present 
century, of the Romantic movement (a movement 
whose causes and tendencies bore so great an affinity 
to that of which Villon in his own time was himself 
the chief agent), that he began to be in some measure 
restored to his proper place in the hierarchy of French 
literature. Yet we can still remember the compas- 
sionate ridicule with which the efforts of The"ophile 
Gautier to revindicate his memory were received and 
how even that perfect and noble spirit, in whose cath- 
olic and unerring appreciation no spark of true genius 
or of worthy originality ever failed to light a corre- 
sponding flame of enthusiasm, was fain to dissimulate 

79 



INTRODUCTION 

the fervour of his admiration under the transparent 
mask of partial deprecation and to provide for his 
too bold enterprise of rehabilitation a kind of apolo- 
getic shelter by classing the first great poet of France 
with far less worthy writers, under the title of " Les 
Grotesques." In the country of his birth, Villon 
is still little read, although the illustrious poet Tho- 
dore de Banville did much to expedite the revival of 
his fame by regenerating the form in which his greatest 
triumphs were achieved ; and it is perhaps, indeed, in 
England that his largest public (scanty enough as yet) 
may be expected to be found. However, better days 
have definitively dawned for Villon's memory: he is at 
last recognised by all who occupy themselves with 
poetry as one of the most original and genuine of 
European singers ; and the spread of his newly -regained 
reputation can now be only a matter of time. 

The vigorous beauty and reckless independence of 
Villon's style and thought, although a great, have 
been by no means the only obstacle to his enduring 
popularity. A hardly less effectual one has always 
existed in the evanescent nature of the allusions upon 
which so large a part of his work is founded. In the 
preface to the edition above referred to, Cle'ment < 
Marot allows it to be inferred that, even at so com- 
paratively early a period as 1533, the greater part of 
his references to persons and places of his own day 
had become obscure, if not altogether undecipherable, 
to all but those few persons of advanced age, who 
may be said to have been almost his contemporaries. 

80 



INTRODUCTION 

In Marot's own words, "To sufficiently understand 
and explain the industry or intention of the bequests 
he makes in his Testament, it is necessary to have 
been a Parisian of his time and to have known the 
places, things and people of which he speaks, the 
memory whereof, as it shall more and more pass 
away, so much the less shall be comprehended the 
poet's intention in the references aforesaid." It is 
indeed difficult and in many cases impossible to under- 
stand the intent, based upon current and purely local 
circumstance, with which the poet made so many and 
such grotesque bequests to his friends and enemies. 
One can, by a stretch of imagination, to some extent 
catch his meaning, when he bequeaths to this and 
that hard drinker some of the numerous taverns or 
wine-shops the White Horse, the Mule, the Dia- 
mond, the Jibbing Ass, the Tankard, the Fir-cone, the 
Golden Mortar with whose names his verse bristles, 
or the empty casks that once held the wine stolen 
from this or the other vintner; to his roguish compan- 
ions, the right of shelter in the ruins around Paris, a 
cast of cogged dice or a pack of cheating cards; to 
poultry-sneaks and gutter-thieves, the long gray cloaks 
that should serve to conceal their purchase; to his 
natural enemies, the sergeants of the watch, cotton 
nightcaps,' that they might sleep in comfortable igno- 
rance of his nocturnal misdeeds ; and to others of his 
dearest foes, the Conciergerie and Chatelet prisons, 

[i Cornctes. This word should perhaps be read in its older 
sense of " tippet " or " bandelet."] 

Si 



INTRODUCTION 

with a right of rent-charge on the pillory, "three 
strokes of withy well laid on and prison lodging all 
their life ; " to his barber, the clippings of his hair and 
to his cobbler and tailor, his old shoes and clothes 
"for less than what they cost when new." And we 
can more or less dimly appreciate his satirical inten- 
tion, when he bequeaths to monks, nuns and varlets 
the means of dissipation and debauch, of which he 
had good reason to know they so freely availed them 
selves without the need of his permission ; to notaries 
of the Chatelet the good grace of their superior the 
Provost ; to his friend the Seneschal and Mar^chal de 
Bourbon, the punning qualification of marechal 01 
blacksmith and the right of shoeing ducks and gees< 
(probably a hit at the prince's amorous complexion') 
to a butcher a fat sheep belonging to some one els< 
and a whisk to keep the flies off his meat; to th< 
women of pleasure, the right to hold a public schoo 
by night, where masters should be taught of scholars 
to one of his comrades, nicknamed (as is sure to b 
the case in almost every band of thieves) " the Chap 
lain," his "simple -tonsure chaplaincy;" or to thi 
three hundred blind mutes of the Hospital de 
Quinze-Vingts and the Cemetery of the Innocents, hi 
spectacles, that, in the churchyards where they served 
they might see to separate the bad from the good 
these all have yet for us some glimmer, more or les 

[i Or perhaps at his simplicity, ferrtr Its oits being an ol 
phrase meaning " to waste time in trifling, to spend both time an 
labour very vainly. " Cotgrave.] 

82 



INTRODUCTION 

sufficient, of sense and meaning. But why he should 
bequeath to three different persons his double-handed 
or battle-sword an article it is not likely he ever 
possessed, the tuck' or dirk being the scholar's 
weapon of the time ; why he should gratify a clerk to 
the Parliament with a shop and trade, to be purchased 
out of the proceeds of the sale of his hauberk (another 
article, by the by, which he certainly never owned) ; 
why he should give to a respectable Parisian citizen 
the acorns of a willow plantation and a daily dole of 
poultry and wine ; to Rene de Montigny three dogs, 
and to Jehan Raguyer, a serjeant of the provostry of 
Paris, one hundred francs; to his proctor Fournier, 
leather ready cut out for shoes and caps ; to a couple of 
thieves, " bacon, peas, charcoal and wood ; " to two 
dchevins of Paris each an eggshell full of francs and 
crowns ; to three notaries of the Chatelet a basketful 
each of stolen cloves ; why he should will to his 
barber, Colin Galerne, an iceberg from the Marne, to 
be used as an abdominal plaster, or direct the joinder 
of Mount Valerien to Montmartre ; all these and 
others of the same kind though no doubt full of 
pertinence and meaning at the time when the persons, 
things and places referred to were still extant or fresh 
'in the memory of their contemporaries are now for 
us enigmas of the most hopeless kind, hidden in a 
darkness which may be felt and which it can hardly 

[ i Tuck (Old Irish tufa), a clerk's short sword or hanger, not the 
long narrow thrusting weapon (rapier) after known by the same 
name.] 

83 



INTRODUCTION 

be hoped that time and patience, those two greai 
revealers of hidden things, will ever avail to penetratf 
with any sufficient light of interpretation.' 

Nevertheless, when we have made the fullest possi 
ble allowance for obscurity and faded interest, then 
still remain in Villon's surviving verse treasures o, 
beauty, wit and wisdom enough to ensure the preser 
vation of his memory as a poet what while th< 
French language and literature endure.* 

That which perhaps most forcibly strikes a reade 
for the first time studying Villon's work is the perfec 
absence of all conventional restrictions. He reject: 

[iThe antithetical interpretation proposed by M. Bijvanclt 
according to which Villon may be supposed to have intended t' 
annul each legacy by the succeeding words, taken in their sec 
ondary meaning, seems hardly satisfactory ; but see my notes t 
the Poems, passim.] 

2 I take this opportunity to protest against the fashion whic 
prevails among editors and critics of Villon, of singling out certai 
parts of his work, notably his Ballads, for laudation, to the detri 
ment of the rest of his poems. No one is less inclined tha 
myself to begrudge his splendid Ballads the full tribute of admira 
tion they deserve ; but, magnificent as they are, it is not (it seem 
to me) in them, hut in the body of the Greater Testament, tha 
Villon's last word as a poet is to be sought. Here he put fort 
his full force and it is here (and more especially in the magnificer 
passage, octaves xii to Ixii inclusive) that his genius shines out wit 
a vigour and plentitude thitherto unexampled in French versi 
The long passage last referred to is one uninterrupted flow c 
humour, satire and pathos, glowing with the most exquisite melD 
phor and expressed in a singularly terse and original style ; and 
seems to me beyond question that this was, if not his last, at lea; 
his most mature effort. 



INTRODUCTION 

nothing as common or unclean and knows none 
better how to draw the splendid wonder of poetic 
efflorescence from the mangrove swamps of the 
truanderie and the stagnant marish of the prison or the 
brothel. His wit and pathos are like the sun, which 
shines with equal and impartial light upon the evil 
and the good, alike capable of illustrating the inno- 
cent sweetness of the spring and summer meadows 
and of kindling into a glory of gold and colour the 
foul canopy of smoke which overbroods the turmoil of 
a great city. He is equally at home when celebrating 
the valour of the heroes of old time or when telling 
the sorry tragedy of some ne'er-do-weel of his own 
day. His spirit and tendency are eminently romantic, 
in the sense that he employed modern language and 
modern resources to express and individualise the 
eternal elements of human interest and human passion, 
as they appeared, moulded into new shapes and 
invested with new colours and characteristics by the 
shifting impulses and tendencies of his time. He had 
ndeed, in no ordinary degree, the capital qualifica- 
:iou of the romantic poet : he understood the splendour 
)f modern things and knew the conjurations which 
houlcl compel the coy spirit of contemporary beauty 
o cast off the rags and tatters of circumstance, the 
ow and debased seeming in which it was enchanted, 
ind flower forth, young, glorious and majestic, as the 
switched princess in the fairy tale puts off the aspect 
nd vesture of hideous and repulsive eld, at the magic 
ouch of perfect love. The true son of his time, he 

85 



INTRODUCTION 

rejected at once and for ever, with the unerring judg- 
ment of the literary reformer, the quaint formalities 
of speech, the rhetorical exaggerations and limitations 
of expression and the Chinese swathing of allegory 
and conceit that dwarfed the thought and deformed 
the limbs of the verse of his day and reduced the art 
of poetry to a kind of Tibetan prayer -wheel, in which 
the advent of the Spring, the conflict of Love and 
Honour, the cry of the lover against the cruelty of his 
mistress and the glorification of the latter by endless 
comparison to all things fit and unfit, were ground up 
again and again into a series of kaleidoscopic patterns, 
wearisome in the sameness of their mannered beauty, 
from whose contemplation one rises with dazzled eyes 
and exhausted sense, longing for some cry of passion, 
some flower-birth of genuine sentiment, to burst the 
strangling sheath of affectation and prescription. 
Before Villon the language of the poets of the time 
had become almost as pedantic, although not so 
restricted and colourless, as that of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries. By dint of continual em- 
ployment in the same grooves and in the same formal 
sense, the most forceful and picturesque words of the 
language had almost ceased to possess individuality 
or colour ; for the phosphorescence that springs from 
the continual contact of words with thought, and theii 
reconstruction at the stroke of passion, was wanting 
not to be supplied or replaced by the aptest ingenuity 
or the most untiring wit. Villon did for French poetk 
speech that which Rabelais afterwards performed foi 

86 



INTRODUCTION 

its prose (and it is a singular coincidence, which I 
believe has not before been remarked, that the father 
of French poetry and the father of French prose were, 
as it were, predestined to the task they accomplished 
by the name common to both Francois or French 
par excellence). He restored the exhausted literary 
language of his time to youth and health by infusing 
into it > the healing poisons, the revivifying acids and 
bitters of the popular speech, disdaining no materials 
that served his purpose, replacing the defunct forms 
with new phrases, new shapes wrung from the heart of 
the spoken tongue, plunging with audacious hand into 
the slang of the tavern and the brothel, the cant of the 
highway and the prison, choosing from the wayside 
heap and the street gutter the neglected pebbles and 
nodules in which he alone divined the hidden diamonds 
and rubies of picturesque expression, to be polished 
and facetted into glory and beauty by the regenerating 
friction of poetic employment. None better than he 
has known how to call forth the electric flash which 
has long lurked dormant, hidden in its separate polari - 
ties, till the hand of genius should bring into strange 
and splendid contact the words which had till then 
lain apart, dull and lifeless. 

Villon was the first great poet of the people : his 
love of the life of common things, the easy familiarity 
of the streets and highways, his intimate knowledge 
and love of the home and outdoor life of the merchant, 
the hawker, the artisan, the mountebank, nay, even 
the thief, the prostitute and the gipsy of his time, 

8? 



INTRODUCTION 

stand out in unequivocal characters from the linea- 
ments of his work. The cry of the people rings out 
from his verse, that cry of mingled misery and 
humour, sadness and cheerfulness, which, running 
through Rabelais and Re'gnier* was to pass unheeded 
till it swelled into the judgment-thunder of the Revo- 
lution. The sufferings, the oppression, the bonhomie, 
the gourmandise, the satirical good-humour of that 
French people which has so often been content to 
starve upon a jesting ballad or a mocking epigram, its 
gallantry, its perspicacity and its innate lack of rev- 
erence for all that symbolises an accepted order of 
things, all these stand out in their natural colours, 
drawn to the life and harmonised into a national entity, 
to which the poet gives the shape and seeming of his 
own individuality, unconscious that in relating his own 
hardships, his own sufferings, regrets and aspirations, 
he was limning for us the typified and foreshortened 
image and presentment of a nation at a cardinal epoch 
of national regeneration. " He builded better than he 
knew." His poems are a very album of types and 
figures of the day. As we read, the narrow, gabled 
streets, with their graven niches for saint and Virgin 
and their monumental fountains stemming the stream 
of traffic, rise before us, gay with endless move- 
ment of fur and satin clad demoiselles, " ruffed and 
rebatoed," with their heart or diamond shaped head- 
dresses of velvet and brocade, fringed and broidered 
with gold and silver ; sad-coloured burghers and their 
wives distinguished by the bongrace or chaperon <i 

88 



INTRODUCTION 

bourrelet, with its rolled and stuffed hem; gold-laced 
archers and jaunty clerks, whistling for lustihead, with 
the long-peaked hood or liripipe falling over their 
shoulders and the short bright-coloured walking-cloak 
letting pass the glittering point of the dirk ; shaven, 
down-looking monks, " breeched and booted like 
oyster -fishers," and barefooted friars, purple-gilled with 
secret and unhallowed debauchery; light o' loves, 
distinguished by the tall helm or hennin and the 
gaudily coloured tight fitting surcoat, square-cut to 
show the breasts, over the sheath -like petticoat, crossed 
by the demicinct or chatelaine of silver, followed by 
their esquires or bullies armed with sword and buck- 
ler; artisans in their jerkins of green cloth or russet 
leather; barons and lords in the midst of their pages 
and halberdiers ; ruffling gallants, brave in velvet and 
embroidery, with their boots of soft tan-coloured cor- 
dovan falling jauntily over the instep; as they press 
through a motley crowd of beggars and mountebanks, 
jugglers with their apes and carpet, culs-de-jatte, lepers 
with clapdish and wallet, mumpers and chanters, 
truands and gipsies, jesters, fish -fags, cutpurses and 
swash -bucklers, that rings anon with the shout of 
"Noel I Noel!" as Charles VII rides by, surrounded 
by his heralds and pursuivants, or Louis passes with 
no attendants save his two dark henchmen, Tristan 
the Hermit and Oliver the Fiend, and nothing to dis- 
tinguish him from the burghers with whom he rubs 
elbows save the row of images in his hat and the 
eternal menace of his unquiet eye. Anon we see the 

89 



INTRODUCTION 

interior of the convent church at vespers, with its 
kneeling crowd of worshippers and its gold-grounded 
frescoes of heaven and hell, martyrdom and apotheo- 
sis, glittering vaguely from the swart shadow of the 
aisles. The choir peals out and the air gathers into a 
mist with incense, what while an awe-stricken old 
woman kneels apart before the altar in the Virgin's 
chapel, praying for that scapegrace son who has 
caused her such bitter tears and such poignant terrors. 
Outside, on the church steps, sit the gossips, crouched 
by twos and threes on the hem of their robes, chatter- 
ing in that fluent Parisian speech to which the Parisian 
poet gives precedence over all others. The night 
closes in ; the dim cressets swing creaking in the wind 
from the ropes that stretch across the half-deserted 
streets, whilst the belated students hurry past to their 
colleges, with hoods drawn closely over their faces 
" and thumbs in girdle-gear," and the sergeants of the 
watch pace solemnly by, lantern-pole in one hand and 
in the other the halberd wherewith they stir up the 
shivering wretches crouched for shelter under the 
abandoned stalls of the street hawkers or draw across 
the ways the chains that shall break the escape of the 
nocturnal brawler or the stealthy thief. Thence to 
the Puppet wine -shop, where truand and light o' love, 
student and soldier, hold high revel, amidst the clink 
of beakers and the ever-recurring sound of clashing 
daggers and angry voices; or the more reputable 
tavern of the Pomme de Pin, where sits Master Jacques 
Raguyer, swathed in his warm mantle, with his feet to 

90 



INTRODUCTION 

the blaze and his back resting against the piles of 
faggots that tower in the chimney-corner; or the street 
in front of the Chatelet, where we find Villon gazing 
upon the great flaring cressets that give light over the 
gateway of the prison with whose interior he was so 
well acquainted. Anon we come upon him, watching 
with yearning eyes and watering mouth, through some 
half-open window or door-chink, the roaring carouses 
of the debauched monks and nuns, or listening to the 
talk of La Belle Heaulmiere and her companions in 
old age, as they crouch on the floor, under their cur- 
tains spun by the spiders, telling tales of the good 
times gone by, in the scanty short-lived flicker of their 
fire of dried hempstalks. Presently, Master Jehan 
Cotard staggers past, stumbling against the projecting 
stalls and roaring out some ranting catch or jolly 
drinking-song, and the bully of La Grosse Margot hies 
him, pitcher in hand, to the Tankard Tavern, to fetch 
wine and victual for his clients. Anon the moon 
rises, high and calm, over the still churchyard of the 
Innocents, where the quiet dead lie sleeping soundly 
in the deserted charnels, ladies and lords, masters and 
clerks, bishops and water-carriers, all laid low in 
undistinguished abasement before the equality of 
death. Once more, the scene changes and we stand 
by the thieves' rendezvous in the ruined castle of 
Bicetre or by the lonely gibbet of Montfaucon, where 
the poet wanders in the "silences of the moon," 
watching with a terrified fascination the shrivelled 
corpses or whitened skeletons of his whilom comrades, 

9 1 



INTRODUCTION 

as they creak sullenly to and fro in the ghastly aureole 
of the midnight star. All Paris of the fifteenth century 
relives in the vivid hurry of his verse: one hears in 
his stanzas the very popular cries and watchwords of 
the street and the favourite oaths of the gallants and 
women of the day. We feel that all the world is 
centred for him in Paris and that there is no landscape 
can compare for him with those " paysages de metal 
et de pierre" which he (in common with another 
ingrain Parisian, Baudelaire) so deeply loved. Much 
as he must have wandered over France, we find in his 
verse no hint of natural beauty, no syllable of descrip- 
tion of landscape or natural objects. In these things 
he had indeed no interest: flowers and stars, sun and 
moon, spring and summer, unrolled in vain for him 
their phantasmagoria of splendour and enchantment 
over earth and sky : men and women were his flowers 
and the crowded streets of the great city the woods 
and meadows wherein, after his fashion, he wor- 
shipped beauty and did homage to art. Indeed, he 
was essentially " the man of the crowd : " his heart 
throbbed ever in unison with the mass, in joy or sad- 
ness, crime or passion, lust or patriotism, aspiration or 
degradation. 

It is astonishing, in the midst of the fantastic and 
artificial rhymers of the time, how quickly the chord 
of sensibility in our poet vibrates to the broad impulses 
of humanity ; how, untainted by the selfish provincial- 
ism of his day, his heart warms towards the great 
patriot, Jacques Coeur, and sorrows over his disgrace; 

92 



INTRODUCTION 

how he appreciates the heroism of Jeanne d'Arc and 
denounces penalty upon penalty, that remind us of the 
70,000 pains of fire of the Arabian legend, upon the 
traitors and rebels " who would wish ill unto the realm 
of France ; " with what largeness of sympathy he 
anticipates the modern tenderness over the fallen and 
demonstrates how they " were once honest, verily," 
till Love, that befools us all, beguiled them to the first 
step upon the downward road ; with what observant 
compassion he notes the silent regrets of the old and 
the poignant remembrances of those for whom all 
things fair have faded out, glosing with an iron pathos 
upon the " nessun maggior dolore " of Dante, in the 
terrible stanzas that enshrine, in pearls and rubies of 
tears and blood, the passion and the anguish, the 
" agony and bloody sweat " of La Belle Hdaulmiere. 

The keenness of his pathos and the delicacy of his 
grace are as supreme as what one of his commentators 
magnificently calls " the sovereign rudeness " of his 
satire. When he complains to his unyielding mistress 
of her " hypocrite douceur " and her " felon charms," 
" la mort d'un pauvre cceur," and warns her of the 
inevitable approach of the days when youth and beauty 
shall no more remain to her, we seem to hear a robust- 
er Ronsard sighing out his " Cueillez, cueillez votre 
jeunesse ; " when he laments for the death of Master 
Ythier's beloved, " Two were we, having but one 
heart," we must turn to Mariana's wail of wistful yet 
undespiteous passion for a sweeter lyric of regret- 
ful tenderness, a more pathetic dalliance with the 

93 



INTRODUCTION 

simpleness of love ; and when he appeals from the 
dungeon of Meung or pictures himself and his compan- 
ions swinging from the gibbet of Montfaucon, the tears 
that murmur through the fantastic fretwork of the verse 
are instinct with the salt of blood and the bitterness of 
death. Where shall we look for a more poignant 
pathos than that of his lament for his lost youth or 
his picture of the whilom gallants of his early memories 
that now beg all naked, seeing no crumb of bread but 
in some window -place ? Where a nobler height of 
contemplation than that to which he rises, as he 
formulates the unalterable laws that make king and 
servant, noble and villein, equal in abasement before 
the unbending majesty of death, or a holier purity of 
religious exaltation than breathes from the ballad 
wherein, with the truest instinct of genius, using that 
mother's voice which cannot but be the surest passport 
to the divine compassion, he soars to the very gates of 
heaven on the star-sown wings of faith and song? 
He is one more instance of the potentiality of grace 
and pathos that often lurks in natures distinguished 
chiefly for strength and passion. Like the great 
realistic poet' of nineteenth-century France, he knew 
how to force death and horror to give up for hiai 
their hidden beauties ; and if his own Fleurs du Mai 
are often instinct with the poisons that suggest the 
marshy and miasmatic nature of the soil to which they 
owe their resplendent colourings, yet the torrent of 

i Baudelaire. 

