François Villontr. A.S.Kline
Advis m'est que j'oy regreter
La belle qui fut hëaulmiere,
Soy jeune fille soushaicter
Et parler en telle maniere:
`Ha! viellesse felonne et fiere,
Pourquoi m'as si tost abatue
Qui me tient? Qui? que ne me fiere?
Et qu'a ce coup je ne me tue?

"Tollu m'as la haulte franchise
Que beaulté m'avoit ordonné
Sur clers, marchans et gens d'Eglise:
Car lors, il n'estoit homme né
Qui tout le sien ne m'eust donné,
Quoi qu'il en fust des repentailles,
Mais que luy eusse habandonné
Ce que reffusent truandailles.

"A maint homme l'ay reffusé,
Que n'estoit à moy grant sagesse,
Pour l'amour d'ung garson rusé,
Auquel j'en faisoie largesse.
A qui que je feisse finesse,
Par m'ame, je l'amoye bien!
Or ne me faisoit que rudesse,
Et ne m'amoit que pour le mien.

"Si ne me sceut tant detrayner,
Fouler au piez, que ne l'amasse,
Et m'eust il fait les rains trayner,
Si m'eust dit que je le baisasse,
Que tous mes maulx je n'oubliasse.
Le glouton, de mal entechié,
M'embrassoit ... . J'en suis bien plus grasse!
Que m'en reste il? Honte et pechié.

"Or est il mort, passé trente ans,
Et je remains vielle, chenue.
Quant je pense, lasse! au bon temps,
Quelle fus, quelle devenue;
Quant me regarde toute nue,
Et je me voy si tres changée,
Povre, seiche, mesgre, menue,
Je suis presque toute enragée.

"Qu'est devenu ce front poly,
Ces cheveulx blons, sourcilz voultiz,
Grant entroeil, le regart joly,
Dont prenoie les plus soubtilz;
Ce beau nez droit, grant ne petit;
Ces petites joinctes oreilles,
Menton fourchu, cler vis traictiz,
Et ces belles levres vermeilles?

"Ces gentes espaulles menues;
Ces bras longs et ces mains traictisses;
Petiz tetins, hanches charnues,
Eslevées, propres, faictisses
A tenir amoureuses lisses;
Ces larges rains, ce sadinet
Assis sur grosses fermes cuisses,
Dedens son petit jardinet?

"Le front ridé, les cheveux gris,
Les sourcilz cheuz, les yeulz estains,
Qui faisoient regars et ris,
Dont mains marchans furent attains;
Nez courbes, de beaulté loingtains;
Oreilles pendans et moussues;
Le vis pally, mort et destains;
Menton froncé, levres peaussues:

"C'est d'umaine beaulté l'yssue!
Les bras cours et les mains contraites,
Les espaulles toutes bossues;
Mamelles, quoy! toutes retraites;
Telles les hanches que les tetes.
Du sadinet, fy! Quant des cuisses,
Cuisses ne sont plus, mais cuissetes,
Grivelées comme saulcisses.

"Ainsi le bon temps regretons
Entre nous, povres vielles sotes,
Assises bas, à crouppetons,
Tout en ung tas comme pelotes,
A petit feu de chenevotes
Tost allumées, tost estaintes;
Et jadis fusmes si mignotes! ...
Ainsi emprent à mains et maintes."
By chance, I heard the belle complain,
The one we called the Armouress,
Longing to be a girl again,
Talking like this, more or less:
'Oh, old age, proud in wickedness,
You’ve battered me so, and why?
Who cares, who, for my distress,
Or whether at all your blows I die?

You’ve stolen away that great power
My beauty ordained for me
Over priests and clerks, my hour,
When never a man I’d see
Would fail to offer his all in fee,
Whatever remorse he’d later show,
But what was abandoned readily,
Beggars now scorn to know.

Many a man I then refused -
Which wasn’t wise of me, no jest -
For love of a boy, cunning too,
To whom I gave all my largesse.
I feigned to him unwillingness,
But, by my soul, I loved him bad.
What he showed was his roughness,
Loving me only for what I had.

He could drag me through the dirt,
Trample me underfoot, I’d love him,
Break my back, whatever’s worse,
If only he’d ask for a kiss again,
I’d soon forget then every pain.
A glutton, full of what he could win,
He’d embrace me - with him I’ve lain.
What’s he left me? Shame and sin.

Now he’s dead, these thirty years:
And I live on, old, and grey.
When I think of those times, with tears,
What I was, what I am today,
View myself naked: turn at bay,
Seeing what I am no longer,
Poor, dry, meagre, worn away,
I almost forget myself in anger.

Where’s my smooth brow gone:
My arching lashes, yellow hair,
Wide-eyed glances, pretty ones,
That took in the cleverest there:
Nose not too big or small: a pair
Of delicate little ears, the chin
Dimpled: a face oval and fair,
Lovely lips with crimson skin?

The fine slender shoulder-blades:
The long arms, with tapering hands:
My small breasts: the hips well made
Full and firm, and sweetly planned,
All Love’s tournaments to withstand:
The broad flanks: the nest of hair,
With plump thighs firmly spanned,
Inside its little garden there?

Now wrinkled forehead, hair gone grey:
Sparse eyelashes: eyes so dim,
That laughed and flashed once every way,
And reeled their roaming victims in:
Nose bent from beauty, ears thin,
Hanging down like moss, a face,
Pallid, dead and bleak, the chin
Furrowed, a skinny-lipped disgrace.

This is the end of human beauty:
Shrivelled arms, hands warped like feet:
The shoulders hunched up utterly:
Breasts ... what? In full retreat,
Same with the hips, as with the teats:
Little nest, hah! See the thighs,
Not thighs, thighbones, poor man’s meat,
Blotched like sausages, and dried.

That’s how the bon temps we regret
Among us, poor old idiots,
Squatting on our haunches, set
All in a heap like woollen lots
Round a hemp fire men forgot,
Soon kindled, and soon dust,
Once so lovely, that cocotte ...
So it goes for all of us.'

Click here 1 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © A.S.Kline 2004

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