BALLADE ET ORAISON BALLADE AND PRAYER
François Villon tr. Andrew Davidson
Pere Noé, qui plantastes la vingne,
Vous aussi, Loth, qui bustes ou rocher
Par tel party qu'Amours, qui gens engingne,
De vos filles si vous fist approucher
- Pas ne le dy pour le vous reproucher -,
Archetriclin, qui bien seustes cet art,
Tous troys vous pry qu’o vous vuelliez perchier
L’ame du bon feu maistre Jehan Cotart.

Jadis extraict il fut de vostre ligne,
Lui qui buvoit du meilleur et plus cher,
Et ne deust il avoir vaillant ung pigne:
Certes, sur tous, c'estoit ung bon archer!
On ne lui sceut pot des mains arracher:
De bien boire ne feust oncques fetart.
Nobles seigneurs, ne souffrez empescher
L'ame du bon feu maistre Jehan Cotart.

Comme homme viel qui chancelle et trespigne
L'ay veu souvent, quant il s'alloit coucher,
Et une foiz il se fist une bigne
- Bien m'en souvent - a l’etal dung bouchier.
Brief, on n'eust sceu en ce monde sercher
Meilleur pïon, pour boire tost et tart.
Faites entrer, quant vous orrez hucher,
L'ame du bon feu maistre Jehan Cotart.

Prince, il n'eust sceu jusqu'a terre cracher.
Tousjours crioit: "Haro! La gorge m'art!"
Et si ne sceust onc sa seuf estancher
L'ame due bon feu maistre Jehan Cotart.
Come, Noah, our great benefactor, said
To be the first to cultivate the vine;
Come, Lot, by darkness and strong wine misled
To know thy daughters - through no fault of thine;
Come, Master of the Feast, whose palate fine
Discerned the Saviour's vintage as the best;
All three suspend awhile your draughts divine
And bring the soul of Jean Cottard to rest.

In sooth he was a toper born and bred,
A worthy scion of your noble line.
In threadbare clothes, unkempt and underfed,
He ordered nothing but the finest wine.
His fingers round the handle did so twine
That none could tear the flagon from his breast.
Then, Masters, come ye forth with smiles benign
And bring the soul of Jean Cottard to rest.

When I beheld him going to his bed
His footsteps always traced a crooked line
And once, as I recall, he bruised his head
By striking it against a butcher's sign.
In all the world not three men could combine
To whet their whistle with so great a zest.
To his halloo your sacred ears incline,
And bring the soul of Jean Cottard to rest.

Lord Jesus, though he drank not gall or brine,
"My throat is burning!", he would roar in jest.
Receive the raging thirst his bones enshrine
And bring the soul of Jean Cottard to rest.

Click here 2 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © Andrew Davidson 2005


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