94 



INTRODUCTION 

satire, mockery and invective, that laves their tangled 
roots, is often over-arched with the subtlest and 
brightest irises of pure pathos and delicate sentiment. 
"Out of the strong cometh sweetness," and in few 
poets has the pregnant fable of the honeycomb in the 
lion's mouth been more forcibly exemplified than in 
Villon. 

Humour is with Villon no less pronounced a char- 
acteristic than pathos. Unstrained and genuine, it 
arises mainly from the continual contrast between the 
abasement of his life and the worthlessness of its 
possibilities and the passionate and ardent nature of 
the man. He seems to be always in a state of 
humorous astonishment at his own mad career and 
the perpetual perplexities into which his folly and 
recklessness have betrayed him ; and this feeling con- 
stantly overpowers his underlying remorse and the 
anguish which he suffers under the pressure of the 
deplorable circumstances wherein he continually finds 
himself involved. The spiel-trieb or sport-impulse, 
which has been pronounced the highest attribute of gen- 
ius, stands out with a rare prominence from his charac- 
ter, never to be altogether suppressed by the most over- 
whelming calamities. The most terrible and ghastly 
surroundings of circumstance cannot avail wholly to 
arrest the ever-springing fountain of wit and bonhomie 
that wells up from the inmost nature of the man. In 
the midst of all his miseries, with his tears yet undried, 
he mocks at himself and others with an astounding 
good-humour. In the dreary dungeon of the Meung 

95 



INTRODUCTION 

moat, we find him bandying jests with his own personi- 
fied remorse ; and even whilst awaiting a shameful 
death, he seeks consolation in the contemplation of 
the comic aspects of his situation, as he will presently 
appear, upright in the air, swinging at the wind's will, 
with face like a thimble for bird -pecks and skin black- 
ened of " that ill sun which tans a man when he is 
dead." It is a foul death to die, he says, yet we must 
all die some day, and it matters little whether we then 
find ourselves a lord rotting in a splendid sepulchre or 
a cutpurse strung up on Montfaucon hill. He laughs 
at his own rascality and poverty, lustfulness and glut- 
tony, with an unexampled naivete of candour, singu- 
larly free from cynicism, yet always manages t6 
conciliate our sympathies and induce our pity rather 
than our reprobation. " It is not to poor wretches 
like us," says he, " that are naked as a snake, sad at 
heart and empty of paunch, that you should preach 
virtue and temperance. As for us, God give us 
patience. You would do better to address yourselves 
to incite great lords and masters to good deeds, who 
eat and drink of the best every day and are more open 
to exhortation than beggars like ourselves that cease 
never from want." 

His faith in the saving virtues of meat and drink is 
both droll and touching. One feels, in all his verse, 
the distant and yearning respect with which the 
starveling poet regards all manner of victual, as he 
enumerates its various incarnations in a kind of litany 
or psalm of adorations, in which they resemble the 

96 



INTRODUCTION 

denominations and attributes of saints and martyrs to 

whom he knelt in unceasing and ineffectual prayer. 

Wines, hypocras, roast meats, sauces, soups, custards, 

tarts, eggs, pheasants, partridges, plovers, pigeons, 

capons, fat geese, pies, cakes, furmenty, creams, pasties 

and other " savoureux et friands morceaux " defile in 

long and picturesque procession through his verse, 

like a dissolving view of Paradise, before whose gates 

he knelt and longed in vain. His ideal of perfect 

happiness is to " break bread with both hands," a 

potentiality of ecstatic bliss which he attributes to the 

friars of the four mendicant orders: no delights of 

love or pastoral sweetness, " not all the birds that 

singen all the way from here to Babylon " (as he says) 

:ould induce him to spend one day amid the hard 

lying and sober fare of a country life; and the only 

jnemy whom he refuses to forgive at his last hour is 

:he Bishop of Orleans, who fed him so scurvily a 

vhole summer long upon cold water and dry bread 

not even manchets, says he piteously). If he cannot 

:ome at his desire in the possession of the dainties for 

,-hich his soul longs, there is still some sad pleasure 

or him in caressing in imagination the sacrosanct 

enominations of that " bienheureux harnoys de 

ueule," which hovers for him, afar off, in the rosy 

lists of an apotheosis. In this respect, as in no few 

thers, he forcibly reminds one of another strange and 

oteworthy figure converted by genius into an eternal 

pe, that Neveu de Kameau, in whom the reductio ad 

''surdum of the whole sensualist philosophy of the 

97 



INTRODUCTION 

eighteenth century was crystallised by Diderot into so 
poignant and curious a personality. Like Jean 
Rameau, the whole mystery of life seems for Villon to 
have resolved itself into the cabalistic science " de 
mettre sous la dent," that noble and abstract art of 
providing for the reparation of the region below the 
nose, of whose alcahest and hermetic essence he so 
deplorably fell short ; and as we make this unavoidable 
comparison, it is impossible not to be surprised into 
regret for the absence of some Diderot who might, in 
like manner, have rescued for us the singular Individ 
uality of the Bohemian poet of the fifteenth century. 
With all his faults, a most sympathetic and attractive 
personality detaches itself from the unsparing candoui 
of his confessions. One cannot help loving the frank 
witty, devil-may-care poet, with his ready tears and his 
as ready laughter, his large compassion for all pitiable 
and his unaffected sympathy with all noble things 
Specially attractive is the sweetness of his good 
humour: so devoid of gall is he that he seems t< 
cherish no enduring bitterness against his most crue 
enemies, content if he can make them the subject o 
some passing jest or some merry piece of satire. H^ 
has no serious reproach for the cold-hearted woman t< 
whom he attributes his misspent life and early death 
nor does he allow himself the solace of one bitte 
word against the cruel creditors who seized the me 
ment of his deliverance from Meung gaol, exhaustec 
emaciated and dying, to strip him of the little that h 
possessed. Thibault d'Aussigny, the author of hi 



INTRODUCTION 

duresse in Meung gaol, and Fra^ois Perdryer, at the 
nature of whose offence against him we can only guess, 
are the only ones he cannot forgive, and his invectives 
against the former are of a half-burlesque character, 
that permits us to suspect a humorous exaggeration 
in their unyielding bitterness. 

Looking at the whole course of Villon's life and at 
the portrait which he himself paints for us in such 
crude and unsparing colours, we can hardly doubt 
that, under different circumstances, had his life been 
consecrated by successful love and the hope of those 
higher things to whose nobility he was so keenly 
though unpractically sensitive, he might have filled a 
worthier place in the history of his time and have 
furnished a more honourable career than that of the 
careless bohemian, driven into crime, disgrace and 
ruin by the double influence of his own unchecked 
desires and the maddening wistfulness of an unrequited 
love. Still, whatever effect change of circumstance 
might have had in the possible ennobling of the sorry 
melodrama of his life, we at least cannot complain of 
the influences that presided over the accomplishment 
of his destiny; for they resulted in ripening and 
developing the genius of a great and unique poet. 
The world of posterity is always and rightly ready to 
accept the fact of a great artistic personality, even at 
the expense of morality and decency ; and instances 
are not wanting in which moral and material ameliora- 
:ion has destroyed the mustard -seed of genius, that 
joverty and distress, those rude and sober nurses, 



99 




INTRODUCTION 

might have fostered into a mighty tree, giving shelter 
and comfort to all who took refuge under its branches. 
To quote once more the words of the greatest critic 
of the nineteenth century, " We might perhaps have 
lost the poet, whilst gaining the honest man ; and good 
poets are still rarer than honest folk, though the 
latter can scarce be said to be too common." 

i TWophile Gautier. 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 



f)ere fleginnetij f#e lesser Testament of 




HIS fourteen six and fiftieth year, 
I Franois Villon, clerk that be, 

Considering, with senses clear, 
Bit betwixt teeth and collar-free, 
That one must needs look orderly 

Unto his works (as counselleth 
Vegetius, wise Roman he), 

Or else amiss one reckoneth, 



II 

In this year, as before I said, 

Hard by the dead of Christmas-time, 

When upon wind the wolves are fed 
And for the rigour of the rime 
One hugs the hearth from none to prime, 

Wish came to me to break the stress 
Of that most dolorous prison -clime 

Wherein Love held me in duresse. 

103 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
in 

Unto this fashion am I bent, 
Seeing my lady, 'neath my eyes, 

To my undoing give consent, 
Sans gain to her in any wise : 
Whereof I plain me to the skies, 

Requiring vengeance (her desert) 
Of all the gods with whom it lies, 

And of Love, healing for my hurt. 

IV 

If to my gree, alack, I read 

Those dulcet looks and semblants fair 
Of such deceitful goodlihead, 

That pierced me to the heart whilere, 

Now in the lurch they've left me bare 
And failed me at my utmost need : 

Fain must I plant it otherwhere 
And in fresh furrows strike my seed. 



She that hath bound me with her eyes 
(Alack, how fierce and fell to me !), 

Without my fault in any wise, 

Wills and ordains that I should dree 
Death and leave life and liberty. 

Help see I none, save flight alone : 

She breaks the bonds betwixt her and me 

Nor hearkens to my piteous moan. 

104 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
VI 

To 'scape the ills that hem me round, 
It were the wiser to depart. 

Adieu ! To Angers I am bound, 
Since she I love will nor impart 
Her grace nor any of her heart. 

I die with body whole enough 
For her; a martyr to Love's smart, 

Enrolled among the saints thereof. 



Sore though it be to part from her, 

Needs must I go without delay. 
(How hard my poor sense is to stir 1 ) 

Other than I with her's in play ; 

Whence never Bullen herring aye 
Was drouthier of case than I. 

A sorry business, wellaway, 
It is for me, God hear my cry I 



And since (need being on me laid) 
I go and haply never may 

Again return, (not being made 
Of steel or bronze or other way 
Than other men : life but a day 

Lasteth and death knows no relent) ; 
For me, I journey far away; 

Wherefore I make this Testament. 

105 






THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
IX 

First, in the name of God the Lord, 
The Son and eke the Holy Spright, 

And in her name by whose accord 
No creature perisheth outright, 
To Master Villon, Guillaume hight, 

My fame I leave, that still doth swell 
In his name's honour day and night, 

And eke my tents and pennoncel. 



Item, to her, who, as I've said, 
So dourly banished me her sight 

That all my gladness she forbade 
And ousted me of all delight, 
I leave my heart in deposite, 

Piteous and pale and numb and dead. 
She brought me to this sorry plight : 

May God not wreak it on her head ! 



Item, my trenchant sword of steel 

I leave to Master Ythier 
Marchant to whom myself I feel 

No little bounden that he may, 

According to my will, defray 
The scot for which in pawn it lies 

(Six sols), and then the sword convey 
To Jehan le Cornu, free of price. 

106 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
XII 

Item, I leave to Saint Amand 

The Mule and eke the Charger White ; 
And to Blaru, my Diamond 

And Jibbing Ass with stripes bedight ; 

And the Decretal, too, that hight 
Omnis utrius that, to wit, 

Known as the counter-Carmelite 
Unto the priests I do commit. 



To Jehan Tronne, butcher, I devise 
The Wether lusty and unpolled 

And Gad to whisk away the flies, 

With the Crowned Ox, that's to be sold, 
And Cow, whereon the churl hath hold, 

To hoist it on his back. If he 
To keep the beast himself make bold, 

Trussed up and strangled let him be. 

XIV 

To Master Robert Vallee (who, 

Poor clerkling to the Parliament, 
Owns valley neither hill,) I do 

Will first, by this my Testament, 

My hose be giv'n incontinent, 
Which on the clothes-pegs hang, that he 

May tire withal, 'tis my intent, 
His mistress Jehanne more decently. 

107 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
xv 

But since he is of good extract, 

Needs must he better guerdoned be 
(For God His Law doth so enact) 

Though featherbrained withal is he ; 

They shall, I have bethoughten me, 
Since in his pate he hath no sense, 

Give him the Art of Memory, 
To be ta'en up from Misprepense. 

XVI 

And thirdly, for the livelihood 

Of Master Robert aforesaid 
(My kin, for God's sake, hold it goodl ) 

Be money of my hauberk made 

And (or most part thereof) outlaid, 
Ere Easter pass, in purchasing 

(Hard by St. Jacques) a shop and trade 
For the poor witless lawyerling. 

XVII 

Item, my gloves and silken hood 

My friend Jacques Cardon, I declare, 
Shall have in fair free gift for good ; 

Also the acoms willows bear 

And every day a capon fair 
Or goose ; likewise a tenfold vat 

Of chalk-white wine, besides a pair 
Of lawsuits, lest he wax too fat. 

108 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 



Item, a leash of dogs I give 
To young Rene de Montigny; 

And let Jehan Raguyer receive 

One hundred francs, shall levied be 
On all my goods. But soft ; to me 

Scant gain therefrom I apprehend : 
One should not strip one's own, perdie, 

Nor over-ask it of one's friend. 



Item, to Baron de Grigny 

The ward and keeping of Nygeon, 
With six dogs more than Montigny, 

And Bicetre, castle and donjon; 

And to that scurvy knave Changon, 
A spy that holds him still in strife, 

Three strokes of withy well laid on 
And prison -lodging all his life. 



Item, I leave Jacques Raguyer 
The ' Puppet' Cistern, peach and pear, 

Perch, chickens, custards, night and day, 
At the Great Figtree choice of fare 
And eke the Fircone Tavern, where 

He may sit, cloaked in cloth of frieze, 
Feet to the fire and back to chair, 

And let the world wag at his ease. 

109 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
XXI 

Item, to John the foul of face 

And Peter Tanner I devise, 
By way of gift, that baron's grace 

That punishes all felonies ; 

To Fournier, my proctor wise, 
Leather cut out for caps and shoes, 

That now at the cordwainer's lies, 
For him these frosty days to use. 



The Captain of the Watch, also, 
Shall have the Helmet, in full right ; 

And to the crimps, that cat -foot go, 
A -fumbling in the stalls by night, 
I leave two rubies, clear and bright, 

The Lantern of La Pierre au Lait. 
'Deed, the Three Lilies have I might, 

Haled they me to the Chitelet. 



To Pernet Marchand, eke, in fee, 
(Bastard of Bar by sobriquet) 

For that a good -cheap man is he, 
I give three sheaves of straw or hay, 
Upon the naked floor to lay 

And so the amorous trade to ply, 
For that he knows no other way 

Or art to get his living by. 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
XXIV 

Item, to Chollet I bequeath 

And Loup, a duck, once in a way 
Caught as of old the walls beneath 

Upon the moat, towards end of day ; 

And each a friar's gown of gray 
Such as fall down beneath the knees 

My boots with uppers worn away, 
And charcoal, wood, bacon and peas. 



Item, this trust I do declare 

For three poor children named below : 
Three little orphans lone and bare, 

That hungry and unshodden go 

And naked to all winds that blow ; 
That they may be provided for 

And sheltered from the rain and snow, 
At least until this winter's o'er. 



To Colin Laurens, Jehan Moreau 
And Girard Gossain, having ne'er 

A farthing's worth of substance, no, 
Nor kith nor kindred anywhere, 
I leave, at option, each a share 

Of goods or else four blanks once told. 
Full merrily they thus shall fare, 

Poor silly souls, when they are old. 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
XXVII 

Item, my right of nomination 

Holden of the University, 
I leave, by way of resignation, 

To rescue from adversity 

Poor clerks that of this city be, 
Hereunder named, for very ruth 

That thereunto incited me, 
Seeing them naked all as Truth. 

XXVIII 

Their names are Thibault de Vitry 
And Guillaume Cotin peaceable 

Poor wights, that humble scholars be. 
Latin they f eatly speak and spell 
And at the lectern sing right well. 

I do devise to them in fee 

( Till better fortune with them dwell ) 

A rent-charge on the pillory. 

XXIX 

Item, the Crozier of the street 
Of St. Antoine I do ordain, 

Also a cue wherewith folk beat 
And every day full pot of Seine 
To those that in the trap are ta'en, 

Bound hand and foot in close duresse ; 
My mirror eke and grace to gain 

The favours of the gaoleress. 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 



Item, I leave the hospitals 

My curtains spun the spiders by ; 

And to the lodgers 'neath the stalls 
Each one a buffet on the eye 
And leave to tremble, as they lie, 

Bruised, frozen, drenched, unshorn and lean, 
With hose shrunk half way up the thigh, 

Gowns all to-clipt and woeful mien. 



Unto my barber I devise 

The ends and clippings of my hair ; 
Item, on charitable wise, 

I leave my old boots, every pair, 

Unto the cobbler and declare 
My clothes the broker's, so these two 

May when I'm dead my leavings share, 
For less than what they cost when new. 

XXXII 

Unto the begging Orders four, 
The nuns and sisters ( tidbits they 

Dainty and prime ) I leave and store 
Of flawns, poults, capons, so they may 
Break bread with both hands night and day 

And eke the Fifteen Signs declare: 

Monks court our neighbours' wives, folk say, 

But that is none of my affair. 

"3 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 



To John o* Guard, that grocer hight, 

The Golden Mortar I make o'er, 
To grind his mustard in aright ; 

Also a pestle from St. Maur; 

And unto him that goes before, 
To lay one by the legs in quod, 

St. Anthony roast him full sore I 
I'll leave him nothing else, by God. 



Item, to Mairebeuf, as well 

As Nicholas de Louvieux, 
Each one I leave a whole eggshell 

Full of old crowns and francs, and to 

The seneschal of Gouvieux, 
Peter de Ronseville, no less ; 

Such crowns I mean, to tell you true, 
As the prince giveth for largesse. 



Finally, being here alone 

To-night and in good trim to write, 
I heard the clock of the Sorbonne, 

That aye at nine o'clock of night 

Is wont the Angelus to smite : 
Then I my task did intermit, 

That to our Lady mild I might 
Do suit and service, as is fit. 

114 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
XXXVI 

This done, I half forgot myself, 
What while I felt Dame Memory 

Take in and lay upon her shelf 

(The wit, as 'twere, being bound in me, 
Though not for wine-bibbing, perdie), 

Her faculties collateral, 
Th' opinative in each degree 

And others intellectual. 



And on likewise th' estimative, 

Whereby prosperity we gain, 
Similative and formative, 

By whose disorder folk remain 

Oft lunatic, to wit, insane, 
From month to month ; which aforesaid 

I mind me often and again 
In Aristotle to have read. 



Then did the sensitive upleap 
And gave the cue to fantasy, 

That roused the organs all from sleep, 
But held the sovereign faculty 
Still in suspense for lethargy 

And pressure of oblivion, 

Which had dispread itself in me, 

To show the senses' union. 



THE LESSER TESTAMENT 
XXXIX 

Then, when my senses in due course 
Grew calm and understanding clear, 

I thought to finish my discourse, 
But found my inkpot frozen sheer 
And candle out, nor far nor near 

Fire might I find, so must of need, 
All muffled up for warmer cheer, 

Get me to sleep and end my rede. 



Done at the season aforesaid 

Of the right well -renowned Villon, 
Who eats nor white nor oaten bread, 

Black as a malkin, shrunk and wan. 

Tents and pavilions every one 
He's left to one or t'other friend ; 

All but a little pewter's gone, 
That will, ere long, come to an end. 



#e leaser <e0fament of 
(Waster 5*<* n * a QJiffon 



116 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



6eginnef0 f$e <K*eater Testament of 




N the year thirty of my age, 

Wherein I've drunk so deep of 
shame, 

Neither all fool nor yet all sage, 
For all my misery and blame 
Which latter all upon me came 

Through Bishop Thibault d'Aus- 

signy : 
(If bishop such an one folk name ; 

At all events, he's none for me : 



II 

He's nor my bishop nor my lord ; 

I hold of him nor land nor fee, 
Owe him nor homage nor accord, 

Am nor his churl nor beast, perdie). 

A summer long he nourished me 
Upon cold water and dry bread; 

God do by him as he by me, 
Whom passing scurvily he fed. 

119 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
in 

If any go about to say 

I do miscall him I say no : 
I wrong him not in any way, 

If one aread me rightly. Lo ! 

Here's all I say, nor less nor mo ; 
If he had mercy on my dole, 

May Christ in heaven like mercy show 
Unto his body and his soul I 



And if he wrought me pain and ill 
More than herein I do relate, 

God of His grace to him fulfil 
Like measure and proportionate I 
But the Church bids us not to hate, 

But to pray rather for our foes : 

I'll own I'm wrong and leave his fate 

To God that all things can and knows. 

v 

And pray for him I will, to boot, 
By Master Cotard's soul I swear ! 

But soft : 'twill then be but by rote ; 
I'm ill at reading ; such a prayer 
I'll say for him as Picards' were. 

(If what I mean he do not know 
Ere 'tis too late to learn it there r 

To Lille or Douai let him go). 

120 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



Yet, if he needs must have't that I 
Should, willy nilly, for him pray, 

(Though I proclaim it not on high) 
As I'm a chrisom man, his way 
He e'en shall get ; but, sooth to say, 

When I the Psalter ope for him, 
I take the seventh verse alway 

Of the psalm called " Deus laudem." 



I DO implore God's blessed Son, 
To whom I turn in every need, 
So haply my poor orison 
Find grace with Him from whom indeed 
Body and soul I hold who's freed 
Me oft from blame and evil chance. 

Praised be our Lady and her Seed 
And Louis the good King of France ! 

VIII 

Whom God with Jacob's luck endow, 

And glory of great Solomon I 
Of doughtiness he has enow, 

In sooth, and of dominion. 

In all the lands the sun shines on, 
In this our world of night and day, 

God grant his fame and memory wonne 
As long as lived Methusaleh ! 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

IX 

May twelve fair sons perpetuate 
His royal lineage, one and all 

As valorous as Charles the Great, 
Conceived in matrix conjugal, 
As doughty as Saint Martial ! 

The late Lord Dauphin fare likewise ; 
No worser fortune him befall 

Than this and after, Paradise ! 



