François Villon tr. Patricia Terry & Maurice Z.Shroder
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."
I still remember the lament
Of one who'd worked for an armorer,
Wishing she was still a girl,
Still beautiful. Here's what she said:
"Ah, treacherous and fierce old age,
Why did you knock me down so soon?
What keeps me from striking the blow
That would bring my life to an end?

You've taken all the lofty powers
That beauty had ordained for me
Over clerics, priests and merchants -
For there wasn't a man alive
Who wouldn't offer all he had
(No matter how he'd then repent)
If I would let him lay his hands
On what even beggars scorn today.

I held it back from many men,
Stupidly, as I see it now,
For the love of a clever lad:
To him I granted all he asked.
There were all the men I led on,
And, by my soul, just one I loved!
But he was always rough with me
And loved me for what I brought in.

Whatever harm he did to me,
How hard he beat me, I loved him still.
He could trample me under foot,
And then, if he wanted a kiss,
I'd forget all my suffering,
Give in to that God-forsaken cur -
A fat lot of good it did me!
What's left of all that? Shame and sin.

He's dead now, thirty years and more,
And I survive, white-haired and old.
When I think of good times gone by -
What I was, what I have become! -
When I look at my naked body
And see how much I've changed, alas!
Poor, dried out, just skin and bones,
I nearly go mad with rage.

What happened to that smooth forehead,
That golden hair, those arching brows,
Those well-spaced eyes, that charming glance
Which would catch the most knowing men;
That pretty nose, not long or short,
Those perfectly shaped little ears,
That dimpled chin, fair radiant face,
And those beautiful crimson lips?

Those lovely little shoulders, too,
Those supple arms, those pretty hands,
Those little breasts, well-rounded hips,
Perky, clean, and perfectly made
For the tournaments of love;
Those broad buttocks, that little bud
Atop two plump curvaceous thighs,
Nestled in its garden bower?

The wrinkled forehead, hair turned gray,
The hairless eyebrows, lifeless eyes,
Whose laughing glances used to snare
Any number of unlucky men;
The hooked nose, far from beautiful,
Ears stretched down, and hairy, too,
Face without color, faded, dead,
The drooping chin, the withered lips!

That's the fate of human beauty!
Shortened arms and crippled hands;
A hunchback's shoulders look like mine;
And what about the breasts? they're gone,
Just like the hips, completely flat.
The little bud? Bah! The thighs have shrunk
To thighlets - you can't call them thighs -
Mottled, now, like a sausage-skin.

So we lament the good old days,
We foolish women, poor and old,
Crouched down on our sorry haunches,
All in a heap, like balls of wool,
Around a little fire of straw,
Quick to flare up and quick to die
who were once adorable!

This happens to many boys and girls.

Click here 2 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © Patricia Terry & Maurice Z.Shroder 2004

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