Ballade des dames du temps jadis  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis ("Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past") is a poem by François Villon which celebrates famous women in history and mythology. A prominent example of the "Ubi Sunt ?" genre, it is particularly known for its interrogative refrain, Mais où sont les neiges d'antan ?, translated in English as "Where are the snows of yesteryear ?"

The ballad has been made into a song (using the original Old French text) by French songwriter Georges Brassens, and by the Czech composer Petr Eben, in the cycle Sestero piesní milostnych (1951).

Text of the Ballad

The original text is mostly taken from Oxford Book of French Verse. The translation is deliberately close to the original.


Dictes moy où, n'en quel pays, Tell me where, in which country
Est Flora, la belle Rommaine; Is Flora, the beautiful Roman;
Archipiada, ne Thaïs, Archipiada (Alcibiades ?), and Thais
Qui fut sa cousine germaine; Who was her first cousin;
Echo, parlant quand bruyt on maine Echo, speaking when one makes noise
Dessus rivière ou sus estan, Over river or on lake,
Qui beaulté ot trop plus qu'humaine? Who had a beauty too much more than human?
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan! Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!

Où est la très sage Helloïs, Where is the very wise Heloise,
Pour qui fut chastré et puis moyne For whom was castrated, and then (made) a monk,
Pierre Esbaillart à Saint-Denis? Pierre Esbaillart (Abelard) in Saint-Denis ?
Pour son amour ot cest essoyne. For his love he suffered this sentence.
Semblablement, où est la royne Similarly, where is the Queen (Jeanne de Navarre)
Qui commanda que Buridan Who ordered that Buridan
Fust gecté en ung sac en Saine? Be thrown in a sack into the Seine?
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan! Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!

La royne Blanche comme lis, The queen "blanche" (white) as lily (Blanche de Castille)
Qui chantoit à voix de seraine; Who sang with a Siren's voice;
Berte au grant pié, Bietris, Allis; Bertha of the Big Foot, Beatrix, Aelis;
Haremburgis qui tint le Maine, Erembourge who ruled over the Maine,
Et Jehanne, la bonne Lorraine, And Joan (Joan of Arc), the good (woman from) Lorraine
Qu'Englois brulerent à Rouan; That the English burned in Rouen;
Où sont elles, Vierge souvraine? Where are they, oh sovereign Virgin?
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan! Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!

Prince, n'enquerez de sepmaine Prince, do not ask me in the whole week
Où elles sont, ne de cest an, Where they are - neither in this whole year,
Qu'à ce reffrain ne vous remaine: Lest I bring you back to this refrain:
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan! Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ballade des dames du temps jadis" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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