FEELING my self upon the wane, 
Even more in goods than body spent, 
Whilst my full senses I retain, 
What little God to me hath sent 
(For on no other have I leant), 
I have set down of my last will 
This very stable Testament, 
Alone and irrevocable. 



Written in the same year, sixty-one, 
Wherein the good king set me free 

From the dour prison of Mehun 
And so to life recovered me : 
Whence I to him shall bounden be 

As long as life in me fail not : 
I'm his till death ; assuredly, 

Good deeds should never be forgot. 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

fle<jmnet# (Viffon to enter upon matter 
fuff of erudition an& of fair 



XII 

NOW is it true that, after years 
Of anguish and of sorrowing, 
Travail and toil and groans and tears 
And many a weary wandering, 
Trouble hath wrought in me to bring 
To point each shifting sentiment, 

Teaching me many another thing 
Than Averrhoes his Comment. 



However, at my trials' worst, 

When wandering in the desert ways, 

God, who the Emmaus pilgrims erst 
Did comfort, as the Gospel says, 
Showed me a certain resting-place 

And gave me gift of hope no less ; 
Though vile the sinner be and base, 

Nothing HE hates save stubbornness. 



Sinned have I oft, as well I know ; 

But God my death doth not require, 
But that I turn from sin and so 

Live righteously and shun hellfire. 

123 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Whether one by sincere desire 
Or counsel turn unto the Lord, 

HE sees and casting off His ire, 
Grace to repentance doth accord. 



And as of its own motion shows, 

Ev'n in the very first of it, 
The noble Romaunt of the Rose, 

Youth to the young one should remit, 

So manhood do mature the wit. 
And there, alack I the song says sooth : 

They that such snares for me have knit 
Would have me die in time of youth. 



If for my death the common weal 

Might anywise embettered be, 
Death my own hand to me should deal 

As felon, so God 'stablish me ! 

But unto none, that I can see, 
Hindrance I do, alive or dead ; 

The hills, for one poor wight, perdie, 
Will not be stirred out of their stead. 

XVII 

WHILOM, when Alexander reigned, 
A man that hight Diomedes 
Before the Emperor was arraigned, 
Bound hand and foot, like as one sees 

124 






THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

A thief. A skimmer df the seas 
Of those that course it far and nigh 

He was, and so, as one of these, 
They brought him to be doomed to die. 

XVIII 

The emperor bespoke him thus : 

' Why art thou a sea-plunderer ? ' 
The other, no wise timorous : 

' Why dost thou call me plunderer, sir ? 

Is it, perchance, because I ear 
Upon so mean a bark the sea ? 

Could I but arm me with thy gear, 
I would be emperor like to thee. 



1 What wouldst thou have ? From sorry Fate, 

That uses me with such despite 
As I on no wise can abate, 

Arises this my evil plight. 

Let me find favour in thy sight 
And have in mind the common saw : 

In penury is little right ; 
Necessity knows no man's law.' 



Whenas the emperor to his suit 

Had hearkened, much he wondered ; 

And ' I thy fortune will commute 
From bad to good,' to him he said ; 

125 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

And did. Thenceforward Diomed 
Wronged none, but was a true man aye. 

Thus have I in Valerius read, 
Of Rome styled Greatest in his day. 



If God had granted me to find 

A king of like greatheartedness, 
That had fair fate to me assigned, 

Stooped I thenceforward to excess 

Or ill, I would myself confess 
Worthy to die by fire at stake. 

Necessity makes folk transgress 
And want drives wolven from the brake. 

XXII 

MY time of youth I do bewail, 
That more than most lived merrily, 
Until old age 'gan me assail, 

For youth had passed unconsciously. 
It wended not afoot from me, 
Nor yet on horseback. Ah, how then ? 

It fled away all suddenly 
And never will return again. 



It's gone, and I am left behind, 
Poor both in knowledge and in wit, 

Black as a berry, drear and dwined, 
Coin, land and goods, gone every whit ; 

126 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Whilst those by kindred to me knit, 
The due of Nature all forgot, 

To disavow me have seen fit, 
For lack of pelf to pay the scot. 



Yet have I not my substance spent 

In wantoning or gluttony 
Nor thorow love incontinent ; 

None is there can reproach it me, 

Except he rue it bitterly ; 
I say it in all soothfastness 

Nor can you bate me of this plea 
Who's done no wrong should none confess. 



True is it I have loved whilere 
And willingly would love again : 

But aching heart and paunch that ne'er 
Doth half its complement contain, 
The ways of Love allure in vain ; 

'Deed, none but those may play its game 
Whose well-lined belly wags amain ; 

For the dance comes of the full wame. 



If in my time of youth, alack 1 
I had but studied and been sage 

Nor wandered from the beaten track, 
I had slept warm in my old age. 

127 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

But what did I ? As bird from cage, 
I fled the schools ; and now with pain, 

In setting down this on the page, 
My heart is like to cleave in twain. 



I have construed what Solomon 
Intended, with too much largesse, 

When that he said, ' Rejoice, my son, 
In thy fair youth and lustiness : ' 
But elsewhere speaks he otherguess ; 

' For youth and adolescence be ' 

(These are his words, nor more nor less) 

' But ignorance and vanity.' 

XXVIII 

Like as the loose threads on the loom, 
Whenas the weaver to them lays 

The flaming tow, burn and consume, 
So that from ragged ends (Job says) 
The web is freed, even so my days 

Are gone a-wand'ring past recall. 
No more Fate's buffs nor her affrays 

I fear, for death assuageth all. 



WHERE are the gracious gallants now 
That of old time I did frequent, 
So fair of fashion and of show, 
In song and speech so excellent? 

128 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Stark dead are some, their lives are spent ; 
There rests of them nor mark nor trace : 

May they in Heaven have content ; 
God keep the others of His grace 1 



Some, Christ -a -mercy, are become 

Masters and lords of high degree ; 
Some beg all naked and no crumb 

Of bread save in some window see ; 

Some, having put on monkery, 
Carthews, Celestines and what not, 

Shod, breeched like oysterfishers be ; 
Look you, how divers is their lot ! 



God grant great lords to do aright, 

That live in luxury and ease ! 
We cannot aught to them requite, 

So will do well to hold our peace. 

But to the poor ( like me ), that cease 
Never from want, God patience give 1 

For that they need it ; and not these, 
That have the wherewithal to live, 



That drink of noble wines and eat 
Fish, soups and sauces every day, 

Pasties and flawns and roasted meat 
And eggs served up in many a way. 

129 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Herein from masons differ they, 
That with such toil their bread do earn : 

These need no cupbearer, folk say, 
For each one pours out in his turn. 



TO this digression I've been led, 
That serves in nothing my intent. 
I am no Court, empanelled 

For quittance or for punishment : 
I am of all least diligent. 
Praised be Christ! May each man's need 

By me of Him have full content 1 
That which is writ is writ indeed. 

XXXIV 

So let that kite hang on the wall 
And of more pleasing subjects treat ; 

For this finds favour not with all, 
Being wearisome and all unsweet : 
For poverty doth groan and greet, 

Full of despite and strife alway ; 
Is apt to say sharp things in heat 

Or think them, if it spare to say. 



POOR was I from my earliest youth, 
Born of a poor and humble race : 
My sire was never rich, in sooth, 
Nor yet his grandfather Erace ; 

130 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Want follows hard upon our trace 
Nor on my forbears' tombs, I ween, 

(Whose souls the love of God embrace !) 
Are crowns or sceptres to be seen. 



When I of poverty complain, 
Ofttimes my heart to me hath said, 

' Man, wherefore murmur thus in vain ? 
If thou hast no such plentihead 
As had Jacques Cceur, be comforted : 

Better to live and rags to wear 

Than to have been a lord, and dead, 

Rot in a splendid sepulchre.' 

XXXVII 

(Than to have been a lord 1 I say. 

Alas, no longer is he one ; 
As the Psalm tells of it, to-day 

His place of men is all unknown.) 

As for the rest, affair 'tis none 
Of mine, that but a sinner be : 

To theologians alone 
The case belongs, and not to me. 



For I am not, as well I know, 

An angel's son, that crowned with light 
Among the starry heavens doth go: 

My sire is dead God have his spright 1 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

His body's buried out of sight. 
I know my mother too must die 

She knows it too, poor soul, aright 
And soon her son by her must lie. 



I know full well that rich and poor, 

Villein and noble, high and low, 
Laymen and clerks, gracious and dour, 

Wise men and foolish, sweet of show 

Or foul of favour, dames that go 
Ruffed and rebatoed, great or small, 

High-tired or hooded, Death ( I know ) 
Without exception seizes all. 

XL 

Paris or Helen though one be, 

Who dies, in pain and drearihead, 
For lack of breath and blood dies he, 

His gall upon his heart is shed ; 

Then doth he sweat, God knows how dread 
A sweat, and none there is to allay 

His ills, child, kinsman, in his stead, 
None will go bail for him that day. 



Death makes him shiver and turn pale, 
Sharpens his nose and swells his veins, 

Puffs up his throat, makes his flesh fail, 
His joints and nerves greatens and strains. 

132 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Fair women's bodies, soft as skeins 
Of silk, so tender, smooth and rare, 

Must you too suffer all these pains ? 
Ay, or alive to heaven fare. 



BALLAD OF OLD-TIME LADIES 



r j ^ELL me where, in what land of shade, 
J. Bides fair Flora of Rome, and where 
Are Thais and Archipiade, 
Cousins-merman of beauty rare, 
And Echo, more than mortal fair, 
That, when one calls by river-flow 

Or marisb, answers out of the air ? 
But what is become of last year's snow ? 

II 

Wbere did the learn' d Helotsa vade, 

For whose sake Abelard might not spare 
(Such dole for love on him was laid) 

Manhood to lose and a cowl to wear ? 

And where is the queen who willed wbilere 
That Buridan, tied in a sack, should go 

Floating down Seine from the turret-stair ? 
But what is become of last year's snow ? 

133 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
in 

Blanche, too, the lily-white queen, that made 
Sweet music as if she a siren were ; 

Broad-foot Bertba ; and Joan the maid, 
The good Lorrainer, the English bart 
Captive to Rouen and burned her there ; 

Beatrix, Eremburge, Alys, lol 
Where are they, Virgin debonair ? 

But what is become of last year's snow ? 

ENVOI 

Prince, you may question bow they fare 
This week, or liefer this year, I trow : 

Still shall the answer this burden bear, 
But what is become of last year's snow ? 



BALLAD OF OLD-TIME LORDS 

(FOLLOWING ON THE SAME SUBJECT) 
No. I 



7*7" HERE is Calixtus, third of the name, 
r r That died in the purple whiles ago, 
Four years since he to the tiar came ? 

And the King of Aragon, Alfonso ? 

The Duke of Bourbon, sweet of show, 
And the Duke Arthur of Brittaine ? 

And Charles the Seventh, the Good ? Heigbo I 
But where is the doughty Charlemaine ? 




THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
II 

Likewise tbe King of Scots, wbose sbame 

Was tbe half of bis face (or folk say so), 
Vermeil as amethyst beld to tbe flame, 

From chin toforebead all of a glow ? 

Tbe King of Cyprus, of friend and foe 
Renowned ; and tbe gentle King of Spain, 

Wbose name, God 'ield me, I do not know ? 
But where is the doughty Charlemaine? 

in 

Of many more migbt I ask tbe same, 

Wbo are but dust tbat tbe breezes blow ; 
But I desist, for none may claim 

To stand against Death, tbat lays all low. 

Yet one more question before I go : 
Where is Lancelot, King of Bebaine ? 

And where are bis valiant ancestors, trow ? 
But where is the doughty Charlemaine ? 

ENVOI 

Where is Du Guesclin, tbe Breton prow ? 

Where Auvergne's Dauphin and where again 
Tbe late good duke of Alenqpn ? Lo ! 

But where is the doughty Charlemaine ? 



135 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

BALLAD OF OLD-TIME LORDS 
No. 2 



TJ7~ HERE are the holy apostles gone, 
r r Alb-clad and amice-tired and staled 
With the sacred tippet and that alone, 
Wherewith, when be waxetb overbold, 
The foul fiend's throttle they take and bold? 
All must come to the self -same bay ; 

Sons and servants, their days are told : 
The wind carries their like away. 



Where is be now that held the throne 
Of Constantine with the bands of gold ? 

And the King of France, o'er all kings known 
For grace and worship that was extolled, 
Who convents and churches manifold 

Built for God's service ? In their day 
What of the honour they bad ? Behold, 

The wind carries their like away. 

in 

Where are the champions every one, 

The Dauphins, the counsellors young and old? 
The barons of Salins, Dol, Dijon, 

l/ienne, Grenoble ? They all are cold. 

136 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Or take the folk under their banners enrolled, 
Pursuivants, trumpeters, heralds, (hey ! 

How they fed of the fat and the flagon trolled ! ) 
The wind carries their like away. 

ENVOI 

Princes to death are all foretold. 
Even as the humblest of their array : 

Whether they sorrow or whether they scold, 
The wind carries their like away. 



O INCE, then, popes, princes great and small, 

vj That in queens' wombs conceived were, 

Are dead and buried, one and all, 
And other heads their crownals wear, 
Shall Death to smite poor me forbear ? 

Shall I not die ? Ay, if God will. 
So that of life I have my share, 

An honest death I take not ill. 



This world is not perpetual, 

Deem the rich robber what he may : 

Under death's whittle are we all. 
Old men to heart this comfort lay, 
That had repute in their young day 

Of being quick at jest and flout, 
Whom folk, if, now that they are gray, 

They should crack jokes, as fools would scout. 

137 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
XLIV 

Now haply must they beg their bread, 
(For need thereto doth them constrain ;) 

Each day they wish that they were dead ; 
Sorrow so straitens heart and brain 
That, did not fear of God restrain, 

Some dreadful deed they might essay ; 
Nay, whiles they take His law in vain 

And with themselves they make away. 



For if in youth men spoke them fair, 
Now do they nothing that is right; 

(Old apes, alas I ne'er pleasing were ; 
No trick of theirs but brings despite.) 
If they are dumb, for fear of slight, 

Folk them for worn-out dotards hold ; 
Speak they, their silence folk invite, 

Saying they pay with others' gold. 

XLVI 

So with poor women that are old 
And have no vivers in the chest, 

When that young wenches they behold 
Fare at their ease and well addrest, 
They ask God why before the rest 

Themselves were born. They cry and shout : 
God answers not ; for second best 

He'd come off at a scolding-bout. 

138 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

THE COMPLAINT OF THE FAIR HELM- 
MAKER GROWN OLD 



Metbougbt I beard tbe fair complain 
Tbe fair Ibat erst was helm-maker 

And wish berself a girl again. 
After this fashion did I bear : 
1 Alack ! old age, felon and drear, 

IVby bast so early laid me low ? 
Wbat binders but I slay me here 

And so at one stroke end my woe ? 

II 

' Thou bast undone tbe mighty tbrall 
In which my beauty held for me 

Clerks, merchants, churchmen, one and all : 
For never man my face might see, 
But would bave given bis all for fee, 

Without a thought of bis abuse, 
So I should yield him at bis gree 

What churls for nothing now refuse. 

in 

' I did to many me deny 

( Therein I showed but little guile) 
For love of one right false and sly, 

Whom without stint I loved erewbile. 

'39 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Whomever else I might bewile, 
I loved him well, sorry or glad : 

But be to me was harsh and vile 
And loved me hut for what I bad. 

IV 

' /// as be used me, and bowe'er 
Unkind, I loved him none the less : 

Even bad be made me faggots bear, 
One kiss from him or one caress, 
And I forgot my every stress. 

The rogue! 'twas ever thus the same 
With him. It brought me scant liesse : 

And what is left me ? Sin and shame. 



' Now is be dead this thirty year, 

And I'm grown old and worn and gray : 
When I recall the days that were 

And think of what I am to-day 

And when me naked I survey 
And see my body shrunk to nought, 

Withered and shrivelled, wellaway ! 
For grief I am well-nigh distraught. 

VI 

' Where is that clear and crystal brow .? 

Those eyebrows arched and golden hair ? 
And those bright eyes, where are they now, 

Wherewith the wisest ravished were ? 

140 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

The little nose so straight and fair ; 
The tiny tender perfect ear ; 

Where is the dimpled cbin and where 
The pouting lips so red and clear ? 



' The shoulders gent and strait and small ; 

Round arms and white hands delicate ; 
The little pointed breasts withal ; 

The haunches plump and high and straight, 

Right fit for amorous debate ; 
Wide hips * * * 



VIII 



' Brows wrinkled sore and tresses gray ; 

The brows all fallen and dim the eyne 
That wont to charm nun's hearts away ; 

The nose, that was so straight and fine, 

Now bent and swerved from beauty's line ; 
Cbin peaked, ears furred and hanging down ; 

Faded the face and quenched its shine 
And lips mere bags of loose skin grown. 



' Such is the end of human grace : 

The arms grown short and bands all tbrawn ; 
The shoulders howed out of their place ; 

The breasts all shrivelled up and gone ; 

141 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

The bauncbes like the paps withdrawn ; 
The thighs no longer like to thighs, 
Withered and mottled all like brawn, 

* * * * * 



' And so the litany goes round, 
Lamenting the good time gone by, 

Among us crouched upon the ground, 
Poor silly hags, to-huddled by 
A scanty fire of hempstalks dry, 

Kindled in haste and soon gone out ; 
(We that once held our heads so high !) 

So all take turn and turn about.' 



THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAIR HELM- 
MAKER TO THE LIGHT O' LOVES 



Now think on't, Nell the glover fair. 
That wont my scholar once to be, 

And you, Blanche Slippermaker there, 
Your case in mine I'd have you see : 
Look all to right and left take ye ; 

Forbear no man ; for trulls that bin 
Old have nor course nor currency, 

No more than money that's called in. 

142 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

II 

You, Sausage-buckStress debonair, 
That dance and trip it brisk and free, 

And Guillemette Upbohtress, there, 
Look you transgress not Love's decree: 
Soon must you shut up shop, per die ; 

Soon old you'll grow, faded and thin, 
Worth, like some old priest's visnomy, 

No more than money that's called in. 

ill 
Jenny the batter, have a care 

Lest some false lover tamper tbee ; 
And Kitty Spurmaker, beware ; 

Deny no man that proffers fee ; 

For girls that are not bright o' blee 
Men's scorn and not their service win : 

Foul eld gets neither love nor gree, 
No more than money that's called in. 

ENVOI 

Wencbes, give ear and list (quo' she) 
Wherefore I weep and make this din ; 

'Tis that there is no help for me, 

No more than money that's called in. 



'T'HIS lesson unto them gives she, 
1 The bellibone of days gone by. 
Ill said or well, worth what they be, 
These things enregistered have I 

43 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

By my clerk Fremin ( giddy fry ! ), 
Being as composed a well I may. 

I curse him if he make me lie : 
Like clerk, like master, people say. 

XLVIII 

Nay, the great danger well I see 

Wherein a man in love doth fall . . . 

Suppose that some lay blame on me 
For this speech, saying, ' Listen, all: 
If this do make you love miscall, 

The tricks of wantons named above, 
Your doubts are too chimerical, 

For these are women light o' love. 

XLIX 

' For if they love not but for gain, 
Folk do but love them for a day ; 

In sooth, they roundly love all men, 

And when purse weeps, then are they gay : 
Not one but questeth after prey. 

But honest men, so God me spare, 
With honest women will alway 

Have dealing, and not otherwhere.' 



I put it that one thus devise : 
He doth in nothing me gainsay ; 

In sooth, I think no otherwise, 

And well I ween that one should aye 

144 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

In worthy place love's homage pay. 
But were not these, of whom I rhyme 

(God wot) and reason all the day, 
Once honest women aforetime ? 



Aye, they were honest, in good sooth, 
Without reproach or any blame ; 

But, in her first and prime of youth, 
Ere she had loren her good name, 
Each of these women thought no shame 

To take some man for her desire, 
Laic or clerk, to quench love's name, 

That burns worse than St. Anthony's fire. 



Of these, as Love ordains, they made 

Their lovers, as appeareth well : 
Each loved her gallant in the shade 

And none else had with her to mell. 

But this first love's not durable ; 
For she, that loved but one erewhen, 

Soon tires of him to her that fell 
And sets herself to love all men. 

LIU 

What moves them thus ? I do opine, 
Without their honour gainsaying, 

That 'tis their nature feminine, 

Which tends to cherish everything : 

MS 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

No other reason with the thing 
Will rhyme, but if this saw it be, 

That everywhere folk say and sing: 
Six workmen do more work than three. 

LIV 

The shuttlecock light lovers be ; 

Their ladie-loves the battledore. 
This is love's way in verity : 

Spite clips and kisses, evermore 

By constancy it sets small store. 
For everyone this wise complains 

Of dogs and horses, love and war: 
Each pleasure's bought with fifty pains. 



DOUBLE BALLAD TO THE LIKE PURPORT 



Serve love and ladies day and night, 
Frequenting feasts and revelries ; 

You'll get nor profit nor delight, 
But only broken beads and sigbs : 
Light loves make asses of the wise, 

As witness Solomon, God wot ; 
And Samson thereby lost his eyes. 

Happy is he who knows them not. 

146 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
II 

Orpheus, tie minstrel fair and wigbt, 
Tbat fluted in such dulcet guise, 

Did hardly 'scape tbe deadly bite 
Of Cerberus, in love's emprise ; 

Narcissus did so idolize 

His own fair favour, that (poor sot) 
He drowned himself, as none denies. 

Happy is he who knows them not. 

ill 

Sardana also, tbe good knigbt, 
Tbat conquered Crete, did disguise 

Him as a wencb and so bedigbt, 

Span among maids ; and on like wise 
David tbe king, for palliardi^e, 

Tbe fear of God awbile forgot 
At sight of white well-sbapen thighs. 

Happy is he who knows them not. 



And David's son, that Ammon bight, 

Deflowered bis sister, for with lies, 
Feigning desire for mancbets white, 

Incest most foul be did devise ; 

And Herod (history testifies) 
Paid with John Baptist's head tbe scot 

For a girl's dancing deviltries. 
Happy is he who knows them not. 

