Original French

Dictes moy ou, n'en quel pays,
Est Flora la belle Rommaine,
Archipiades ne Thaïs,
Qui fut sa cousine germaine,
Echo parlant quant bruyt on maine
Dessus riviere ou sus estan,
Qui beaulté ot trop plus q'humaine.
Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?

Ou est la tres sage Helloïs,
Pour qui chastré fut et puis moyne
Pierre Esbaillart a Saint Denis?
Pour son amour ot ceste essoyne.
Semblablement, ou est la royne
Qui commanda que Buridan
Fust geté en ung sac en Saine?
Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?

La royne Blanche comme lis
Qui chantoit a voix de seraine,
Berte au grand pié, Beatris, Alis,
Haremburgis qui tint le Maine,
Et Jehanne la bonne Lorraine
Qu'Englois brulerent a Rouan;
Ou sont ilz, ou, Vierge souvraine?
Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?

Prince, n'enquerez de sepmaine
Ou elles sont, ne de cest an,
Qu'a ce reffrain ne vous remaine:
Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?


English Translation

Ballad Of The Ladies Of Yore

Tell me where, in what country,
Is Flora the beautiful Roman,
Archipiada or Thais
Who was first cousin to her once,
Echo who speaks when there's a sound
On a pond or a river
Whose beauty was more than human?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?
Where is the leamed Heloise
For whom they castrated Pierre Abelard
And made him a monk at Saint-Denis,
For his love he took this pain,
Likewise where is the queen
Who commanded that Buridan
Be thrown in a sack into the Seine?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?

The queen white as a lily
Who sang with a siren's voice,
Big-footed Bertha, Beatrice, Alice,
Haremburgis who held Maine
And Jeanne the good maid of Lorraine
Whom the English bumt at Rouen, where,
Where are they, sovereign Virgin?
But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Prince, don't ask me in a week
or in a year what place they are;
I can only give you this refrain:
Where are the snows of yesteryear?

Men my brothers who after us live,
have your hearts against us not hardened.
For—if of poor us you take pity,
God of you sooner will show mercy.
You see us here, attached.
As for the flesh we too well have fed,
long since it's been devoured or has rotted.
And we the bones are becoming ash and dust.

Of our pain let nobody laugh,
but pray God
            would us all absolve.

If you my brothers I call, do not
scoff at us in disdain, though killed
we were by justice.  Yet þþ you know
all men are not of good sound sense.
Plead our behalf since we are dead naked
with the Son of Mary the Virgin
that His grace be not for us dried up
preserving us from hell's fulminations.

We're dead after all.  Let no soul revile us,
but pray God
            would us all absolve.

Rain has washed us, laundered us,
and the sun has dried us black.
Worse—ravens plucked our eyes hollow
and picked our beards and brows.
Never ever have we sat down, but
this way, and that way, at the wind's
good pleasure ceaselessly we swing 'n swivel,
more nibbled at than sewing thimbles.

Therefore, think not of joining our guild,
but pray God
            would us all absolve.

Prince Jesus, who over all has lordship,
care that hell not gain of us dominion.
With it we have no business, fast or loose.

People, here be no mocking,
but pray God
            would us all absolve.

WRITTEN FOR HIS MOTHER

Dame du ciel, regents terrienne,
Emperiere des infemaux palus....

Lady of Heaven and earth, and therewithal
Crowned Empress of the nether clefts of Hell,—

I, thy poor Christian, on thy name do call,
Commending me to thee, with thee to dwell,
Albeit in nought I be commendable.

But all mine undeserving may not mar
Such mercies as thy sovereign mercies are;
Without the which (as true words testify)
No soul can reach thy Heaven so fair and far.
Even in this faith I choose to live and die.
Unto thy Son say thou that I am His,
And to me graceless make Him gracious.
Said Mary of Egypt lacked not of that bliss,
Nor yet the sorrowful clerk Theopbilus,
Whose bitter sins were set aside even thus
Though to the Fiend his bounden service was.
Oh help me, lest in vain for me should pass
(Sweet Virgin that shalt have no loss thereby!)
The blessed Host and sacring of the Mass
Even in this faith I choose to live and die.

A pitiful poor woman, shrunk and old,
I am, and nothing learn'd in letter-lore.
Within my parish-cloister I behold
A painted Heaven where harps and lutes adore,
And eke an Hell whose damned folk seethe full sore:
One bringeth fear, the other joy to me.
That joy, great Goddess, make thou mine to be,—
Thou of whom all must ask it even as I;
And that which faith desires, that let it see.
For in this faith I choose to live and die.

O excellent Virgin Princess! thou didst bear
King Jesus, the most excellent comforter,
Who even of this our weakness craved a share
And for our sake stooped to us from on high,
Offering to death His young life sweet and fair.
Such as He is, Our Lord, I Him declare,
And in this faith I choose to live and die.


Dante Gabriel Rossetti, trans.

