User:Jahsonic/AHE/France/Villon: 'My neck will learn the weight of my ass'
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
François Villon was a poet, thief, vagabond and master at combining lyrical texts with muffled obscenities. His love of language is reflected in his extensive knowledge of the jobelin, an argot secret language used by medieval crime societies. He finds himself repeatedly on the wrong end of the prison bars, where he also writes some of his most famous works, including his "Ballad of the Hanged". He is the precursor of the equally criminally inclined writer 20th-century Jean Genet and the first representative of prison literature as a genre.
Villons verse "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?" - But where are the snows of yesteryear - is still often cited. His love for the margins of society is appealing: he writes about whores and the grubbiness of the lower classes and he does so with compassion. In the following poem he warns 'filles de joie' for the fate that awaits them.
- And you, Blanche Slippermaker fair,
- I'd have you see yourselves in me :
- Look all to right and left take ye ;
- Disdain no man ; for whores that bin
- Old have nor course nor currency,
- No more than money that's called in. tr. John Payne
A fine example of the realist style of Villon, who often gave the physical center stage, is the epitaph written while in jail - sentenced to be hanged - when he was still in his twenties.
- I am Francois, luckless jay,
- Born at Paris, Pontoise way
- My neck, looped up beneath the tree
- Will learn how heavy buttocks be. --tr. Lewis Wharton
Despite his death sentence, he was never hanged (not in Paris, anyway) and how he died remains unknown. The last anyone heard of François, was in 1463, when he was 32.