147 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



And even /, poor silly wigbt, 
Was beaten as linen is that lies 

In washers' tubs for bats to smite ; 
And who gat me this sour surprise 
But Vaucel's Kate, tbe cockatrice ? 

And No'el, too, his good share got 
Of cuff's at those festivities. 

Happy is he who knows them not. 

VI 

And yet before a young man might 

Be brought to leave this merchandise, 
Well might you burn Mm bolt upright, 

Witch-like that on a besom flies. 

Above all, wenches doth be pri^e : 
But there's no trusting them a jot ; 

Blonde or brunette, this rhyme applies, 
Happy is he who knows them not. 



IF she whom I did serve of old 
So whole of heart and loyally, 
For whom I wasted years and gold 
And only won much misery, 
If she at first had told to me 
(But no, alas !) her true intent, 

I had essayed assuredly 
To cast off my entanglement. 

148 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



Whatever I to her would say 
She always ready was to hear 

Nor ever said me ay or nay ; 

Nay more, she suffered me draw near, 
Sit close and whisper in her ear, 

And so with me played fast and loose 
And let me tell my all to her, 

Intending only my abuse. 



She fooled me, being in her power; 

For she did make me think, alas ! 
That one was other, ashes flour, 

That a felt hat a mortar was ; 

Of rusty iron, that 'twas brass ; 
Of double ace, that it was trey. 

So would she make a man an ass 
And lead him by the nose alway. 



On this wise did she me persuade, 

Till heaven a brazen canopy, 
The clouds of calfskin to be made 

And morning evening seemed to be ; 

111 beer new wine, a hank of three 
A halter, navews cabbage-plant, 

A sow a windmill was for me 
And a fat priest a pursuivant. 

149 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
LIX 

THUS Love hath wrought me to deceive 
And bandied me from cold to hot : 
There is no man, I do believe, 
Were he as cunning as I'm not, 
But he would leave with Love for scot 
Pourpoint and hose, and fare as I, 

That everywhere am called, God wot, 
The lover flouted and laid by. 

LX 

Love now and wenches I forswear ; 

War to the knife to them I mete ; 
For death (and not a rap they care) 

Through them treads hard upon my feet. 

I've put my lute beneath the seat ; 
Lovers no longer I'll ensue : 

If ever I with them did treat, 
I'm none henceforward of their crew. 

LXI 

'Gainst Love my standard I've unfurled; 

Let those that love him follow still ; 
I'm his no longer in this world ; 

For I intend to do my will. 

Wherefore if any take it ill 
That I Love venture to impeach, 

Let this content him, will or nill, 
1 A dying man is free of speech.' 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
LXII 

1FEEL the droughts of death draw nigh; 
Gobbets of phlegm, as white as snow 
And big as tennis-balls, spit I ; 
By token Jehanneton no mo* 
Doth me for squire and servant owe, 
But for a worn-out rook. Ah, well ! 
I have the voice and air, I know ; 
Yet am I but a cockerel. 



Thanks be to God and Jacques Thibault, 

Who made me drink of water cold 
So much within a dungeon low 

And also chew gags manifold. 

When on these things I think of old, 
I pray for him, . . . et reliqua ; 

God give him . . . what at heart I hold 
To be his due . . . et castera. 

LXIV 

Yet do I mean no ill to him 

Or his lieutenant ; nought but well 
Of his official eke I deem, 

Who's merry and conformable. 

Nor with the rest have I to mell, 
Save Master Robert . . . Great and small, 

As God loves Lombards, sooth to tell, 
I love the whole lot, one and all. 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

LXV 

1DO remember (so God please) 
In the year '56 I made, 
Departing, sundry legacies, 

That some without my leave or aid 
To call my Testament essayed. 
(Their pleasure 'twas, and theirs alone. 
But what ? Is't not in common said 
That none is master of his own ?) 



And should it happen that of these 

Some peradventure be unpaid, 
I order, after my decease, 

That of my heirs demand be made. 

Who are they ? If it should be said ; 
To Moreau, Provins and Turgis 

By letters sealed I have conveyed 
Even to the mattress under me. 

LXVII 

Towards the Bastard de la Barre 

Compassion still at heart I bear. 
Beside his straw, (and these words are 

His old bequest, though more it were, 

Not to revoke) I do declare 
I give him my old mats for seat : 

Well will they serve him to sit square 
And keep him steady on his feet. 

152 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

LXVIII 

In fine, but one more word I'll say 

Or ever I begin to test : 
Before my clerk, who hears alway 

(If he's awake), I do protest 

That knowingly I have opprest 
No man in this my ordinance: 

Nor will I make it manifest 
Except unto the realm of France. 

LXIX 

I feel my heart that's growing dead 

Nor breath for further prate have I. 
Fremin, sit down close to my bed, 

And look that no one us espy. 

Take pen, ink, paper, by and by 
And what I say write thou therein ; 

Then have it copied far and nigh : 
And this is how I do begin. 



fieginnetfl (Wfon to 



In the eternal Father's name 

And His that's present in the Host, 

One with the Father and the same, 
Together with the Holy Ghost, 

153 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

[ By whom was saved what Adam lost, 
And in the light of heaven arrayed, 

(Who best believes this merits most,) 
Dead sinners little gods were made : 



Dead were they, body and soul as well, 

Doomed to eternal punishment : 
Flesh rotted, soul in flames of hell, 

What way soe'er their lives were spent. 

But I except, in my intent, 
Prophets and Patriarchs all and sheer : 

Meseems they never could have brent 
With over-muckle heat arear. 



If any ask, ' What maketh thee 

With questions such as this to mell, 

That art not of theology 

Doctor, or therein capable ? ' 
'Tis Jesus His own parable, 

Touching the rich man that did lie, 
Buried in burning flames of hell, 

And saw the leper in the sky. 



If he had seen the lazar burn, 

He had not asked him, well I wot, 

To give him water or in turn 

To cool his dry and parched throat. 

'54 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

There folk will have a scurvy lot 
That to buy drink their hosen sell ; 

Since drink is there so hardly got, 
God save us all from thirst in hell 1 ] 

LXXIV 

Now, in God's name and with His aid 

And in our Lady's name no less, 
Let without sin this say be said 

By me grown haggard for duresse. 

If I nor light nor fire possess, 
God hath ordained it for my sin ; 

But as to this and other stress 
I will leave talking and begin. 



First, my poor soul (which God befriend ) 

Unto the blessed Trinity 
And to our Lady I commend, 

The fountain of Divinity, 

Beseeching all the charity 
Of the nine orders of the sky, 

That it of them transported be 
Unto the throne of God most high. 

LXXVI 

Item, my body I ordain 

Unto the earth, our grandmother : 
Thereof the worms will have small gain ; 

Hunger hath worn it many a year. 

155 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Let it be given straight to her ; 
From earth it came, to earth apace 

Returns; all things, except I err, 
Do gladly turn to their own place. 



Item, to Guillaume de Villon, 
( My more than father, who indeed 

To me more tenderness hath shown 
Than mothers to the babes they feed, 
Who me from many a scrape hath freed 

And now of me hath scant Hesse, 
I do entreat him, bended-kneed, 

He leave me to my present stress, ) 



I do bequeath my library, 

The "Devil's Crake" Romaunt, whilere 
By Messire Guy de Tabarie, 

A right trustworthy man, writ fair. 

Beneath a bench it lies somewhere, 
In quires. Though crudely it be writ, 

The matter's so beyond compare 
That it redeems the style of it. 



I give the ballad following 

To my good mother, who of me 

(God knows ! ) hath had much sorrowing, 
That she may worship our Ladie : 

156 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

I have none other sanctuary 
Whereto, when overcome with dole, 

I may for help and comfort flee ; 
Nor hath my mother, poor good soul 1 



BALLAD THAT VILLON MADE AT THE 
REQUEST OF HIS MOTHER, WHERE- 
WITHAL TO DO HER HOMAGE 
TO OUR LADY 



Lady of Heaven, Regent of the earth, 
Empress of all the infernal marsbesfell, 

Receive me, Thy poor Christian, 'spite my dearth, 
In the fair midst of Thine elect to dwell : 
Albeit my lack of grace I know full well ; 

For that Tby grace, my Lady and my Queen, 

Aboundetb more tban all my misdemean, 
Witbouten which no soul of all that sigh 

May merit Heaven. ' Tis sooth I say, for e'en 
In this belief I will to live and die. 



Say to Thy Son I am His, that by His birth 
And death my sins be all redeemable, 

As Mary of Egypt's dole He changed to mirth 
And eke Tbeopbilus', to whom befell 
Quittance of Thee, albeit (so men tell) 

'57 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

To the foul fiend be bad contracted been. 
Assoil^ie me, that I may have no teen, 

Maid, that without breach of virginity 
'Didst bear our Lord tbat in the Host is seen. 

In this belief I will to live and die. 



Ill 



A poor old wife I am, and little worth : 
Nothing I know, nor letter aye could spell : 

Where in the church to worship I fare forth, 
I see Heaven limned, with harps and lutes, and Hell, 
Where damned folk seethe in fire unquenchable. 

One doth me fear, the other joy serene : 

Grant I may have the joy, O Virgin clean, 
To whom all sinners lift their hands on high, 

Made whole in faith through Thee their go-between. 
In this belief I will to live and die. 



ENVOI 

Thou didst conceive, Princess most bright of sheen, 
Jesus the Lord, that hath nor end nor mean, 
Almighty, that, departing Heaven's demesne 

To succour us, put on our frailty, 
Offering to death His sweet of youth and green : 
Such as He is, our Lord He is, I ween ! 

In this belief I will to live and die. 

158 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



Item, upon my dearest Rose 
Nor heart nor liver I bestow : 

Thereat she would turn up her nose, 
Albeit she hath coin eno', 
A great silk purse, as well I know, 

Stuffed full of crowns, both new and old. 
May he be hanged, or high or low, 

That leaves her silver aught or gold I 



For she without me has enow : 
To me it matters not a jot: 

My salad days are past, I trow ; 
No more desire in me is hot : 
All that I leave unto Michot, 

That was surnamed the good gallant 
Or rather to his heirs ; God wot, 

At St. Satur his tomb's extant. 



This notwithstanding, to acquit 
Me toward Love rather than her, 

(For never had I any whit 

Of hope from her : I cannot hear, 
Nor do I care, if a deaf ear 

To all she turns as well as me ; 
But by Saint Maudlin I aver, 

Therein but laughing-stuff I see.) 

159 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

LXXXIII 

This ballad shall she have of me, 
That all with rhymes in R doth end : 

Who shall be bearer? Let me see: 
Fernet the Bastard I will send, 
Provided, if, as he doth wend, 

He come across my pugnosed f row, 
This question he to her commend ; 

' Foul Wanton, wherefrom comest thou ? ' 



BALLAD OF VILLON TO HIS MISTRESS 



False beauty, that bath cost me many a sigb ; 

Fair-seeming sweetness in effect bow sour ; 
Love-liking, harder far tban steel, that I 

May sister name of my defeasance dour ; 

Traitorous charms, that did ny heart devour ; 
Pride, that puts folk to death with secret scorn ; 

Pitiless eyes, will rigour ne'er allow her, 
Ere worse betide, to succour one forlorn ? 

II 

Well were it for me elsewhere to apply 
For succour : well I know that in her bower 

The load of love I never shall lay by ; 
Sure 'twere no shame to fly from such a stoure. 

1 60 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Haro ! I cry both great and small implore. 
But wbat avails me? I shall die outworn, 

Without blow struck, excepting pity bow her, 
Ere worse betide, to succour one forlorn. 



A time will come to wither and make dry, 

Yellow and pale, thy beauty's full-blown flower . 

Then should I laugh, if yet my heart were high. 
But no, alas ! I then shall have no power 
To laugh, being old in that disastrous hour. 

Wherefore drink deep, before the river' s frorne ; 
Neither refuse, whilst grace is still thy dower, 

Ere worse betide, to succour one forlorn. 

ENVOI 

Great God of Love, all lovers' governour, 
Illfalletb tby disfavour to be borne : 

True hearts are bound, by Christ our Saviour, 
Ere worse betide, to succour one forlorn. 

LXXXIV 
Item, to Master Ythier, 

To whom I left my sword of yore, 
I give ( to set to song ) this lay, 

Containing verses half a score ; 

Being a De profundis for 
His love of once upon a day : 

Her name I must not tell you, or 
He'd hate me like the deuce alway. 



161 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



LAY OR RATHER ROUNDEL 

Death, of thy rigour I complain, 
That bast my lady torn from me 
And wilt not yet contented be, 
Save from me too all strength be ta'en, 
For languishment of heart and brain. 
What harm did she in life to thee, 
Death ? 

One heart we had betwixt us twain ; 
Which being dead, I too must dree 
Death, or, like carven saints we see 

In choir, sans life to live be fain, 
Death ! 

LXXXV 

Item, a new bequest I will 

To make to Master Jehan Cornu ; 
Who in my need hath helped me still 

And done me favours not a few ; 

Wherefore the garden him unto 
I give that Peter Bobignon 

Leased me, so but he hang anew 
The door and fix the gable on. 

162 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



I there did lose, for lack of door, 

A hone and handle of a hoe : 
Thenceforward, falcons half a score 

Had not there caught a lark, I trow. 

The hostel's safe, but keep it so. 
I put a hook there in sign-stead : 

God grant the robber nought but woe, 
A bloody night and earthen bed ! 

LXXXVII 

Item, considering that the wife 

Of Master Peter St. Amant 
(Yet if therein be blame or strife, 

God grant her grace and benison) 

Me as a beggar looks upon, 
For the White Horse that will not stir, 

A Mare, and for the Mule, anon, 
A Brick-red Ass I give to her. 



Item, I give unto Denis 

(Elect of Paris) Hesselin, 
Of wine of Aulnis, from Turgis 

Taken at my peril, casks fourteen. 

If he to drink too much begin, 
That so his wit and sense decline, 

Let them put water therewithin : 
Many a good house is lost by wine. 

163 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

LXXXIX 

Item, upon my advocate, 

Whose name is Guillaume Charriau, 
Though he's a chapman by estate, 

My sword, (without the scabbard, though,) 

And a gold royal I bestow, 
In sous, to swell his purse's space, 

Levied on those that come and go 
Within the Temple cloister-place. 

xc 

Item, my proctor Fournier 

Shall handfuls four for all his pain 
And travail for me night and day, 

Have from my purse ; for suits amain 

He hath ywrought to gar me gain, 
Just ones, by Jesus be it said ! 

Even as the judgment did ordain : 
The best of rights has need of aid. 



Item, to Jamy Raguyer 

The Muckle Mug in Greve give I, 
Provided always that he pay 

Four placks for livery of it ; ay, 

Even though what covers calf and thigh 
To make the money up sell he 

And fare each morn bare -legged thereby 
Unto the Fir-cone Hostelry. 

164 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



Item, for Mairebeuf (I vow) 

And Nicholas de Louviers, 
I give them neither ox nor cow, 

For drovers neither herds are they, 

But folk that ride a-hawking may, 
(Think not I'm making mock of you) 

Partridge and plover night and day 
To fake from Mother Maschicoue. 

XCIII 

Item, if Turgis come to me, 

I'll pay him fairly for his wine : 
But soft ; if where I lodge find he, 

He'll have more wit than any -nine. 

I leave to him that vote of mine, 
As citizen of Paris see : 

If sometimes I speak Poitevine, 
Two Poitou ladies taught it me. 

xciv 

Damsels they were, both fair and free, 

Abiding at St. Generou, 
Hard by St. Julian of Brittany 

Or in the Marches of Poitou. 

Natheless, I tell you not for true 
Where all their days and nights they dwell ; 

I am not fool enough, look you, 
My loves to all the world to tell. 

165 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



Item, Jehan Raguyer I give 

(That's Sergeant, of the Twelve, indeed) 
Each day, so long as he shall live, 

A ramakin, that he may feed 

Thereon and stay his stomach's need ; 
(From Bailly's table be it brought). 

Let him not ask for wine or mead, 
But at the fountain quench his drought. 

xcvi 

Item, I give the Prince of Fools 
A master-fool, Michault du Four, 

The j oiliest jester in the Schools, 

That sings so well ' Ma douce amour.' 
With that of him I'll speak no more. 

Brief, if he's but in vein some jot, 
He's a right royal fool, be sure, 

And still is witty, where he's not. 

XCVII 

Item, I give unto a pair 

Of sergeants here whose names I've set 
For that they're honest folk and fair 

Denis Richer and Jehan Valletta, 

A tippet each or bandelet, 
To hang their hats of felt unto ; 

I mean foot -sergeants, for as yet 
Nought with the horse have I to do. 

1 66 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
xcvm 

Item, to Pemet I remit 

For that he is a cogging jack, 
(The Bastard of La Barre, to wit,) 

Three loaded dice or else a pack 

Of cheating cards, marked on the back, 
To arms, in lieu of bend. But what ? 

If he be heard to fyst or crack, 
The quartan ague catch the sot ! 

xcix 

Item, I order that Chollet 

No longer hoop or saw or plane 

Or head up barrels all the day. 
Let him his tools change for a cane 
(Or Lyons sword), so he retain 

The cooper's mall ; for, sooth to tell, 

Though noise and strife to hate he feign, 

At heart he loves them but too well. 



Item, I give to Jehan le Loup 

For that he's lean and lank and spent, 
(Though good -cheap man and comrade true) 

And Chollet too, is slow of scent, 

A setter, young, but excellent, 
(No chick he'll miss afield, I trow) 

And a long cloak, 'gainst 'spial meant 
To cover them from top to toe. 

167 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
ci 

Item, to Duboys, goldworker, 

An hundred cloves, both head and tail, 
Of Saracenic zinziber ; 

Not cases therewithal to nail 

***** 
***** 
***** 
***** 

cn 

To Captain Riou, as a treat 

For him and for his archers too, 

I give six wolvis-heads (a meat 

No swineherds' fare that is, look you) 
Coursed with great dogs and set to stew 

In tavern wine. In sooth, to feed 
Upon these dainties rare and new, 

One might do many an ill deed. 

cm 

'Tis meat a trifle heavier 

Than either feathers, cork or down : 
For folk afield 'tis famous fare, 

In camp or leaguer of a town. 

But (failing dogs to hunting boun) 
An if the beasts in trap be ta'en, 

The skins, to fur his winter gown, 
As a right tanner, I ordain. 

1 68 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
civ 

Item, to Robinet Troussecaille 

(Who's thriven rarely in his trade ; 
He scorns to go afoot like quail, 

But sits a fat roan stoutly made) 

My platter, that he is afraid 
To borrow, I on him bestow ; 

So will he now be all arrayed : 
He needed nothing else, I know. 

cv 

To Perrot Girard I will well 

(That's barber sworn at Bourg la Reine) 
Two basins and a fish-kettle, 

Since he's so eager after gain. 

Six years ago, the man was fain 
For seven whole days (God have his soul!) 

Me with fat porkers to sustain ; 
Witness the Abbess of Shaven-poll. 



Item, unto the Begging Freres, 

The Devotees and the Beguines, 
At Paris, Orleans and elsewhere, 
Both Turpelins and Turpelines, 
Of stout meat soups with flawns beseen 
I make oblation. * * 

***** 
***** 

169 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
cvn 

NAY, 'tis not I that give them this ; 
But from their loins all children spring 
Through God that guerdons them ywis 
For their much swink and travailing. 
Each one of them must live, poor thing, 
E'en monks of Paris, if they go 

Our cummers still a -pleasuring, 
God wot, they love their husbands so. 

cvm 

Whatever Master Jehan Poullieu 

Missaid of them, et reliqua, 
Constrained in public place thereto, 

His words perforce he did unsay: 

Meung of their fashion in his day 
Made mock, and Matheolus too : 

But honour unto that alway 
Which God's Church honoureth is due. 

CIX 

So I submit me, for my part, 

In all that I can do or say, 
To honour them with all my heart 

And yield them service, as I may. 

Fools only will of them missay : 
For or in pulpit or elsewhere 

None needeth to be told if they 
Are wont their enemies to spare. 

170 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



Item, I give to Brother Baude, 

In the Mount Carmel Convent who 
Good cheer doth make and his abode, 

A morion and gisarms two, 

Lest anything Decosta do 
To steal from him his wench away. 

He's old; unless he quit the stew, 
There'll be the deuce and all to pay. 

CXI 

Item, for that the Chancellor 

Hath chewed fly-droppings off and on 
Full many a time, his seal yet more 

( I give and grant ) be spat upon ; 

And let him sprain his thumb anon, 
( Him of the diocese, 1 I mean,) 

To put my wishes all in one : 
God keep the others all from teen. 

cxn 

I give my Lords the Auditors 

Wainscot to make their chamber fair ; 

And each whose buttocks in the wars 
Have been, a hollow-bottomed chair, 
Provided that they do not spare 

Mace"e of Orleans, who, God wot, 
Had my virginity whilere, 

For she's a thoroughly bad lot. 

i Of Orleans. 

171 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

CXIII 

To Master Francis (if he live), 

Promoter de la Vacquerie, 
A Scotchman's collaret I give, 

Of hemp without embroidery ; 

For, when he put on chivalry, 
God and St. George he did blaspheme 

And ne'er hears speak of them but he 
Doth with mad laughter shout and scream. 

cxiv 

I give Jehan Laurens, whose poor eyes 
Are still so red and weak, (I ween, 

The fault o't with his parents lies, 
Who drank withouten stint or mean), 
My hose-linings, to wipe them clean 

O' mornings, lest they waxen blear; 
Had he of Bourges archbishop been, 

He had had sendal ; but that's dear. 



Item, to Master Jehan Cotard, 

My Church-court proctor, since some groat 
Or two for fees yet owing are, 

(That had till now escaped my thought) 

When action 'gainst me Denise brought, 
Saying I had miscalled her, 

I have this Orison ywrought, 
So God to heaven his soul prefer. 

172 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



BALLAD AND ORISON 



~\TOAH, Hat first the line planted ; 

I V Lot, too, that in the grot drank bigb, 

* * * * 

* * -v * 
***** 

trchitriclinus, learned in tbe bowl, 
I pray vou all three to set in tbe sky 
Jood Master Cotard, honest soul. 

