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François Villon 51  Fr ançois Villon (1431–63) From The Testament The Old Woman Regretting the Time of Her Youth, or Lament of the Beautiful Helmet Maker I thought I heard an old woman, The beautiful Helmet Maker, Grieving for her youth that’s gone, Speaking of it in this manner: “Ha! Felonious age, destroyer, Why did you beat me down this way? Who’s to stop me suffering further, Ending it with a stroke today? The power I held over men You took, my beauty at its height. Clerks, leading merchants, clergymen, Would have given all for a night With such beauty, though they might Regret it later. And would today If they saw me as I am, a sight To make a beggar turn away. Many a man I would refuse— It wasn’t quite so bright of me— For a smart boy whom I chose, Fed well, and dressed in finery. I cheated on him but, believe me, I loved him, though he drove me mad. He knocked me around a bit roughly, And loved me only for what I had. He could drag me through the mud, Tread on me . . . I loved him more. Had he maimed me, I still would. 52 French When he told me to kiss him, the sore Ribs and curses went out the door. The glutton, full of wickedness, Embraced me. And a lot of good That’s done me. Shame and sinfulness. It’s thirty years that he’s been dead, And I remain with my gray hair. When I think of the times I had, And what I am now! When I stare At my naked body, and compare Its dried up, shriveled ugliness With what it used to be, I swear I’m filled with such great bitterness! Where has the smooth forehead gone, Blond hair, arched eyebrows, wide-spaced eyes, The playful look that nets the pigeon However timorous he is, or wise He thinks he is? To itemize: A straight nose, neither big nor small, The ears too, just the perfect size, And crimson lips, to cap it all. Pretty shoulders, long and slender Arms; beautiful hands and wrists, That my fate seemed to intend for Heated tourneys in the lists Of passion . . . small, tilting breasts, Rounded thighs, wide loins, and then The vulva in its little nest In the middle of the garden. Wrinkled forehead and gray hair, Sunken eyebrows, and the eyes François Villon 53  Whose laughter drove men to despair, Clouding . . . again to itemize. The nose that was a perfect size, Hooked. Two hairy ears hang down. You’d have to look hard to realize This death’s-head is a face you’ve known. The end of beauty isn’t good: Shoulders pulled into a hump, Arms short, fingers stiff as wood. The breasts? Shrunk, scarcely a bump. The same goes for the hips and rump. The vulva? Ugh! The rounded thigh is A thigh no more, a shriveled stump Covered with spots, like sausages. So now here on our heels we squat, Each miserable poor old fool, Talking among ourselves of what We had, when life was wonderful. Women are like balls of wool Close to a fire. Soon set aflame, And soon burned out. All beautiful Women like us would say the same.” Ballade The Beautiful Helmet Maker to the Daughters of Joy “Beautiful Glove Girl, consider. Blanche the Shoemaker, black or tan, It’s time to think what the future Holds for both of you. Spare no man! Grab all the money that you can, To right and left. Now! Don’t wait! 54 French Old women have no more value than A coin that doesn’t circulate. Sausage Seller, graceful dancer, And Guillemette for Tapestry, Don’t give your boss a back answer. Without the shop where’ll you be? With some old priest. All you’ll see For wages—and he’ll hate to pay it, The Lord’s work should be done for free— A coin that doesn’t circulate. You, Bonnet Maker, bonny Jean, Don’t let your boy friend pin you down. Don’t be so choosy, Catherine. If you want a man all of your own, Try smiling for a change, don’t frown. A plain girl can always get a date, But what’ll you be when youth has flown? A coin that doesn’t circulate. Girls, be warned! The reason why I weep and cry at such a...


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