So rough the goat will scratch, it cannot sleep.
So often goes the pot to the well that it breaks.
So long you heat iron, it will glow;
so heavily you hammer it, it shatters.
So good is the man as his praise;
so far he will go, and he's forgotten;
so bad he behaves, and he's despised.
So loud you cry Christmas, it comes.

So glib you talk, you end up in contradictions.
So good is your credit as the favors you got.
So much you promise that you will back out.
So doggedly you beg that your wish is granted;
so high climbs the price when you want a thing;
so much you want it that you pay the price;
so familiar it gets to you, you want it no more.
So loud you cry Christmas, it comes.

So, you love a dog.  Then feed it!
So long a song will run that people learn it.
So long you keep the fruit, it will rot.
So hot the struggle for a spot that it is won;
so cool you keep your act that your spirit freezes;
so hurriedly you act that you run into bad luck;
so tight you embrace that your catch slips away.
So loud you cry Christmas, it comes.

So you scoff and laugh, and the fun is gone.
So you crave and spend, and lose your shirt.
So candid you are, no blow can be too low.
So good as a gift should a promise be.
So, if you love God, you obey the Church.
So, when you give much, you borrow much.
So, shifting winds turn to storm.
So loud you cry Christmas, it comes.

Prince, so long as a fool persists, he grows wiser;
so, round the world he goes, but return he will,
so humbled and beaten back into servility.
So loud you cry Christmas, it is here.

Freres humains qui apres nous vivez,
N'ayez les coeurs contre nous endurcis ...
Men, brother men, that after us yet live,
Let not your hearts too hard against us be;
For if some pity of us poor men ye give,
The sooner God shall take of you pity.
Here are we five or six strung up, you see,
And here the flesh that all too well we fed
Bit by bit eaten and rotten, rent and shred,
And we the bones grow dust and ash withal;
Let no man laugh at us discomforted,
But pray to God that he forgive us all.
If we call on you, brothers, to forgive,


Ye should not hold our prayer in scorn, though we
Were slain by law; ye know that all alive
Have not wit always to walk righteously;
Make therefore intercession heartily
With him that of a virgin's womb was bred,
That his grace be not as a dr-y well-head
For us, nor let hell's thunder on us fall;
We are dead, let no man harry or vex us dead,
But pray to God that he forgive us all.


The rain has washed and laundered us all five,
And the sun dried and blackened; yea, perdie,
Ravens and pies with beaks that rend and rive
Have dug our eyes out, and plucked off for fee
Our beards and eyebrows; never we are free,
Not once, to rest; but here and there still sped,
Driven at its wild will by the wind's change led,
More pecked of birds than fruits on garden-wall;
Men, for God's love, let no gibe here be said,
But pray to God that he forgive us all.
Prince Jesus, that of all art lord and head,
Keep us, that hell be not our bitter bed;
We have nought to do in such a master's hall.
Be not ye therefore of our fellowhead,
But pray to God that he forgive us all.


Algernon Charles Swinburne, trans.

Who's that I hear?—It's me—Who?—Your heart
Hanging on by the thinnest thread
I lose all my strength, substance, and fluid
When I see you withdrawn this way all alone
Like a whipped cur sulking in the corner
Is it due to your mad hedonism?—
What's it to you?—I have to suffer for it—
Leave me alone—Why?—I'll think about it—
When will you do that?—When I've grown up—
I've nothing more to tell you—I'll survive without it—

What's your idea?—To be a good man—
You're thirty, for a mule that's a lifetime
You call that childhood?—No—Madness
Must have hold of you—By what, the halter?—
You don't know a thing—Yes I do—What?—Flies in milk
One's white, one's black, they're opposites—
That's all?—How can I say it better?
If that doesn't suit you I'll start over—
You're lost—Well I'll go down fighting—
I've nothing more to tell you—I'll survive without it—

I get the heartache, you the injury and pain
If you were just some poor crazy idiot
I'd be able to make excuses for you
You don't even care, all's one to you, foul or fair
Either your head's harder than a rock
Or you actually prefer misery to honor
Now what do you say to that?—
Once I'm dead I'll rise above it—
God, what comfort—What wise eloquence—
I've nothing more to tell you—I'll survive without it—

Why are you miserable?—Because of my miseries
When Saturn packed my satchel I think
He put in these troubles—That's mad
You're his lord and you talk like his slave
Look what Solomon wrote in his book
"A wise man" he says "has authority
Over the planets and their influence"—
I don't believe it, as they made me I'll be—
What are you saying?—Yes that's what I think—
I've nothing more to tell you—I'll survive without it—

Want to live?—God give me the strength—
It's necessary...—What is?—To feel remorse
Lots of reading—What kind?—Read for knowledge
Leave fools alone—I'll take your advice—
Or will you forget?—I've got it fixed in mind—
Now act before things go from bad to worse
I've nothing more to tell you—I'll survive without it.

— The End —

Poems by Francois Villon