II 

He was of your lineage born and bred; 

He drank of tbe best and dearest ; ay, 
Though he'd never a stiver to stand him in stead, 

The best of all topers be was : for why, 

Never good liquor found him sby, 
None could tbe pot from bis grasp cajole. 

Fair Lords, do not suffer in bell to sigh 
Good Master Cotard, honest soul. 



in 

Pve seen bint oft, when he went to bed, 

Totter for tipple as like to die ; 
And once be gat him a bump on the head 

1 Gainst a butcher's stall, as he staggered by. 

'73 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Brief, one might question far and nigh 
For a better fellow the cup to trow I. 

Let him in, if you bear bim tbe wicket try : 
Good Master Cotard, honest soul. 

ENVOI 

He scarce could spit, be was always so dry, 
And ever ' My throat's like a red-hot coal!" 1 

Parched up with thirst, be was wont to cry ; 
Good Master Cotard, honest soul. 

cxvi 

Item, henceforth young Merle shall still 
Manage my change (for evermo' 

God wot, it is against my will 
With change I intermeddle) so 
Full change he give to high and low,. 

Three crowns six half-crowns, and two small 
Angels one great one ; for, you know, 

A lover should be liberal. 

cxvn 

Item, I've seen with my own eyes 

That my poor orphans, all the three, 
Are grown in age, and wit likewise. 

No sheepsheads are they, I can see ; 

From here to Salins none there be 
That better bear them at the schools : 

Now, by the Confraternity, 
Lads of this fashion are no fools. 



174 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



I will that they to college go : 

Whither ? To Master Pierre Richer. 
Donatus is too hard, I trow : 

Thereat I will not have them stay. 

I'd rather they should learn to say 
An Ave Mary and there stand, 

Without more letters ; for alway 
Scholars have not the upper hand. 

ex ix 

Let them learn this and there leave off; 

I do forbid them to proceed : 
Meseems it is too hard and tough 

For boys to understand the Creed. 

I halve my long gray tabard wede 
And will one half thereof to sell 

And buy them pancakes : for indeed 
Children did ever love cates well. 



I will that they well grounded be 

In manners, though it cost them dear : 

Close hoods shall they wear, all the three, 
And go with thumbs in girdle-gear, 
Humble to all that come them near, 

Saying, ' Eh, what ? . . . Don't mention it ! ' 
So folk shall say, when they appear, 

' These lads are gently bred,' to wit. 

I7S 






THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
cxxi 

Item, unto my clerklings lean, 
To whom my titles and degree 

(Seeing them fair and well beseen 
And straight as reeds) I gave in fee, 
And also, without price and free, 

I did my rent and charge assign, 
To levy on the pillory, 

As safe and sure as if 'twere mine : 



(Though they be young and of good cheer, 

In that they nothing me displease : 
Come twenty, thirty, forty year, 

They will be other, so God please. 

Ill doth he that maltreateth these, 
Since fair they are and in their prime : 

Fools only will them beat and pheeze ; 
For younglings grow to men in time,) 

CXXIII 

The purses of the Clerks Eighteen 

They'll have, although my back I break : 
They're not like dormice, that grow lean 

With three months' sleep before they wake. 

Ill fares he that his sleep doth take 
In youth, when rise and work should he, 

So that he needs must watch and wake 
In age, when he should sleeping be. 

176 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
cxxiv 

Thereof unto the Almoner 

Letters to like effect I write. 
If they to pray for me demur, 

Let pull their ears for such despite. 

Folk often marvel all their might 
Why by these twain such store set I ; 

But, fast or feast days, honour bright, 
I never came their mothers nigh. 



To Michault Culdou I bespeak, 

As also to Chariot Taranne, 
One hundred sols. Let neither seek 

Whence ; 'twill be manna to each man : 

Also my boots of leather tan, 
Both soles and uppers, sundry pair; 

So they forgather not with Jehanne 
Nor any other like to her. 

CXXVI 

Unto the Seigneur de Grigny, 
To whom I left Bicetre of yore, 

I give the castle of Billy ; 

Provided window, gate and door 
He 'stablish as they were before, 

That so in good repair it be. 
Let him make money evermore ; 

For coin I lack and none has he. 

177 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

CXXVII 
To Thibault de la Garde, no less, . . . 

(Thibault ? I lie : his name is John) 
What can I spare, without distress ? 

I've lost enough this year bygone : 

May God provide him ! . . . and so on. 
What if I left him the Canteen ? 

No : Genevoys's the elder one 
And has more nose to dip therein. 

CXXVIII 
Item, I give to Basanier, 

The judge's clerk and notary, 
A frail of cloves, which levied may 

On Master Jehan de Rueil be : 

Mautainct and Rosnel the like fee 
Shall have, which them I trust will stir 

To serve with courage brisk and free 
The Lord who serves Saint Christopher; 



On whom the Ballad following 
For his fair lady I bestow : . . . 

If love to us no such prize fling, 
I marvel not ; for, whiles ago, 
He bore her off from high and low, 

At that tourney King Rene" made : 
Hector or Troilus ne'er, I trow, 

So much performed, so little said. 

178 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

BALLAD THAT VILLON GAVE TO A 

NEWLY MARRIED GENTLEMAN TO SEND 

TO HIS LADY, BY HIM CONQUERED AT 

THE SWORD'S POINT 

I 

rr^ HE falcon claps bis wings at break of day, 
J. For noble usance, ay, and lustibead ; 
Frolics for glee and strikes and rends bis prey ; 
Stoops to bis mate and does of ber bis need. 
So now to-you-ward dotb desire me lead 
Oftbat all lovers long for joyously ; 

Know, Love batb so ordained it in bis rede ; 
And to this end we twain together be. 



Queen of my beart, unquestioned and alway, 
Till death consume me, tbou sbalt be indeed. 

Clary, that purgest my chagrins, sweet bay, 
That still as champion for my right dost plead, 
Reason ordains that I should ne'er be freed 

(And therewithal my pleasure dotb agree) 
From tby sweet service, while the years succeed ; 

And to this end we twain together be. 

Ill 

And what is more, when dule dotb me essay, 
Through Fate that oftime lowers, with all speed 

Tby dulcet looks ber malice do away, 
As wind disperses smoke from bill and mead. 

179 




THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

In no -wise, sweetest, do I lose tbe seed 
Sown in thy field, when the fruit likenetb me ; 

God wills me delve and fatten it and weed ; 
And to this end we twain together be. 

ENVOI 

Princess, I pray, to my discourse give heed : 
My heart shall not dissever aye from tbee 

Nor thine from me, if it aright I read : 
And to this end we twain together be. 

cxxx 
Item, I give Jehan Perdryer nought, 

And to his brother Frank the same ; 
Though still to help me they have wrought 

And make me sharer in their game ; 

(Tongues have they, sharp and fierce as flamo 
And too, my gossip Frank, of yore, 

Without command or prayer, my name 
At Bourges commended passing sore. 



Let them in Taillevent go see 
The chapters that of frying treat, 

If they can find my recipe 

For dressing up this kind of meat : 
'Twas Saint Macaire, I once did meet, 

Cooking a devil, skin and all, 

That so the roast should smell more sweet 

Gave me this Recipe, that I call 

180 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



BALLAD OF SLANDEROUS TONGUES' 



cxxxn 

To Andry Courault, next, give I 

The Counterblast to Franc-Gontier ; 
As for the Tyrant, set on high, 

I've nought, indeed, to him to say : 

Wisdom forbids that in affray 
With mighty men poor folk should strive, 

Lest they spread nets across the way, 
To catch the vauntards in alive. 

CXXXIII 

I fear not Gontier, that no men 

Has nor is better off than I : 
But now strife is betwixt us twain ; 

For he exalteth poverty : 

Good luck he deemeth it, perdie, 
Winter and summer to be poor. 

Myself, I hold it misery. 
Who's wrong? Be you judge, I conjure. 

This Ballad is omitted for the reasons stated in the Foreword. 
181 






THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



BALLAD ENTITLED THE COUNTERBLAST 
TO FRANC-GONTIER 



/I THWAR T a hole in the arras, father day, 
^j. I saw a fat priest lie on a down bed, 
Hard by a fire ; and by bis side there lay 
Dame Sydonie,full comely, white and red : 
By night and day a goodly life they led. 
I watched them laugh and kiss and play, drink high 
Of spiced hypocras ; * * * 

***** 

* * * Thence knew I 

There is no treasure but to have one's ease. 



If, with his mistress Helen, Franc-Gontier 
Had all their life this goodly fashion sped, 

With cloves of garlic, rank of smell alway, 
They had no need to rub their oaten bread : 
For all their curds (sans malice be it said) 

No jot I care, nor all their cakes of rye. 

If they delight beneath the rose to lie, 

What say you ? Must we couch afield like these ? 

Like you not better bed and chair therenigb ? 
There is no treasure but to have one's ease. 

182 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



They eat coarse bread of barley, sootb to say, 
And drink but water from the heavens sbed : 

Not all tbe birds that singen all tbe way 
From bere to Babylon could me persuade 
To spend one day so harboured and so fed. 

For God's sake let Franc-Gontier none deny 

To play with Helen 'neatb tbe open sky ! 
Why should it irk me, if they love tbe leas ? 

But, vaunt who will tbe joys of husbandry, 
There is no treasure but to have one's ease. 

ENVOI 

Prince, be you judge betwixt us all : for my 
Poor part I mind me (so it none displease) 

Wbilstyct a child, I beard folk testify, 
There is no treasure but to have one's ease. 



Item, since Madame de Bruyeres 
Her bible knows, to publish it 

(Barring the Gospels) unto her 
And to her damsels I commit, 
To bring each glib-tongued wanton chit 

To book ; but be the preachment not 
Within the churchyards; far more fit 

'Twere in the net -market, God wot. 



'S3 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
BALLAD OF THE WOMEN OF PARIS 



'^T^HOUGH folk deem women young and old 
JL Of Venice and Genoa well eno 1 
Favoured with speech, both glib and bold, 
To carry messages to and fro ; 
Savoyards, Florentines less or mo, 
Romans and Lombards though folk renown, 

I, at my peril, I say no ; 
There's no right speech out of Paris town. 

II 
The Naples women (so we are told) 

Can school all comers in speech and show ; 
Prussians and Germans were still extolled 
For pleasant prattle of friend and foe ; 
But hail they from Athens or Grand Cairo, 
Castille or Hungary, black or brown, 
Greeks or Egyptians, high or low, 
There's no right speech out of Paris town. 
in 

Swit^ers nor Bretons know how to scold, 
Nor Provence nor Gascony women : lo ! 

Two fishfags in Paris the bridge that hold 
Would slang them dumb in a minute or so, 
Picardy, England, Lorraine, (heigho ! 

Enough of places have I set down ?} 
Valenciennes, Calais, wherever you go, 

There's no right speech out of Paris town. 

184 






THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

ENVOI 
Prince, to the Paris ladies, I trow, 

For pleasant parlance I yield tbe crown. 
They may talk of Italians ; but this I know, 

There's no right speech out of Paris town. 

cxxxv 
Look at them there, by twos and threes, 

Upon their gowns' hem seated low, 
In churches and in nunneries : 

Speak not, but softly near them go 

And speedily you'll come to know 
Such judgments as Macrobius ne'er 

Did give. Whate'er you catch, I trow, 
'Twill all some flower of wisdom bear. 

cxxxvi 
Item, unto Mount Martyr hill 

(Old past the memory of man) 
Let them adjoin (it is my will) 

The knoll called Mount Valerian : 

I give it for a quarter's span 
The indulgences from Rome I brought ; 

Whence shall the convent, where no man 
Might come, of many now be sought. 

CXXXVII 

Item, to serving men and maids 
Of good hostels (in no despite), 

Pheasants, tarts, custards and croustades 
And high carousal at midnight : 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Seven pints or eight, the matter's slight, 
Whilst sound asleep are lord and dame: 

* # * * * 

***** 

CXXXVIII 

Item, to honest wenches who 

Have fathers, mothers, aunts . . . 'Fore God ! 
I've nothing left to give to you : 

All on the servants I've bestowed. 

Poor silly wantons, they had showed 
Themselves with little satisfied ! 

Some scraps might well have gone their road 
Of all the convents cast aside. 

cxxxix 

Cistercians and Celestines, 

Though they be railed off from the rest, 
They eat rich meats and drink sweet wines, 

Whereof poor whores know not the zest : 

As Jehanne and Perrette can attest 
And Isabeau that says "Is't not?" 

Since they therefor are so distrest, 
One scarce were damn'd for it, God wot. 



Item, to sturdy stout Margot, 
Of face and favour fair and feat, 

A pious creature, too, eno', 
I' faith, by God Almighty be't, 

186 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

I love her well, the proper peat, 
As she (sweet chuck) loves me indeed : 

If any chance with her to meet, 
Let him this Ballad to her read. 



BALLAD OF VILLON AND MUCKLE MEG> 

CXLI 

Item, to Marion (Statue hight) 
And to tall Jehanne of Brittany, 

I give to keep a school by night, 

Where masters taught of scholars be : 
A thing you everywhere may see, 

Except in Mehun gaol alone. 
Wherefore I say, Out on the fee ! 

Since that the trick is so well known. 



Item, to Noel Well-beseen 

No other gift I do ordain 
Than both hands full of osiers green, 

Out of my garden freshly ta'en : 

(One should to chastisement be fain ; 
In sooth it is fair almsgiving:) 

Eleven score strokes laid on amain, 
Of Master Hal's administ'ring. 

This ballad is omitted for the reasons stated hi the Foreword. 
I8 7 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

CXLIII 
Item, the Hospitals unto 

What to bequeath I hardly know : 
Here jests are neither right nor due, 

For sick poor folk have ills eno' : 

Let each man's leavings to them go. 
The Mendicants have had my goose : 

Nought but the bones they'll get, I trow ; 
The poor can seldom pick and choose. 

CXLIV 
I give my barber, (an he list) 

By name that Colin Galerne hight, 
Near Angelot's the Herbalist, 

A lump of ice: let him apply't 

Upon his paunch and hold it tight, 
So he may freeze as seems him meet : 

If thus o* winter deal the wight, 
He'll not complain of summer heat. 

CXLV 
Item, I leave the Foundlings nought : 

But to the Lostlings comfort's due, 
Who should, if anywhere, be sought 

Where lodges Marion the Statue. 

A lesson of my sort to you 
I'll read : 'twill soon be overpast. 

Turn not, I pray, deaf ears thereto, 
But listen sadly : 'tis the last. 

188 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 



SEEMLY LESSON OF VILLON TO THE 
GOOD-FOR-NOUGHTS 



T~*AIR sons, you're wasting, ere you're old, 
J7^ The fairest rose to you that fell. 
You, that like birdlime take and bold, 

When to Montpippeau or Ruel 
(My clerks) you wander, keep you well : 

For of the tricks that there he played, 
Thinking to 'scape a second spell, 
Colin ofCayeulx lost bis bead. 



No trifling game is this to play, 

Where one stakes soul and body too : 
If losers, no remorse can stay 

A shameful death from ending you ; 

And even the winner, for bis due, 
Hath not a Dido to bis wife. 

Foolish and lewd I bold him who 
Doth for so little risk bis life. 



Now all of you to me attend: 
Even a load of wine, folk say, 

With drinking at last comes to an end, 
By fire in winter, in woods in May. 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

If you have money, it doth not stay, 
But this way and that it wastes amain : 

What does it profit you, any way ? 
Ill-gotten good is nobody's gain. 



BALLAD OF GOOD DOCTRINE TO THOSE 
OF ILL LIFE 



T)EDDLE indulgences, as you may: 
-/ Cog the dice for your cheating throws . 
Try if counterfeit coin will pay, 

At risk of roasting at last, like those 

That deal in treason. Lie and glose, 
Rob and ravish : what profits it ? 

Wbo gets the purchase, do you suppose? 
Taverns and wenches, every whit. 



Rhyme, rail, wrestle and cymbals play : 

Flute and fool it in mummers' shows : 
Along with the strolling players stray 

From town to city, without repose ; 

Act mysteries, farces, imbroglios : 
Win money at gleek or a lucky hit 

At the pins : like water, away it flows ; 
Taverns and wenches, every whit. 

190 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

in 
Turn from your evil courses I pray, 

That smell so foul in a decent nose : 
Earn your bread in some honest way. 

If you have no letters, nor verse nor prose, 

Plough or groom horses, beat hemp or to^e. 
Enough shall you bam if you think but fit : 

But cast not your wage to each wind that blows ; 
Taverns and wenches, every whit. 

ENVOI 

Doublets, pourpoints and silken hose, 

Gowns and linen, woven or knit, 
Ere your wede's worn, away it goes; 

Taverns and wenches, every whit. 

CXLVI 
Companions in debauchery, 

111 souls and bodies well bestead, 
Beware of that ill sun ( look ye) 

That tans a man when he is dead : 

'Tis a foul death to die, I dread. 
Keep yourselves from it, so you may ; 

And be this still remembered, 
That all of you must die some day. 

CXLVI I 

Item, I give the Fifteen -score 

(Three hundred just as well 'tmight be) 
For that by them I set great store, 

(Paris, not Provins ones, for me) 

191 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

My goggles (sans the case, perdie) 
So in the churchyards where they serve, 

They may the bad to sever see 
From honest folk that well deserve. 

CXLVIII 

HERE' silence doth for ever reign : 
Nothing it profiteth the dead 
On beds of satin to have lain 
And drunk from gold the vine -juice red 
And lived in glee and lustihead. 
Soon all such joys must be resigned: 

All pass away, and in their stead 
Only the sin remains behind. 

CXLIX 

When I consider all the heads 

That in these charnels gathered be, 

Those that are sleeping in these beds 
May have (for aught that I can see) 
Been mighty lords of high degree, 

Bishops and dames, or else poor churls : 
There is no difference to me 

'Twixt watercarriers' bones and earls. 

CL 

These ladies all, that in their day 
Each against each did bend and bow, 

Whereof did some the sceptre sway, 
Of others feared and courted, now 

i '. e. in the churchyards. 

192 






THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Here are they sleeping all a -row, 
Heaped up together anydele, 

Their crowns and honours all laid low. 
Masters or clerks, there's no appeal. 



Now are they dead, God have their sprights ! 

As for their bodies, they are clay : 
Once they were ladies, lords and knights, 

That on soft beds of satin lay 

And fed on dainties every day. 
Their bones are mouldered into dust, 

They reck not now of laugh or play : 
Christ will assoilzie them, I trust. 



I make this ditty for the dead : 

The which I do communicate 
To Courts and Pleas, ill doers' dread, 

That unjust avarice do hate; 

That for the welfare of the state 
Do work their bones and bodies dry : 

God and St. Dominick abate 
Their sins unto them when they die. 



Item, Jacques Cardon nought of me 
(For nought I have for him) shall get, 

Not that he'd throw't away, perdie 
Except this roundel ; if 'twere set 

193 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

To some such tune as " Marionette," 
Composed for Marion Slow -to -come, 

Or " Hold your door open, Guillemette," 
It might belike the vogue become. 



ROUNDEL 

On my release from prison strait, 
Where I have left my life well-nigh, 
If Fate still look at me awry, 

Judge if she be inveterate ! 

Reason meseemeth, past debate, 
Her malice she should mollify 
On my release. 

Full of unreason is this Fate, 

Which willeth but that I sboutd die : 
God grant that in His house on high 

My soul be ravished from her hate, 
On my release. 



THIS gift shall Lomer have of me, 
As sure as I'm a fairy's son,- 
That he shall ' well -beloved ' be, 
But wench or woman love he none 

194 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Nor lose his head for any one, 
And that an hundred times a night 

The trick for nought of him be done, 
In spite of Holger the good knight. 

CLV 

To lovers sick and sorrowful, 
(As well as Alain Chartier's Lay,) 

At bedhead, a benature-full 

Of tears I give, and eke a spray 
Of eglatere or flowering May, 

(To sprinkle with) in time of green ; 
Provided they a Psalter say. 

To save poor Villon's soul from teen. 

CLVI 

To Master James, that day and night 

Himself at hoarding wealth doth kill, 
I give as many girls to plight 

(But none to marry) as he will. 

For whom doth he his coffers fill ? 
For those that are his kin, alack 1 

That which the sows' was, I hold ill 
Should to the porkers not go back. 

CLVII 

Unto the Seneschal I bequeath, 
(Who once from debt did me release) 

Besides the quality of Smith, 

The right of shoeing ducks and geese. 

195 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

I send him all these fooleries, 
To help him pass away the time, 

Or make him spillets if he please : 
One wearies of the best of rhyme. 

CLVIII 

The Captain of the Watch, also 
Two proper youths to serve as page ; 

Marquet the Stout and Philippot, 
Who for the most part of their age 
Have served (whence are they the more sage) 

The Blacksmiths' Provost. Wellaway 1 
If they should chance to lose their wage, 

They must go shoeless many a day. 



Item, to Chappelain let there pass 

My simple -tonsure chapelry, 
Charged but with saying a low mass : 

There little letters needed be. 

My cure of souls he should of me 
Have had ; but no one to confess 

(To go by what he says) cares he, 
Save chambermaids and mistresses. 



Since my intent he well doth know, 
To Jehan de Calais (worthy wight ! 

Who saw me thirty years ago 
And hath not since on me set sight, 

196 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Indeed, nor knoweth how I bight) 
If in this Testament befall 

Or hitch or doubt, I give full right 
To solve and mend them, one and all : 



To glose upon it and comment, 

Define, eliminate, prescribe, 
Diminish aught or aught augment, 

To cancel it or it transcribe 

With his own hand, although no scribe 
He be ; such sense as he thinks fit, 

At pleasure, good or bad, ascribe 
Thereto : I sanction all of it. 



And if, perchance, some legatee, 

Without my knowledge, should be dead, 
It shall at the discretion be 

Of Jehan de Calais aforesaid 

To see my will interpreted 
And otherwise the gift apply 

Nor take it for himself instead : 
I charge him on his soul thereby. 



Item, my body, I ordain, 

Shall at St. Avoye buried be : 

And that my friends may there again 
My image and presentment see, 

197 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Let one the semblant limn of me 
In ink, if that be not too dear. 

