The Nacreous Oughts

07 August 2008

    "Ballad (for the Contest at Blois)"

I die of thirst beside the fountain,
as hot as fire, trembling tooth on tooth;
in my own country I’m in far-off land;
beside a fire I shiver, all aflame;
as naked as a warm, yet richly dressed in furs;
I laugh through tears, and wait without a hope;
my only comfort is in sad despair;
I rejoice and have no pleasure;
I am strong, but have no force or power,
well received, rebuffed by all.

Nothing’s sure save what is yet uncertain,
nor more obscure than what is evident;
I have no doubts save when I’m positive;
in sudden accident is knowledge based;
I win all and yet remain the loser;
at break of day I say, “Goodnight”;
when I lie down I have great fear of falling;
I’m quite well off and yet don’t have a penny;
I always inheritance and yet am no man’s heir’
well received, rebuffed by all.

I’m never careful, but I make all efforts
to acquire wealth though I have none to claim;
who to me is nicest most annoys me;
who speaks the truth tells me most lies;
my friend is he who leads me to believe
white swan is nothing but black crow;
he who harms me does his best to help;
lies, truth are now the same to me;
I remember all, but can conceive of nothing,
well received, rebuffed by all.

Most clement prince, may you be pleased to know
that much I understand, but have no sense of reason;
I’m strongly partisan and yet agree with all.
What can I do? What? Redeem my things in pawn,
well received, rebuffed by all.

--François Villon (tr Anthony Bonner)

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