François Villon (c. 1431 – after 5 January 1463 / Paris)
Le Testament: Les Regrets De La Belle Heaulmière
By chance, I heard the belle complain,
The one we called the Armouress,
Longing to be a girl again,
Talking like this, more or less:
‘Oh, old age, proud in wickedness,
You've battered me so, and why?
Who cares, who, for my distress,
Or whether at all your blows I die?
You've stolen away that great power
My beauty ordained for me
Over priests and clerks, my hour,
When never a man I'd see
Would fail to offer his all in fee,
Whatever remorse he'd later show,
But what was abandoned readily,
Beggars now scorn to know.
Many a man I then refused -
Which wasn't wise of me, no jest -
For love of a boy, cunning too,
To whom I gave all my largesse.
I feigned to him unwillingness,
But, by my soul, I loved him bad.
What he showed was his roughness,
Loving me only for what I had.
He could drag me through the dirt,
Trample me underfoot, I'd love him,
Break my back, whatever's worse,
If only he'd ask for a kiss again,
I'd soon forget then every pain.
A glutton, full of what he could win,
He'd embrace me - with him I've lain.
What's he left me? Shame and sin.
Now he's dead, these thirty years:
And I live on, old, and grey.
When I think of those times, with tears,
What I was, what I am today,
View myself naked: turn at bay,
Seeing what I am no longer,
Poor, dry, meagre, worn away,
I almost forget myself in anger.
Where's my smooth brow gone:
My arching lashes, yellow hair,
Wide-eyed glances, pretty ones,
That took in the cleverest there:
Nose not too big or small: a pair
Of delicate little ears, the chin
Dimpled: a face oval and fair,
Lovely lips with crimson skin?
The fine slender shoulder-blades:
The long arms, with tapering hands:
My small breasts: the hips well made
Full and firm, and sweetly planned,
All Love's tournaments to withstand:
The broad flanks: the nest of hair,
With plump thighs firmly spanned,
Inside its little garden there?
Now wrinkled forehead, hair gone grey:
Sparse eyelashes: eyes so dim,
That laughed and flashed once every way,
And reeled their roaming victims in:
Nose bent from beauty, ears thin,
Hanging down like moss, a face,
Pallid, dead and bleak, the chin
Furrowed, a skinny-lipped disgrace.
This is the end of human beauty:
Shrivelled arms, hands warped like feet:
The shoulders hunched up utterly:
Breasts….what? In full retreat,
Same with the hips, as with the teats:
Little nest, hah! See the thighs,
Not thighs, thighbones, poor man's meat,
Blotched like sausages, and dried.
That's how the bon temps we regret
Among us, poor old idiots,
Squatting on our haunches, set
All in a heap like woollen lots
Round a hemp fire men forgot,
Soon kindled, and soon dust,
Once so lovely, that cocotte…
So it goes for all of us.
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