No other monument, perdie : 
'Twould overload the floor, I fear. 

CLXIV 

Item, I will that over it 

That which ensues, without word more, 
In letters large enough be writ : 

If ink fail (as I said before), 

Let them the words with charcoal score, 
So they do not the plaster drag : 

'Twill serve to keep my name in store, 
As that of a good crack-brained wag. 



CLXV 

HERE LIES AND SLUMBERS IN THIS PLACE 
ONE WHOM LOVE WREAKED HIS IRE UPON : 

A SCHOLAR, POOR OF GOODS AND GRACE, 
THAT HIGHT OF OLD FRANgois VILLON: 
ACRE OR FURROW HAD HE NONE. 

'TIS KNOWN HIS ALL HE GAVE AWAY; 
BREAD, TABLES, TRESSELS, ALL ARE GONE. 

GALLANTS, OF HIM THIS ROUNDEL SAY. 

198 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
ROUNDEL 

^Eternam Requiem dona, 
Lord God, and everlasting light, 
To him who never bad, poor wigbt, 

Platter, or aught thereon to lay ! 

Hair, eyebrows, beard all fallen away, 
Like a peeled turnip was bis plight. 

^Etemam Requiem dona. 

Exile compelled him many a day 
And death at last his breech did smite, 
Though, ' / appeal,' with all bis might 

The man in good plain speech did say. 

^Eternam Requiem dona. 

CLXVI 

Item, I will they toll for me 

The ' Belfry ' Bell, that is so great 
Of voice, that all astonied be 

When he is tolled, early or late. 

Many a good city, of old date, 
He saved, as every one doth know ; 

Thunder or war, all ills abate 
When through the land his voices go. 



Four loaves the ringers' wage shall be : 
If that's too little, six : (that is 

What rich folk wont to give for fee :) 
But they St. Stephen's loaves, ywis, 

199 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Shall be. Let Vollant share in this ; 
A man that earns his living hard: 

'Twill furnish forth a week of his. 
The other one ? Jehan de la Garde. 

CLXVIII 

Item, to carry out this all, 

As my executors I name 
Men who are good to deal withal 

And never shirk an honest claim : 

They're no great vauntards, all the same, 
Though they've good cause for it, perdie ; 

They shall fulfil my thought and aim : 
Write, I will name six names to thee. 



First, Master Martin de Bellefaye, 
The King's Lieu tenant -criminel. 

Who shall be next ? Whom shall I say ? 
It shall be Messire Colombel : 
If, as I think, it like him well, 

He'll undertake this charge for me. 
The third one ? Michel Jouvenel : 

I give the office to these three. 



Natheless, in case they should excuse 
Themselves therefrom, for fear of fees, 

Or altogether should refuse, 

I name as their successors these, 

200 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Good men and true in their degrees : 
Philip Brunei, the noble squire, 

For next, his neighbour (an he please), 
Master Jacques Raguyer, I desire. 

CLXXI 

Master Jacques James shall be the third : 

Three men of worth and good renown, 
That for believers in God's Word 

And right God-fearing souls are known ; 

Far rather would they spend their own 
Than not my full intent fulfil. 

No auditor on them shall frown : 
They shall do all at their own will. 

CLXXI I 

The Register of Wills from me 

Shall have nor quid nor quod, I trow : 
But every penny of his fee 

To Tricot, the young priest, shall go; 

At whose expense gladly eno' 
I'd drink, though it my nightcap cost : 

If but he knew the dice to throw, 
Of Perrette's Den I'd make him host. 

CLXXIII 

Guillaume du Ru, for funeral, 

Shall see the chapel duly lit ; 
And as to who shall bear the pall, 

Let my executors order it. 

201 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

And now, my body every whit 
(Groin, eyebrows, hair and beard and all ) 

Being racked with pain, the time seems fit 
To cry folk mercy, great and small. 



BALLAD CRYING ALL FOLK MERCY 



7~?RERES, be they -white or be they grey ; 
JT^ Nuns, mumpers, chanters awry that tread 
And clink their pattens on each highway ; 

Lackeys and handmaids, apparelled 

In tight-fitting sur coats, white and red; 
Gallants, whose boots o'er their ankles fall, 

That vaunt and ruffle it unadread; 
I cry folk mercy, one and all. 



Wantons who all their charms display, 

That so more custom to them be led, 
Brawlers and jugglers and tumblers gay ; 

Clowns with their apes and carpet spread; 

Players that whistle for lustibead, 
As they trudge it 'twixt village and town and ball; 

Gentle and simple, living and dead, 
I cry folk mercy, one and all. 

202 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
III 

Save only tbe treacherous beasts of prey, 

That garred me batten on prison bread 
And water, many a night and day. 

I fear tbem not now, no, not a sbred ; 

And gladly (but that I lie a-bed 
And have small stomach for strife or brawl) 

I'd bave my wreak of tbem. Now, instead, 
I cry folk mercy, one and all. 

ENVOI 

So but tbe knaves be ribroasted 

And basted well with an oaken maul 

Or some stout horsewhip weighted with lead, 
I cry folk mercy, one and all. 



BALLAD, BY WAY OF ENDING 



T T ERE is ended (both great and small) 
J. A Poor Villon's Testament ! Wben be is dead, 
Come, I pray, to bis funeral, 

Wbilst tbe bell tinkles overhead. 

Come in cramo^in garmented; 
For to Love martyr did be die. 

Thereof be swore on his manlibead, 
Whenas he felt his end draw nigh. 

203 



THE GREATER TESTAMENT 
II 

For me, I warrant it true in all ; 

For of bis love, in shameful stead, 
He was beaten off, like a bandy-ball. 

From here to Roussillon as be fled, 

There's ne'er a bramble but tore some shred 
Of bose or jerkin from hip or tbigb ; 

So, without leasing, Villon said, 
Whenas he felt his end draw nigh. 

ill 

In sucb ill places bis life did fall, 
He bad but a rag when be was sped : 

And (yet more luckless) when death did call, 
Love's prickle galled him ; its wounds still bled 
In him. His heart was heavy as lead 

And salt tears stood in bis dying eye : 
At bis despair we were wondered, 

Whenas he felt his end draw nigh. 

ENVOI 

Prince, that art gent as a year ling gled, 
Hear what he did with his latest sigh : 

He drank a long draught of the vine-juice red, 
Whenas he felt his end draw nigh. 



en&effl tyt Greater esfament of 



204 



DIVERS POEMS 




I>ere f offou? fibers (poems of Qttaater $ 
coia (Piffon, not fleiwj part of 0i 
an& (greater e0tament 

BALLAD OF VILLON IN PRISON 



i AVE pity, friends, have pity now, I 

pray, 
If it so please you, at the least, 

on me ! 

I lie in fosse, not under holm or may, 
In this duresse, wherein, alas I I 

dree 

111 fate, as God did thereanent decree. 
Lasses and lovers, younglings manifold, 
Dancers and mountebanks, alert and bold, 
Nimble as quarrel from a crossbow shot ; 
Singers, that troll as clear as bells of gold, 
Will you all leave poor Villon liere to rot ? 



Clerks, that go carolling the livelong day, 

Scant -pursed, but glad and frank and full of glee ; 

Wandering at will along the broad highway, 

Harebrained, perchance, but wit-whole too, perdie : 
Lo ! now, I die, whilst that you absent be. 

207 



DIVERS POEMS 

Song-singers, when poor Villon's days are told, 
You will sing psalms for him and candles hold ; 

Here light nor air nor levin enters not, 
Where ramparts thick are round about him rolled. 

Will you all leave poor Villon here to rot ? 

m 

Consider but his piteous array, 

High and fair lords, of suit and service free, 
That nor to king nor kaiser homage pay, 

But straight from God in heaven hold your fee ! 

Come fast or feast, all days alike fasts he, 
Whence are his teeth like rakes' teeth to behold : 
No table hath he but the sheer black mould : 

After dry bread (not manchets), pot on pot 
They empty down his throat of water cold : 

Will you all leave poor Villon bere to rot ? 

ENVOI 

Princes and lords aforesaid, yo-mg and old, 
Get me the King his letters sealed and scrolled 

And draw me from this dungeon : for, God wot, 
Even swine, when one squeaks in the butcher's folc 
Flock around their fellow and do squeak and scold. 

Will you all leave poor Villon bere to rot .? 



208 



DIVERS POEMS 



THE QUATRAIN THAT VILLON MADE 
WHEN HE WAS DOOMED TO DIE 

FRANQOIS am I, woe worth it me! 
At Paris born, near Pontoise citie, 
Whose neck, in the bight of a rope of three, 
Must prove how heavy my buttocks be. 



VARIANT OF THE FOREGOING EPITAPH 

T^RANCOIS am I, woe worth it me I 
1 Corbier my surname is aright : 
Native of Auvers, near Pontoise citie; 

Of folk for sobriquet Villon hight. 

But for the gallant appeal I made, 
My neck, in the bight of a rope of three, 

Had known ere this what my buttocks weighed. 

The game scarce seemed to me worth to be played. 



209 



DIVERS POEMS 

THE EPITAPH IN BALLAD FORM THAT 
VILLON MADE FOR HIMSELF AND HIS 
COMPANIONS, EXPECTING NO BET- 
TER THAN TO BE HANGED IN 
THEIR COMPANY 



f^ ROTHERS, that after us on life remain, 
FJ Harden your hearts against us not as stone ; 
For, if to pity us poor wights you're fain, 

God shall the rather grant you benison. 

You see us six, the gibbet hereupon: 
As for the flesh that we too well have fed, 
'Tis all devoured and rotted, shred by shred. 

Let none make merry of our piteous case, 
Whose crumbling bones the life long since hath fled : 

The rather pray, God grant us of His grace ! 



ea: 



Yea, we conjure you, look not with disdain, 
Brothers, on us, though we to death were done 

By justice. Well you know, the saving grain 
Of sense springs not in every mother's son : 
Commend us, therefore, now we're dead and gone, 

To Christ, the Son of Mary's maidenhead, 

That he leave not His grace on us to shed 
And save us from the nether torture -place. 

Let no one harry us: forsooth, we're sped: 
The rather pray, God grant us of His grace ! 



DIVERS POEMS 

in 
We are whiles scoured and soddened of the rain 

And whiles burnt up and blackened of the sun : 
Corbies and pyets have our eyes out-ta'en 

And plucked our beard and hair out, one by one. 

Whether by night or day, rest have we none: 
Now here, now there, as the wind shifts its stead, 
We swing and creak and rattle overhead, 

No thimble dinted like our bird-pecked face. 
Brothers, have heed and shun the life we led: 

The rather pray, God grant us of His grace ! 

ENVOI 

Prince Jesus, over all empowered, 
Let us not fall into the Place of Dread, 

But all our reckoning with the Fiend efface. 
Folk, mock us not that are forspent and dead ; 

The rather pray, God grant us of His grace ! 



HE REQUEST OF VILLON, PRESENTED TO 

THE HIGH COURT OF PARLIAMENT 

IN BALLAD FORM 

I 

ALL my five senses, in your several place, 
Hearing and seeing, taste and touch and smell, 
Every my member branded with disgrace, 
Each on this fashion do ye speak and tell : 
' Most Sovereign Court, by whom we here befell, 



DIVERS POEMS 

Thou that deliveredst us from sore dismays, 
The tongue sufficeth not thy name to blaze 

Forth in such strain of honour as it should : 
Wherefore to thee our voices all we raise, 

Sister of angels, mother of the good!' 



Heart, cleave in sunder, or in any case 

Be not more hardened and impermeable 
Than was the black rock in the desert -space, 

Which with sweet water for the Jews did swell ; 

Melt into tears and mercy cry, as well 
Befits a lowly heart that humbly prays : 
Give to the Court, the kingdom's glory, praise, 

The Frenchman's stay, the help of strangerhood, 
Born of high heaven amidst the empyreal rays : 

Sister of angels, mother of the good! 

in 

And you, my teeth, your sockets leave apace ; 

Come forward, all, and loudlier than bell, 
Organ or clarion, render thanks for grace 

And every thought of chewing now repel. 

Bethink you, I was doomed to death and hell, 
Heart, spleen and liver palsied with affrays : 
And you, my body, (else you were more base 

Than bear or swine that in the dunghill brood,) 
Extol the Court, ere worser hap amaze ; 

Sister of angels, mother of the good! 




DIVERS POEMS 
ENVOI 

Prince, of thy grace deny me not three days 
To bid my friends adieu and go my ways : 

Without them, I've nor money, clothes nor food. 
Triumphant Court, be't as thy suppliant says ; 

Sister of angels, mother of tbe good ! 

BALLAD OF VILLON'S APPEAL 



(~* ARNIER, how like you my appeal ? 

\J, Did I wisely, or did I ill ? 

Each beast looks to his own skin's weal : 

If any bind him, to keep or kill, 

He does himself free to the best of his skill. 
When then, sans reason, to me was sung 

This pleasant psalm of a sentence, still 
Was it a timt to bold my tongue ? 



Were I of Capet's race somedele 

(Whose kin were butchers on Montmartre hill) 
They had not bound me with iron and steel 

Nor forced me to swizzle more than my fill : 

(You know the trick of it, will or nill ?) 
But, when of malice prepense and wrong, 

They doomed me to swallow this bitter pill, 
Was it a time to bold my tongue ? 

213 



DIVERS POEMS 



Think you that under my cap I feel 
Not reason nor ableness thereuntil, 

Sufficient to say, ' I do appeal ' ? 

Enough was left me (as warrant I will) 
To keep me from holding my clapper still, 

When jargon, that meant ' You shall be hung' 
They read to me from the notary's bill : 

Was it a time to bold my tongue ? 

ENVOI 

Prince, had I had the pip in my bill, 
Long before this I should have swung, 

A scarecrow hard by Montfaucon mill 1 
Was it a time to bold my tongue ? 



BALLAD OF PROVERBS 



GOATS scratch until they spoil their bed ; 
Pitcher to well too oft we send : 
The iron's heated till it's red 

And hammered till in twain it rend : 

The tree grows as the twig we bnd : 

Men journey till they disappear 

Even from the memory of a friend : 
We shout out 'No'tl ' till it's bere. 

214 



DIVERS POEMS 
II 

Some mock until their hearts do bleed : 

Some are so frank that they offend: 
Some waste until they come to need : 

A promised gift is ill to spend : 

Some love God till from church they trend : 
Wind shifts until to North it veer : 

Till forced to borrow do we lend : 
We stout out 'Noil ' till it's bert. 

in 

Dogs fawn on us till them we feed : 
Song's sung until by heart it's kenned : 

Fruit's kept until it rot to seed : 

The leagured place falls in the end : / 
Folk linger till the occasion wend : 

Haste oft throws all things out of gear: 
One clips until the grasp's o'erstrained : 

We shout out 'NoHl' till it's here. 

ENVOI 

Prince, fools live so long that they mend : 
They go so far that they draw near : 

They're cozened till they apprehend: 
We sbout out 'NoSl' till it's bere. 



215 



DIVERS POEMS 



BALLAD OF THINGS KNOWN AND 
UNKNOWN 



FLIES in the milk I know full well : 
I know men by the clothes they wear : 
I know the walnut by the shell : 
I know the foul sky from the fair : 
I know the pear-tree by the pear : 
I know the worker from the drone 

And eke the good wheat from the tare : 
/ know all save myself alone. 

II 

I know the pourpoint by the fell 
And by his gown I know the frere : 

Master by varlet I can spell : 

Nuns by the veils that hide their hair : 
I know the sharper and Lis snare 

And fools that fat on cates have grown : 
Wines by the cask I can compare : 

/ know all save myself alone. 

in 

I know how horse from mule to tell : 
I know the load that each can bear: 

I know both Beatrice and Bell : 
I know the hazards, odd and pair: 

216 



DIVERS POEMS 

I know of visions in the air : 
I know the power of Peter's throne 

And. how misled Bohemians were : 
/ know all save myself alone. 

ENVOI 

Prince, I know all things : fat and spare, 
Ruddy and pale, to me are known 

And Death that endeth all our care : 
/ know all save myself alone. 



BALLAD OF POOR CHIMNEYSWEEPS 



MEN talk of those the fields that till ; 
Of those that sift out chaff from com : 
Of him that has, will he or nill, 

A wife that scoldeth night and morn, 

As folk hard driven and forlorn : 
Of men that often use the sea ; 
Of monks that of poor convents be ; 

Of those behind the ass that go : 
But, when all things consider we, 

Poor chimneysweeps have toil eno\ 

217 



DIVERS POEMS 
II 

To govern boys and girls with skill, 
God wot, 's no labour lightly borne : 

Nor to serve ladies at Love's will ; 
Or do knight suit at sound of horn, 
Helmet and harness always worn, 

And follow arms courageously : 

To joust and tilt with spears, perdie, 
And quintain play, is hard, I know : 

But, when all things consider we, 
Poor chimneysweeps have toil eno'. 



God wot, they suffer little ill 

By whom wheat's reaped and meadows shorn ; 
Or those that thresh grain for the mill 

Or plead the Parliament beforne ; 

To borrow money's little scorn ; 
Tinkers and carters have to dree 
But little hardship, seemeth me ; 

Nor does Lent irk us much, I trow : 
But, when all things consider we, 

Poor chimneysweeps bave toil eno'. 

[ENVOI deest.] 



218 



DIVERS POEMS 
BALLAD OF FORTUNE 



I OF old times by makers Fortune hight, 
Whom, Fran9ois, thou dost rail at and decry, 
Far better men than thou, poor nameless wight, 

I grind into the dust with poverty 

And gar them delve i' the quarries till they die : 
Wherefore complainest thou ? If thou live ill, 
Thou art not singular : so, peace, be still. 

Think but how many mighty men of yore 

I've laid stark dead to stiffen in their gore, 
By whom thou'rt but a scullion knave, perdie. 

Content thee, then, and chide thy fate no more ; 
/ rede tbee, Villon, take it all in gree. 

ii 

Oft have I girded me to wreak my spite 
Upon great kings : lo, in the days gone by, 

Priam I slew ; and all his warlike might 
Availed him nought, towers, walls nor ramparts high. 
'Gainst Hannibal no less did I apply, 

Who was attaint in Carthage by my skill : 

And Scipio Africanus did I kill : 

Great Caesar to the Senate I gave o'er 

And wrecked stout Pompey upon Egypt shore : 

Jason I drowned by tempest on the sea 

And burned both Rome and Romans heretofore : 

/ red* tbee, Villon, take it all in gree. 

219 



DIVERS POEMS 
III 

Nay, Alexander, that renowned knight, 

Who longed to reach the backward of the sky 

And shed much blood, with poison did I blight ; 
I made Arphaxad on the field to lie, 
Dead, by his royal standard. Thus did I 

Full many a time and yet more will fulfil : 

Nor time nor reason can awry my will. 
Huge Holophernes, too, that did adore 
Strange gods, whom Judith with his sword of war 

Slew as he slept ; and Absalom, as he 

Fled, by the love -locks hanged I that he wore. 

/ rede tbee, Dillon, take it all in gree. 

ENVOI 

Poor Fran9ois, set my rede in thy heart's core : 
If I could aught without God's leave or lore, 

I'd leave no rag to one of all that be ; 
For each ill done I'd compass half a score : 

/ rede tbee, Villon, take it all in grc*. 



BALLAD AGAINST THOSE WHO MISSAY 
OF FRANCE 






LET him meet beasts that breathe out fiery rain, 
Even as did Jason hard by Colchis town ; 
Or seven years changed into a beast remain, 
Nebuchadnezzar-like, to earth bowed down ; 



DIVERS POEMS 

Or suffer else such teen and mickle bale 

As Helen's rape on Trojans did entail; 
Or in Hell's marshes fallen let him fare 
Like Tantalus and Proserpine or bear 

A grievouser than Job his sufferance, 

Prisoned and pent in Daedalus his snare, 

Who would wish ill unto the realm of France. 



ii 



Four months within a marish let him plain, 

Bittern-like, with the mud against his crown ; 
Or sell him to the Ottoman, to chain 

And harness like an ox, the scurvy clown 1 
Or thirty years, like Maudlin, without veil 
Or vesture, let him his misdeeds bewail ; 

Or with Narcissus death by drowning share ; 

Or die like Absalom, hanged by the hair ; 
Or Simon Magus, by his charms' mischance ; 

Or Judas, mad with horror and despair, 
Wbo would wisb ill unto the realm of France. 



If but Octavian's time might come again, 

His molten gold should down his throat be thrown, 

Or 'twixt two millstones he should grind for grain, 
As did St. Victor ; or I'd have him drown 

Far out to sea, where help and breath should fail, 

Like Jonah in the belly of the whale ; 



DIVERS POEMS 

Let him be doomed the sunlight to forswear, 
Juno her goods and Venus debonair, 

And be of Mars oppressed to utterance, 
As was Antiochus the king, whilere, 

Who would wish ill unto the realm of France. 

ENVOI 

Prince, may winds bear him to the wastes of air 
Or to the mid -sea woods and sink him there : 

Be all his hopes changed to desesperance ; 
For he deserves not any fortune fair 

IVbo would wisb ill unto the realm of France, 



BALLAD OF THE DEBATE OF THE HEART 
AND BODY OF VILLON 



WHAT is't I hear ? Tis I, thy heart; 'tis I 
That hold but by a thread for frailty, 
I have nor force nor substance, all drained dry, 

Since thee thus lonely and forlorn I see, 

Like a poor cur, curled up all shiveringly. 
How comes it thus ? Of thine unwise Hesse. 
What irks it thee ? / suffer the distress. 

Leave me in peace. Why ? I will cast about. 
When will that be? When I'm past childishness. 

I say no more. And I can do without. 



DIVERS POEMS 



What deemest thou ? To mend before I die. 
At thirty years ? 'Tis a mule's age, perdie. 

Is't childhood ? Nay. 'Tis madness, then, doth ply 
And grip thee ? Where ? By the nape. Seemeth me 
Nothing I know ? Yes, flies in milk, maybe : 

Thou canst tell black from white yet at a press. 

Is't all ? What words can all thy faults express ? 
If 't's not enough, we'll have another bout. 

