Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Ballad of Villon in Prison
By François Villon (1431–1463?)
Translation of John Payne

HAVE 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 dree
  Ill fate, as God did thereanent decree.        5
Lasses and lovers, younglings manifold,
Dancers and montebanks, 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 here to rot?        10
Clerks, that go caroling the livelong day,
  Scant-pursed, but glad and frank and full of glee;
Wandering at will along the broad highway,
  Harebrained, perchance, but whit-whole too, perdie:
  Lo! now I die, whilst that you absent be,        15
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?        20
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,        25
Whence are his teeth like rakes’ teeth to behold;
No table hath he but the sheer black mold;
  After dry bread (not manchets), pot on pot
They empty down his throat of water cold:
  Will you all leave poor Villon here to rot?        30
Princes and lords aforesaid, young 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 fold,
Flock around their fellow and do squeak and scold.        35
  Will you all leave poor Villon here to rot?

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