Thou'rt lost. I'll make a fight f or't none the less. 
/ say no more. And I can do without. 

m 
Dule have I, pain and misery thou thereby: 

If thou wert some poor idiot, happily 
Thou mightst have some excuse thy heart anigh. 

Lo, foul and fair are all alike to thee. 

Or harder is thy head than stone by sea 
Or more than honour likes thee this duresse. 
Canst thou say aught in answer ? Come, confess. 

I shall be quit on't when I die, no doubt. 
God ! what a comfort 'gainst a present stress I 

/ say no more. And I can do without. 

IV 

Whence comes this evil ? Surely, from on high: 

When Saturn made me up my fardel, he 
Put all these ills in. 'Tis a foolish lie : 

Thou art Fate's master, yet its slave wilt be. 

Thereof see Solomon his homily ; 

223 



DIVERS POEMS 

The wise, he says, no planets can oppress : 
They and their influence own his mightiness. 

Nay, as they've made me, so shall it fall out. 
What sayst thou ? 'Tis the faith that I profess. 

/ say no more. And I can do without. 

ENVOI 

Wilt thou live long ? So God vouchsafe me, yes. 
Then must thou What ? Repent ; forswear idlesse 
And study What ? The lore of righteousness. 

I'll not forget. Forsake the motley rout 
And to amendment straightway thee address : 
Delay not till thou come to hopelessness. 

/ say no more. And I can do without. 



BALLAD 



WRITTEN By VILLON UPON A SUBJECT PROPOSED BY CHARLES 
DUC D'ORLEANS 



I DIE of thirst, although the spring's at hand; 
Hot as a fire, my teeth with cold do shake : 
In my own town, I'm in a foreign land ; 
Hard by a burning brazier do I quake ; 
Clad like a king, yet naked as a snake. 

224 



DIVERS POEMS 

I laugh through tears, expect sans hope soe'er 
And comfort take amiddleward despair ; 

Glad, though I joy in nought beneath the sun, 
Potent am I, and yet as weak as air; 

Well entertained, rebuffed of every one. 



Nought's dim to me save what I understand ; 

Uncertain things alone for sure I take ; 
I doubt but facts that all unquestioned stand ; 

I'm only wise by chance for a whim's sake ; 

' Give you good -night ! ' I say, whenas I wake ; 
Lying at my length, of falling I beware; 
I've goods enough, yet not a crown to spare ; 

Leave off a loser, though I still have won; 
Await bequests, although to none I'm heir ; 

Well entertained, rebuffed of every one. 

in 

I care for nought, yet all my life I've planned 
Goods to acquire, although I've none at stake ; 

They speak me fairest, by whom most I'm banned, 
And truest, who most mock of me do make : 
He is my friend, who causes me mistake 

Black ravens for white swans and foul for fair; 

Who doth me hurt, I hold him debonair; 
'Twixt truth and lying difference see I none ; 

Nought I conceive, yet all in mind I bear; 
Well entertained, rebuffed of every one. 

22$ 



DIVERS POEMS 
ENVOI 

Most clement Prince, I'd have you be aware 
That I'm like all and yet apart and rare; 

Much understand, yet wit and knowledge shun : 
To have my wage again is all my care; 

Well entertained, rebuffed of every one. 



BALLAD OF VILLON'S REQUEST TO THE 
DUG DE BOURBON 



RACIOUS my lord and prince of mickle dread, 

Flower of the Lily, Royal progeny, 
Fran9ois Villon, whom dule and teen have led 

To the blind strokes of Fate to bend the knee, 

Sues by this humble writing unto thee, 
That thou wilt of thy grace to him make loan. 
Before all courts his debit he will own : 

Doubt not but he thy right will satisfy, 
With interest thereunder due and grown : 

Nothing but waiting shall tbou lose thereby. 



Of no prince has thy creature borrowed, 
Save of thyself, a single penny fee : 

The six poor crowns were wholly spent in bread, 
That whiles thy favour did advance to me. 
All shall be paid together, I agree, 

226 



DIVERS POEMS 

And that right soon, ere many days be flown ; 
For if in Patay wood are acorns known 

Or chestnuts thereabouts folk sell and buy, 
In season thou shall have again thine own : 

Nothing but waiting sbalt tbou lose thereby. 



If I could sell my youth and lustihead 

Unto the Lombards, usurers that be, 
Lack -gold has brought me to such piteous stead, 

I do believe I should the venture dree. 

In purse or belt no money can I see : 
I wonder what it is, by God His throne I 
For unto me, save it be wood or stone, 

No cross at all appears, I do not lie : 
But, if the true cross once to me be shown, 

Nothing but waiting sbalt tbou lose thereby. 

ENVOI 

Prince of the Lys, that lov'st good deeds alone, 
Think'st thou it has not cost me many a groan 

That I can not to my intent draw nigh ? 
Give ear, if it so please thee, to my moan : 

Nothing but waiting sbalt tbou lose thereby. 



227 



SUNDRY POEMS 
ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON 



Ijere foffou? aun&ry $oem common^ 
attributed to (master franeois (tfiffon 



ROUNDEL 

\AREWELL, I say, with tearful eye. 

Farewell, the dearest sweet to see ! 

Farewell, o'er all the kindest she 1 
Farewell, with heavy heart say I. 
Farewell, my love, my soul, good-bye 1 

My poor heart needs must part 

from thee : 
Farewell, / say, with tearful eye. 

Farewell, by whose default I die 

Deaths more than told of tongue can be : 
Farewell, of all the world to me 

Whom most I blame and hold most high I 
Farewell, I say, witb tearful eye. 




231 



POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON 



A MERRY BALLAD OF VINTNERS 



BY dint of dart, by push of sharpened spear, 
By sweep of scythe or thump of spike-set mace, 

By poleaxe, steel -tipped arrow-head or shear 

Of double-handed sword or well -ground ace, , 
By dig of dirk or tuck with double face, 

Let them be done to death ; or let them light 

On some ill stead, where brigands lurk by night, 
That they the hearts from out their breasts may tear, 
Cut off their heads, then drag them by the hair 

And cast them on the dunghill to the swine, 
That sows and porkers on their flesh may fare, 

The vintners that put water in our wire. 



Let Turkish quarrels run them through the rear 
And rapiers keen their guts and vitals lace ; 

Singe their perukes with Greek fire, ay, and sear 
Their brains with levins ; string them brace by brace 
Up to the gibbet ; or for greater grace, 

Let gout and dropsy slay the knaves outright : 

Or else let drive into each felon wight 



232 






POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON 

Irons red-heated in the furnace -flare : 

Let half a score of hangmen flay them bare ; 

And on the morrow, seethed in oil or brine, 

Let four great horses rend them then and there, 

Tbe vintners that put water in our wine. 

in 

Let some great gunshot blow their heads off sheer ; 

Let thunders catch them in the market-place ; 
Let rend their limbs and cast them far and near, 

For dogs to batten on their bodies base ; 

Or let the lightning -stroke their sight efface. 
Frost, hail and snow let still upon them bite ; 
Strip off their clothes and leave them naked quite, 

For rain to drench them in the open air; 

Lard them with knives and poniards and then bear 
Their carrion forth and soak it in the Rhine ; 

Break all their bones with mauls and do not spare 
Tbe vintners that put water in our wine. 

ENVOI 

Prince, may God curse their vitals! is my prayer; 

And may they burst with venom all, in fine, 
These traitorous thieves, accursed and unfair, 

Tbe vintners that put water in our wine. 



233 



POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON 



BALLAD OF THE TREE OF LOVE 



1HAVE within my heart of hearts a tree, 
A plant of Love, fast rooted therewithin, 
That bears no fruit, save only misery ; 

Hardship its leaves and trouble its flowers bin. 

But, since to set it there Love did begin, 
It hath so mightily struck root and spread 
That, for its shadow, all my cheer is fled 

And all my joys do wither and decay : 
Yet win I not, of all my lustihead, 

Otber to plant or tear the old away. 

II 

Year after year, its branches watered be 
With tears as bitter and as salt as sin ; 

And yet its fruits no fairer are to see 
Nor any comfort therefrom can I win : 
Yet pluck I them among the leavis thin ; 

My heart thereon full bitterly is fed, 

That better had lain fallow, ay, or dead, 
Than to bear fruits of poison and dismay : 

But Love his law allows me not instead 
Otber to plant or tear tbe old away. 

234 



POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON 



If, in this time of May, when wood and lea 

Are broidered all with leaves and blossoms sheen, 

Love would vouchsafe this succour unto me, 
To prune away the boughs that lie between, 
That so the sun among the buds be seen, 

And imp thereon some graft of goodlihead, 

Full many a pleasant burgeon would it shed, 
Whence joy should issue, lovelier than the day ; 

And no more were despair solicited 
Other to plant or tear the old away. 

ENVOI 

Dear my Princess, my chiefest hope and dread, 
Whom my heart serves in penitential stead, 

The woes that harrow it do thou allay 
And suffer not thy constant thought be led 

Other to plant or tear the old away. 



BALLAD OF LADIES' LOVE 
No. i 

I 

ELL enough favoured and with substance still 
Some little stored, chance brought me 'neath 

love's spell 

And day and night, until I had my will, 
I pined in languor unendurable : 
I loved a damsel more than I can tell ; 

235 



W 



POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON 

But, with good luck and rose -nobles a score, 
I had what men of maids have had before. 

Then, in myself considering, I did say : 
' Love sets by pleasant speech but little store; 

The wealthy gallant always gains the day' 

II 

So chanced in that, whilst coin my purse did fill, 
The world went merry as a marriage bell 

And I was all in all with her, until, 

Without word said, my wanton's loose eyes fell 
Upon a graybeard, rich but foul as hell : 

A man more hideous never woman bore. 

But what of that ? He had his will and more : 
And I, confounded, stricken with dismay, 

Upon this text went glosing passing sore : 
'Tbf wealthy gallant always gains the day.' 

in 

Now she did wrong ; for never had she ill 

Or spite of me: I cherished her so well 
That, had she asked me for the moon, my skill 

I had essayed to storm heaven's citadel. 

Yet, of sheer vice, her body did she sell 
Unto the service of that satyr hoar : 
The which I seeing, of my clerkly lore 

I made and sent to her a piteous lay : 
And she : ' Lack-gold undid thee : ' words but four. 

The wealthy gallant always gains the day. 

236 



POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON 
ENVOI 

Fair Prince, more skilled than any one of yore 
In pleasant speech, look thou have coin galore 

Within thy pouch : as Meung that clerk so gay 
And wise, hath told us, in the amorous war 

The wealthy gallant always gains tbe day. 



BALLAD OF LADIES' LOVE" 
No. 2 



f)ere enoef0 



QBooft of f$e (poem* of 
(Eiffon 



i This Ballad is omitted for the reasons stated in the Foreword. 
237 



NOTES 




NOTES 



N preparing the following, I have endeav- 
oured, as far as possible, to avoid encum- 
bering the book with a quantity of 
unnecessary notes, bearing upon informa- 
tion within the reach of every educated 
person, and have confined myself to 
throwing light, to the best of my ability, 
upon such points as must of necessity be 
obscure to all but a special student of the old poet. Even this 
limited scheme must unavoidably be but imperfectly carried out : 
many of Villon's allusions to persons, places and things are at the 
present day hopelessly obscure and inexplicable, owing to our 
defective acquaintance with his life and times, and I have chosen 
to leave untouched the passages wherein they occur, rather than 
hamper the text with a mass of vague and purely conjectural 
explanations, which my readers are perfectly well qualified to 
suggest for themselves. Those admirers of the poet, who are 
desirous of making themselves more minutely acquainted with the 
labours of modern criticism, should consult the monographs of 
MM. Bijvanck, Longnon and Vitu and the editions cited in my 
prefatory note, where they will find all that is at present known or 
, conjectured on the subject ably and impartially stated and discussed. 



NOTES TO THE LESSER TESTAMENT 

Octave i. line 7. Vegctius. Flavii Vegetii Epitome Rei Mili- 
taris, the translation (or rather paraphrase) of which by Jehan de 
Meung, under the title of " L'Art de Chevalerie selon Vegesse," 
is frequently cited by mediaeval writers. 

241 



NOTES 

Oct. ix. Villon seems here to burlesque the customs of chivalry, 
feigning himself a knight and bequeathing the paraphernalia of 
knighthood to some relative charged to maintain the honour of 
the name. 

Oct. xii. The White Horse, Mule, Diamond and Striped 
Ass were probably signs of well-known taverns. The Decretal 
Ontnis utrius sexus was (according to M. Prompsault) one order- 
ing all Christians to confess at least once a year to their parish 
priest and had lately been revived against the Mendicant Orders, 
by the repeal of an intermediate Bull authorising the latter to 
receive confessions in detriment to the rights of the regular clergy. 

Oct. xiii. The Wether, Gad, Crowned Ox and Cow and 
Churl. Probably also tavern signs. 

Oct. xv. The Art of Memory. Probably either the Ars 
Memorativa or the Ars Memoriae of Jacobus Publicius, popular 
mnemonic treatises of the middle ages. Misprepense. Mai- 
pense 1 , probably as M. Bijvanck suggests, a farce-type or personifi- 
cation of a harebrained witless man, of the family of Maugouverne, 
Malavise' Malduit, Malemort, etc., in the popular stage-pieces, 
farces, sotties, moralities and mysteries of the time. Villon here, 
according to his usual practice, first makes a bequest and then 
virtually annuls it, giving the legatee the book called the Art of 
Memory, but directing it to be procured from Malpense', the one 
person of all others who would not possess it. It may be noted, 
once for all, that this underlying contradiction in terms is the 
motive of most of the fantastic legacies contained in the poet's two 
Testaments. 

Oct. xvi. 1.7. Cle'ment Marot suggests that the shop in question 
was to be that of a scribe or public writer. Also the acorns willows 
bear. Another instance of an illusory bequest as willows of 
course bear no glands or acorns. 

Oct. xix. According to M. Lacroix, the Castle of Nygeon and 
Bicetre near Paris were both in ruins in Villon's time and the 
haunt of numerous bands of thieves and vagabonds. They were 
probably well known to the poet, who facetiously bequeaths the 
right of shelter in them to Montigny and Grigny, fellow-rogues 
of his. 



242 



NOTES 

Oct. xx. The 'Puppet' Cistern. L'Abreuvoyr Poupin, a 
well-known resort of rogues and vagabonds on the Pont Neuf, 
apparently a sort of succursal to the more celebrated Cour des 
Miracles. The text may, perhaps, be read as referring to a low 
tavern situate in the neighbourhood. The Fir-cone (or Fir slpple) 
Tavern. Le Cabaret de la Pomme de Pin, the most famous of its 
time in Paris, situate in the Rue de la Juiverie and mentioned by 
many writers of the day. Back to chair. Le doz aux rains, i. e., 
le dos aux reins, lit. "back to loins," i. e., lying back in an 
unceremonious attitude of comfortable abandon in his chair. Rains 
may also be read as for raims, an old French form of ramcaux, 
branches, often used in the sense (v. Diez, Ducange, etc.) of 
"faggots," in which case le do^ aux ratns would mean " with his 
back to the faggots piled up beside the fire." M. Bijvanck's pro- 
posal to read " le doz aux rais," i. e., back to the rays of the sun, 
is too far-fetched for adoption. This octave is one of the most 
garbled in the whole work and has been a favourite battle-ground 
of the commentators. 

Oct. xxi. 1. 3. Thai baron' 's grace. The baron alluded to 
appears to have been the Lieutenant-Criminel of Paris. Jehan 
Mautainct and Pierre Basanier were officials of his (the Chatelet) 
Court. 

Oct. xxii. The Helmet. Apparently a tavern sign. La 
Pierre au Lait, according to M. Longnon, was an old name for 
the Rue des Ecrivains (formerly) near St. Jacques de la Bou- 
cherie. The Three Lilies. Les Trois-Lis, supposed by some 
commentators to have been the name of a dungeon (perhaps Les 
Trois-Lits, the Three Beds) in the Chfttelet Prison ; but a refer- 
ence is probably meant to some tavern sign. 

Oct. xxiii. Some sort of play appears to be here intended 
upon the word Barre, in its heraldic sense of bend sinister or sign 
of illegitimacy and its mediseval meaning of merchant's bar or 
counter. Goodcbeap man or Chapman. Un bon marchant, a cant 
name for a thief ; who, getting goods cheap, i. e , for nothing, can 
afford to sell them again at a low price. The legatee seems to 
have been a souteneur or prostitutes' bully ; hence the gift of straw, 
which was used by women of ill fame in lieu of carpet. Some 

243 



NOTES 

versions of this passage read marquand for marcbant, in which 
case Villon may be supposed to have intended a play upon the 
word marque, a mediaeval slang equivalent for our doxy or 
blowen ; thus marquand might mean dealer in marques or wenches, 
which would accord with the legatee's character. 

Oct. xxiv. Chollet and Jehan le Loup. Thieves of Villon's 
acquaintance. A duck. It seems uncertain whether the poet 
refers to the ducks and geese kept by the city of Paris and adjacent 
commoners upon the water-moats, or to the prostitutes (known by 
the cant names of oies and canettes) who used to haunt the dry 
moats after sundown. 

Oct. xxvii. 1. i. My right of nomination. " Les nominations 
e'taient une certaine quantity de prebendes attributes aux gradues 
des Universite's par 1'Article 15 de la Pragmatique." Coquillart, 
Ed. He'ricault I., p. 131, n. 2. 

Oct. xxix. 1. i. The Crosier of the street Of St. Antoine. A 
tavern sign, evidently introduced for the sake of a play upon the 
words crosse (crozier) and on crosse (folk beat or butt, strike the 
ball with the cue). 

Oct. xxx. The lodgers 'neath the stalls, i. e., the beggars and 
vagabonds who used to lie under the street-booths or stalls by 
night. Each one a buffet on the eye. Chascun sur 1'oeil une 
grongn^e. " Groignet, gourmade, coup de poing sur 1'ceil ou 
visage." Ducange. 

Oct. xxxii. 1. 6. The Fifteen Signs. Les Quinze Signes du 
Jugement dernier, a favourite theme of mediaeval homily and 
morality. 

Oct. xxxiii. Le Mortier d'Or. Probably the sign of some well- 
known shop or tavern at Paris, facetiously bequeathed to Jehan de 
la Garde, in allusion to his nickname of ' Epicier.' To grind bis 
mustard. Broyer sa moutarde, according to M. Bijvanck, anciently 
meant "to chew upon one's ill humour or chagrin." The pestle 
from St. Maur would seem to have been a gibbet. (The legatee, 
as a sergeant of the watch, was of course one of Villon's natural 
enemies.) I believe the double-handed pestle was at one time 
called potence, on account of its resemblance to an ordinary cross- 
barred gallows. M. Moland thinks it may have meant one of the 

244 






NOTES 

crutches hung up ex-voto in the Church of St. Maur. In the 
seventh line of the same stanza Villon says, St. Anthony roatt 
him full sore ! alluding to the erysipelatous disease known as St. 
Anthony's fire. 

Oct. xxxiv. Gou-vieux (says M. Lacroix) was a castle on the 
Oise, of which Peter de Ronseville was probably governor. It is 
possible that Villon had been imprisoned there and made this 
bequest to the gaolers, in derisive memory of his sufferings at their 
hands. Such crowns ... as the prince givetb for largessi, i. e., 
none at all, princes in general (or perhaps some contemporary 
prince in particular renowned for his closefistedness) being in the 
habit of promising much, but giving little. 

Octaves xxxvi-viii. These three octaves appear to be a clumsy 
paraphrase (or perhaps parody) of some popular mediaeval abstract 
or digest of Aristotle de Anima in use in the schools. 

Oct. xl. I./. Pewter. Billon, i. e., base or small coin, other 
than silver. 



NOTES TO THE GREATER TESTAMENT 

Oct. v. I'm ill at reading, i. e. prayers. Some texts have 
lire, others dire, but the two expressions are practically synonymous 
and signify the act of supplication, prayers in the Middle Ages 
being always read. 'Twould be but such as Picards' were; i. e. 
none at all, the Picards or heretics of the Walloon country being 
popularly credited with dispensing altogether with prayer, probably 
from the fact that they eschewed prayers for the dead. 

Oct. vi. 11. 7 and S. Tbe seventh verse . . . Of the Psalm 
Deus laudem. This is the eighth verse of Psalm cix. of the 
English version (Hold not Thy tongue, O God of my praise .') and 
stands thus, Let bis days be few and another take bis office. 
Villon's intention in applying it to the Bishop of Orleans is still 
more obvious when we compare the Vulgate version, ' Fiant dies 
ejus pauci et episcopatum ejus accipiat alter.' 

245 



NOTES 

Oct. x. 1. 6. The late Lord Dauphin, i. e. Louis XI himself, 
who bore the title of Dauphin of Viennois during his father's 
lifetime. 

Oct. xii. 1. 8. Averrb'des his Comment, i. e. upon Aristotle. 

Oct. xx. 11. 7-8 Catenas . . . Of Rome styled Greatest. 
Valerius Maximus. The anecdote of Diomedes and Alexander 
appears to have been taken not from Valerius, as stated in the text, 
but from a fragment of Cicero de Republic;!, quoted by Nonius 
Marcellus, in which the corsair's name is not given. 

Oct. xxx. 1. 7. Shod, breeched like oyster-fishers, i. e. bare- 
legged and footed ? 

Oct. xxxvi. 1. 5. Jacques Cceur. The great French merchant 
and patriot, whose liberality enabled Charles VII to accomplish 
the reconquest of France and who afterwards fell into disgrace 
through Court intrigues. 

Oct. xxxvii. 1. 2. Alas, no longer is he one! Alluding of course 
to Jacques Cceur, who died at Chio, Nov. 25, 1456. 

Oct. xxxix. 11. 5, 7. High-tired or hooded, i. e. ladies of quality 
or women of the middle class. 

BALLAD OF OLD-TIMB LADIES, ii, 5. The queen who willed, etc. 
Marguerite de Bourgogne, wife of Louis le Hutin, King of France. 
Cf . Dumas' famous drama, La Tour de Ncsle. 

FIRST BALLAD OF OLD-TIME LORDS, iii. 6. Lancelot, King of 
Behaine. This appears, at first sight, to refer to the fabulous hero 
of La Mort d'Arthur, Lancelot du Lac, King of Bayonne or 
Behaine ; but the commentators are probably correct in supposing 
the person whom the poet had in view to be Wladislaw, King of 
Bohemia, who died in 1457. 

THE COMPLAINT op THE FAIR HELM-MAKER. La Belle Heaul- 
miere. Opinions differ as to whether this personage was a woman 
of loose life, so called from the tall cap, helm or hennin, said to 
have been worn by her class, or a grisette whose occupation was 
the manufacture or sale of such articles or of actual helmets, iv. 1. 3. 
Even had he made me faggots hear. Et m'eust il fait les rains 
trayner. A possible alternative reading is " Even had he made 
me drag my loins," i. e. ground me to the earth with hard work 
and ill usage. 

246 



NOTES 

Oct. Ivii. 1. 4. That a felt bat a mortar was. The morticr or 
square cap worn by the Judges of the Parliament is probably meant. 

Oct. Ixiii. 11. 2 and 3. Made me drink of water cold So much. 
An allusion to the question by water, which Villon appears to have 
more than once undergone during his confinement in Meung gaol. 

Oct. Ixiv. 1. 7. As God loves Lombards, etc. It may, perhaps, 
be necessary to remind the reader that the Lombards, as the 
usurers of the middle ages and the inventors of banking and pawn- 
broking, bore much the same evil repute as the Jews of our own day. 

Oct. bcviii. 11. 7 and 8. Nor will I make it manifest Except 
unto the realm of France. It appears to have been in Villon's 
time obligatory, or at all events customary, to deposit (or manifest) 
wills with an ecclesiastical official during the lifetime of the 
testator. Villon afterwards (see Oct. clxxii.) expresses his inten- 
tion of cheating the Registrar of Wills of his fees. 

Oct. Ixxviii. 1. 2. "The Devil's Crake" Romaunt. Le Rommant 
du Pet-au-Diable. The researches of M. Marcel Schwob in the 
Archives Nationales of France have brought to light the judicial 
record of the protracted litigation between the University and the 
Provostry of Paris, consequent upon the measures taken by the 
latter for the putting down of certain riotous proceedings of 
the undergraduates, which kept the city in an uproar for the greater 
part of three years (1451-3) and which had their origin in the 
carrying-off by the students of a great borne, (a curb- or mere-stone, 
intended, in the absence of a footpath, to protect the front of the 
house before which it was planted against passing vehicles,) called 
" Le Pet-au-Diable " and belonging to the bdtel or town residence 
of a widow lady of quality, by name Catherine de Be"thisy, Damot- 
selle de Bruyeres. Villon doubtless bore his full share in this 
riotous frolic of his contemporaries at the University and we may 
reasonably suppose the " Romaunt " in question (which appears to 
be irretrievably lost) to have been a burlesque epic (probably a 
parody of the Chansons de Geste) of his fashion, celebrating his 
own and his fellow-students' exploits in the matter of the famous 
borne. Cf. Oct. cxxxiv, post. 

BALLAD THAT VILLON MADE AT THE REQUEST OF HIS 
MOTHER, ETC. Mary of Egypt. V. Jac. de Voragine, Leg. 

247 



NOTES 

Sanctorum (Leg. Aurea), Vit. Sanctae Manx ^Egyptiacae. >And 
eke Theopbilus. Theophilus, Vicar-general (vicedominui) of the 
diocese of Adana in Cilicia in the sixth century, being deposed by 
his bishop, sold himself to the devil to have his office again, but, 
being presently seized with remorse, besought the Virgin, for whom 
he had always (like the late Cardinal Newman) professed an 
especial devotion, with such instance that she, remembering her of 
his past good service, intervened on his behalf and compelled the 
Evil One to restore the contract. This legend was the subject of 
numerous mediaeval poems and mysteries, of which the most cele- 
brated, Le Miracle de Thlopbile, was the composition of the 
thirteenth-century trouvere Rutubeuf, who also left a poem on 
" La Vie de Sainte Marie"L'Egipcienne." 

Oct. Ixxxvii. The White Horse, Mare, Mule, Brick-red Ats. 
Tavern signs. 

Oct. Ixxxviii. 1. 3 and 4. Of wine of Aulnis, from Turgis 
Taken at my peril, casks fourteen. Prins a mes peril^ may also 
mean "taken up at my charges." Robin Turgis was the host of 
the Pomme du Pin, on whom Villon is reputed to have played the 
Baigneux wine trick mentioned in the Repues Franch.es ; (cf. 
Introduction, p. 40). 

Oct. Ixxxix. Though he's a chapman by estate. Chapman 
(marcband) may here mean "thief." See my previous note on 
this word, Lesser Testament, Oct. xxiii. My sword, without the 
scabbard. Branc, the word here used for sword, probably 
because of its similarity in sound to bran or bren, merda. The 
intention is obvious. Levied on those that come and go Within 
the Temple cloister-place. A good instance of an illusory bequest. 
The " Cousture du Temple " being private property and enclosed, 
there would be no comers and goers there to be assessed. 

Oct. xci. 1. 2. The ZMucklc Mug in Greve. The Grand Godet 
de Grfeve, apparently a wine-shop in the Place de Greve. 

Oct. xcii. 1. 8. {Mother EMaschicoue. A well-known rdtisseuse 
or vendor of ready-roasted poultry, etc., whose shop was in La Porte 
Paris, near the Grand Chatelet. 

Oct. xcix. 1. 6. The cooper's mall. Le hutinet. This word, 
in another sense, is the diminutive of hutin, n. and a., brawling, 

248 



NOTES 

quarrelsomeness, contention, also quarrelsome, contentious ; hence 
the equivoque of the following lines. 

Oct. c. 1. 3. Good-cheap man, i. e., thief. See previous notes. 

Oct. ci. 1. 2. An hundred cloves. Cent clouz. An untranslat- 
able play of words upon the word clou, in its double meaning of 
nail and clove. 

Oct. cv. 1. 8. The Abbess of Shaven-poll. Huguette du Hamel, 
Abbess of Port Royal or Pourras, near Paris, a dissolute woman, 
whose shameless debaucheries earned her the popular perversion 
of her title to Abbesse de Poil-Ras or Shaven-poll, the cant name 
for a prostitute who had been pilloried. 

Oct. cvi. 1. 8 Contemplation. Contemplation .... the equi- 
voque intended in the use of the French word is sufficiently 
obvious. 

Oct. cvii. Nay, 'tis not that I give them this, But from their 
loins all children spring, Through God. Mais de touz enffans 
sont les meres En Dieu. This is a hoplessly obscure passage and 
one can only guess at the meaning. They love their husbands so. 
Ilz ayment ainsi leurs marts, i. e., this is their (the monks') way of 
showing their love for the husbands. M. Longnon makes the 
unaccountable remark on this passage that /{ is here used for 
elles. 

Oct. cviii. 1. 5. Meung. Jehan de Meung, one of the authors of 
the Roman de la Rose. Jehan Poullieu. Johannes de Poliaco, a 
theologian of the fourteenth century, who wrote against the Mendi- 
cant Friars and whose writings were condemned by Pope John 
XXII. Matbeolus. A Latin poet of Boulogne-sur-Mer in the 
thirteenth century. 

BALLAD AND ORISON, i. 6. Arcbitriclinus. ApX t7 V^*'' OJ > 
the Greek designation of the governor of the feast at the marriage in 
Cana, mistaken by Villon for a proper name. 

Oct. cxviii. 1. 3. Donatus. The Latin grammar of the day, 
jEnus DONATUS de octo partibus orationis. 

Oct. cxxiii. 1. i.Tbe Clerks Eighteen. Le College des Dix- 
Huit at Paris was founded in the time of St. Louis for the education 
of poor students. 



249 



NOTES 

Oct. cxxvi. The Castle of Billy was doubtless in the same 
ruinous and thief-haunted state as Nygeon and Bicetre. Grigny 
seems to have been a coiner. 

Oct. cxxvii. 1. 3. The Canteen. Le Barillet, probably a tavern 
sign. 

Oct. cxxviii. 1. 8. The Lord who serves St. Christopher. The 
nobleman here alluded to is Robert d'Estouteville, Provost of 
Paris, in honour of whose marriage with Ambroise de Lore 1 Villon 
composed the Ballad which follows, presumably in his student-days. 
The Provost appears to have made some special vow of service to 
St. Christopher (who was supposed to protect his devotees against 
malemort, i. e., death unshriven), according to frequent mediaeval 
custom. 

Oct. cxxix. 1. 6. That tourney King Rene made. A celebrated 
tournament or pas d'armes held by Rene" of Anjou at Saumur in 
1446. 

BALLAD FOR A NEWLY MARRIED GENTLEMAN, ii. 3 and 4. Clary 
.... sweet bay, Olivier franc, .... Lorier souef. An evident 
punning allusion to the name of the bride, which, by the way, is 
reproduced, en acrostiche, in the initial letters of the first fourteen 
lines of the original ballad. Ambroise is the old French name of 
the clary or wild sage (O. E. Ambrose) which was apparently also 
known as Olivier franc, wild olive. Lore is an old form of laurier, 
laurel or sweet bay. 

Oct. cxxx. The Perdryers were apparently fellow-thieves or 
comrades of Villon's, who had betrayed or cheated him in some 
unexplained way ; perhaps turned King's evidence against him in 
respect of one or other of the nefarious transactions in which they 
were jointly concerned. The latter part of the octave seems to 
point to an information laid by Francois Perdryer against the poet 
in consequence of which the latter was punished for some one of 
his numerous escapades by the Parliament of Bourges. 

Oct. cxxxi. 1. i. Taillevent. Le Viandier de Maitre Taille- 
vent, cook to Charles VII, was the popular cookery-book of the 
time. 

BALLAD ENTITLED THE COUNTERBLAST TO FR ANC-GONTIER. 
Les Dict% de Franc-Gontier, by Philippe de Vitro", Bishop of 

250 



NOTES 

Meaux, was a popular pastoral romance of the fourteenth century, 
celebrating the delights of a country life : it was imitated in another 
book, entitled Let Contrcdict^ de Franc-Gontier, in which are set 
forth the discomforts of a pastoral life and the hardships that arose 
from the oppression of the squires and seigneurs of the time, per- 
sonified in a character called le Tyran and modelled upon some 
great nobleman of the day. 

Oct. cxxxiv. ^Madame de Bruyerti. Catherine de Bethisy, 
Damoiselle de Bruyeres. See ante, note to Oct. Ixxviii. 

Oct. crxxv. 1. 6. [Macrobius. The Latin rhetorician and gram- 
marian, author of the well-known Commentary upon the Somnium 
Scipionis of Cicero and of other books in great repute during the 
Middle Ages. 

Oct. cxxxviii. 11. i and 2. Wencbet who Have fathers, mothers, 
aunts . . . i. e., prostitutes. Brothel-keepers and procuresses 
have always borne some such name as tante, expressing their 
relation to the unfortunates under their control. 

Oct. cxxxix. 1. 8. SMethinks, one scarce were damn' d for it; 
i. e., for diverting a part of the superfluity of the monks and nuns 
to the benefit of the needy fillet dejoie. 

[BALLAD OF VILLON AND MUCKLE MEG. "The spirit of 
Villon is still living in the literature of France. Fat Peg is oddly 
of a piece with the work of Zola, the Goncourts, and the infinitely 
greater Flaubert ; and, while similar in ugliness, still surpasses 
them in native power. The old author, breaking with an eclat 
de <ooix, out of his tongue-tied century, has not yet been touched 
on his own ground, and still gives us the most vivid and shocking 
impression of reality. Even if that were not worth doing at all, it 
would be worth doing as well as he has done it ; for the pleasure 
we take in the author's skill repays us, or at least reconciles us to 
the baseness of his attitude. Fat Peg (La Crone Margot) is 
typical of much ; it is a piece of experience that has nowhere else 
been rendered into literature ; and a kind of gratitude for the 
author's plainness mingles, as we read, with the nausea proper to 
the business. I shall quote here a verse of an old students' song, 
worth laying side by side with Villon's startling ballade. This 
singer, also, had an unworthy mistress, but he did not choose to 

251 



NOTES 

share the wages of dishonour ; and it is thus, with both wit and 
pathos, that he laments her fall : 

' Nunc plango florem 

^Etatis tenerse 
Nitidiorem 

Veneris sidere : 
Tune columbinam 

Mentis dulcedinem, 
Nunc serpentinam 

Amaritudinem. 
Verbo rogantes 

Removes ostio, 
Munera dantes 
Foves cubiculo, 
Illos abire prsecipis 
A quibus nihil accipis, 
Caecos claudosque recipis, 
Viros illustres decipis 
Cum melle venenosa.' " i 

ROBERT Louis STEVENSON ( Preface to Familiar Studies of 
Men and Books). ] 

Oct. cxlii. [Master Hal. Maitre Henriot, the executioner of 
Paris. Noel IVellbeseen, Noel Joliz, the object of the unpleasant 
bequest made by this octave, is conjectured by some commentators 
to have been the poet's favoured rival with Catherine de Vaucelles 
and the person to whom he owed the beating mentioned in Stanza 
v of the Double Ballad of Light Loves, (q. v.). 

Oct. cxlvii. 1. i. The Fifteen-Score. The name (Quinze- 
Vingts) of a hospital at Paris founded by St. Louis for the reception 
of three hundred poor blind men, who were bound by the terms of 
their foundation to furnish mourners for all funerals taking place 
in the adjoining Cemetery of the Innocents. 

Oct. cliii. The transposition (now first made by M. Longnon 

from the MSS.) of this octave, which stands in all previous editions 

V 

i GauJcjmus : Carmina vagontm sflecla. Leipsic. Triibner. 
1879. 

252 



NOTES 

as Oct. cliv., from after to before the Roundel, " On my release," 
restores a very corrupt passage to its original sense, making it 
evident that the lais or ditty dedicated to the dead is, not (as 
seemed to be the case under the former arrangement) the Roundel 
aforesaid (which now appears in its true character, as the lais, 
mod. legs, given to Jacques Cardon) but the three elegiac octaves 
cxlix-cli. This restoration shows us how the old editors blundered 
into entitling the Roundel "Lais ou plutot Rondeau" (two very 
different things), being misled by the introversion into mistaking 
lais, lay, for lais, legacy, the word having both meanings in old 
French. 

Oct. civ. 1. 2. Alain Chartier't Lay. L'Hopital d'Amour. 

Oct. clvi. 11. 7 and 8. There appears to be some equivoque 
intended here upon the popular meaning of the word fruit, i.e., 
prostitute. 

Oct. clvii. The Seneschal here mentioned appears to have been 
Louis de Bourbon, Seneschal et Mareschal du Bourbonnais, who is 
thought to have sheltered Villon, during his second exile, at his 
town of Roussillon in Dauphine. The third line contains a play of 
words upon his title of EMarescbal (technice, blacksmith), and the 
fourth a possible allusion to the Prince's amorous disposition, oies 
et canettes being (as before mentioned) cant terms for women of 
loose life. 

Oct. clviii. 1. 6. The Blacksmiths' Provost. Tristan 1'Hermite. 

Oct. clix. 1. i. Chappelain. Probably a member of Villon's 
gang, upon whose name or nickname he plays. 

Oct. clxiii. 1. 2. According to M. Lacroix, the Convent of St. 
Avoye was the only one at Paris which was situate on the second 
floor and consequently contained no burial-place. 

Oct. clxvi. 1. i. Tbe 'Belfry' Bell. The largest of the bells 
of Notre Dame, called Le Beffroi and rung only on great occasions. 

Oct. clxvii. 1. 4. St. Stephen's loaves, i. e., stones. 

Oct. clxx. 1. 6. Philip Brunei. Supposed to have been the 
Seigneur de Grigny twice previously named by Villon, i.e., L. T., 
Oct. xviii. and G. T. Oct. cxxvi. 

Oct. clxxii. 1. 9. Perrette's Den. Le Trou Perrette, a low 
cabaret and gambling-hell at Paris. 

253 



NOTES 



NOTES TO DIVERS AND SUNDRY POEMS 

BALLAD OF VILLON IN PRISON. Apparently written in Meung 
gaol. 

VARIANT, &c. This is undoubtedly a spurious amplification of 
the foregoing Quatrain, but it is so well known that I have thought 
it well to leave it in its usual place among the occasional poems. 

EPITAPH IN BALCAD-FORM. Apparently written whilst awaiting 
execution for the burglary committed at the College de Navarre in 
1456. (The two following Ballads appear to have been composed 
on the same occasion. The actual appeal to the Parliament against 
the sentence of death has not been handed down to us.) 

BALLAD OP VILLON'S APPEAL, i. i. Gamier. Etienne 
Gamier, not (as hitherto supposed) the procureur or proctor who 
defended Villon on this occasion but (according to a note in the 
Stockholm MS.) the clerc du guicbet or head gaoler of the Con- 
ciergerie Prison. 

Do., ii. i and 2. The Chanson de Geste of Hugues Capet, the 
founder of the Bourbon dynasty, represents him as the son of 
Richer, Sire de Beaugency, and of Beatrix, the daughter of a 
butcher of Montmartre. Dante also adopts the popular tradition 
to the same effect, putting into the mouth of the shade of the hero 
the words, Figliuol fui d'un beccaio di Parigi. (Purg. xx. 52). 
Figliuol may be read in its wider sense of " lineal descendant," but 
another version of the legend represents Capet's father himself as a 
butcher of great wealth, who married the widowed Duchess of 
Orleans. The whole story, however, appears to have had no 
foundation in fact. 

BALLAD OF PROVERBS. It is hardly necessary to note that the 
point of the refrain lies in the contemporary use of the word Noel 
(Christmas) as an exclamation in the sense of Hurrah ! or Vivat ! 
etc. ii. 1. 5. Some love God till from church they trend. On 
reconsideration, I am convinced that this line should read/iyf (not 
itiyt) I'Eglisc. The substitution of the long s for the f is the 
commonest of copyists' blunders and the rectification is indicated 
by the intention of the line, which is manifestly antithetical. 

254 



NOTES 

BALLAD OF THINGS KNOWN AND UNKNOWN, iii. 7. How 
misled Bohemian* were. The allusion here is supposed to be to 
the Hussite movement. 

BALLAD AGAINST THOSE WHO MISSAY OF FRANCE, iii. 1. i. 
The "Octovien" named in this line is not, as supposed by M. 
Longnon, the Roman Emperor Augustus, whose adoptive name 
was Octavianus and who was a comparatively mild and beneficent 
ruler, but the imaginary tyrant of mediaeval romance, the Kaiser 
Octavianus of Tieck and the old legends. 

THE DEBATE OF VILLON'S BODY AND SOUL. Probably written 
in Meung gaol. 

BALLAD OF VILLON'S REQUEST, ii. 7. According to M. Promp- 
sault, there never was a wood at or near Patay. iii. 7, 8, 9. An 
audacious play of words, founded upon the double meaning of the 
word croix, i. e., cross and money, e. g., the well-known phrase, 
// n'a ni croix ni pile ' He has not a rap.' The obverse of the 
coin of the time, now distinguished by the portrait of the prince 
issuing it, was then generally stamped with a cross, the reverse 
being called pile, a name which still survives. An apt instance of 
the old English use of the word ' cross ' in the sense of the more 
modem ' rap ' occurs in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Faithful 
Friends, act i. sc. a; 

Const. Pray, gentlemen, will you pay your reckoning there? 
Snip. Not a cross, by this hand 1 

The mention of the true cross in the ninth line is a daring allusion 
to the famous l^raie croix de St. U> to which Louis XI professed a 
special devotion. 

SUNDRY POEMS ATTRIBUTED TO VILLON. These (with the 
possible exception of the Ballad of Vintners) are certainly not by 
Villon; but as they have considerable merit of their own and are 
generally included in his works, I have thought it well to let them 
stand. The Ballad of the Tree of Love has recently been identified 
as the composition of Alain Chartier, whilst the two Ballads of 
Ladies' Love are probably of considerably later date, possibly 
altogether comparatively modern imitations of the ancient style. 
The Merry Ballads of Vintners is the only one that bears any trace 

255 



NOTES 

of Villon's hand and may possibly be an early or inferior specimen 
of his work. As for the Roundel, the authorship of this tender 
little piece may perhaps be assigned to Eustache Deschamps, whose 
style it much resembles; cf. the Champenois poet's very similar 
Rondeau dts adieux a sa dame, "Adieu, mon cuer; adieu, ma 
joye," etc. 



256 



FACSIMILES 



FROM A MANUSCRIPT OF THE ISTH CENTURY 






259 



FROM AN EDITION OF THE 15 CENTURY 



ffamawo q ap;ee Hoaetwiee 
jBapejfeecacurecotreno'enSarcfe 
r fc pfte 8e woue poanr^air^ 
' eg aura pfofiofi 8^8o 9 mcrae 



^>3t 8e fa cgar 3 top 01160 fioattie 



jg^e fre^e^o^fdmSetpflfe we Seaej 

oca'd 



jSD ue fa gracene fott pout no 9 tone 



jDonefSmee moje ame lie no 9 gauc 
Sfew ^ fo 9 



& fe fofaf fefttfle 



cf anflcflet fa 6at0e^fi?6 f oorci;( 
tdmafemtf tlpoito 9 ne fomf era 
^are capnie fa come fe Sent frmc 
^ fo^ pfafffr ffieceffer none c^arr 



nat6e qne fair* qnr lie f on f^re 
orce 9ofic$eno(iteroKfrdme 



261 



HERE ENDS THE POEMS OF MASTER 
FRANCOIS VILLON OF PARIS NOW FIRST 
DONE INTO ENGLISH VERSE IN THE 
ORIGINAL FORMS WITH A BIO- 
GRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL IN- 
TRODUCTION BY JOHN PAYNE 
DONE INTO TYPE FOR 
THOMAS B MOSHER AND 
PUBLISHED BY HIM AT 
PORTLAND MAINE 
IN THE MONTH 
OF FEBRUARY 
ANNO DOMINI 
MDCCCCIX 



SEP 1 3 J972 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS PO< 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRA 



PQ 
1590 
E5P3 
1909 



Villon, Francois 

The poems of Master 
Franjois-Villon of Par: