It’s necessary…—What is?—To feel remorse

Suiting the mood of the last few days here’s an abridgment of Francois Villon’s dialogue with his heart.  The poem – as many of his – seems variously titled in different editions so I’m just leaving the most generic.

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When I see you withdrawn this way all alone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 ….

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.

Qu’est ce que j’oi? – Ce suis-je ! – Qui ? – Ton cœur,
Qui ne tient mais qu’à un petit filet :
Force n’ai plus, substance ne liqueur,
Quand je te vois retrait ainsi seulet
Com pauvre chien tapi en reculet.
Pour quoi est-ce ? – Pour ta folle plaisance. –
Que t’en chaut-il ? – J’en ai la déplaisance. –
Laisse m’en paix. – Pour quoi ? – J’y penserai. –
Quand sera ce ? – Quand serai hors d’enfance. –
Plus ne t’en dis. – Et je m’en passerai.
Que penses-tu ? – Etre homme de valeur.
Tu as trente ans – C’est l’âge d’un mulet ;
Est-ce enfance ? – Nenni. – C’est donc foleur
Qui te saisit ?

Veux-tu vivre ? – Dieu m’en doint la puissance ! –
Il le faut… – Quoi ? – Remords de conscience,
Lire sans fin. – En quoi ? – Lire en science,
Laisser les fous ! – Bien j’y aviserai. –
Or le retiens ! – J’en ai bien souvenance. –
N’attends pas tant que tourne à déplaisance.
Plus ne t’en dis – Et je m’en passerai.

my secretary Fremin the dimwit

Stanza 47 of Francois Villon’s Testament, in Galway Kinnell’s translation.  I simply like the idea of calling – if only in my head – anyone who works for me Fremin the dimwit.  That said, I do wonder if estourdys here is not in the sense of drunk rather than scatter-brained.

This lecture was given them by one
who in her time was beautiful and good
well-spoken or not, for what it’s worth
I’ve had her words taken down
By my secretary Fremin the dimwit
Who’s as bright as I’ll ever be
If he gets it all wrong I’ll curse him
The master’s known by the clerk

Ceste leçon icy leur baille
La belle et bonne de jadis;
Bien dit ou mal, vaille que vaille,
Enregistrer j’ay faict ces ditz
Par mon clerc Fremin l’estourdys,
Aussi rassis que je pense estre…
S’il me desment, je le mauldys:
Selon le clerc est deu le maistre.

Neither fully fool nor fully wise

The opening three lines of Francois Villon’s Le (Grand) Testament.

En l’an trentiesme de mon eage,
Que toutes mes hontes j’eu beues,
Ne du tout fol, ne du tout sage.

In the thirtieth year of my life,
now that I’ve drunk down all my shames,
neither fully fool nor fully wise.

I turn 32 today and can for the last time round myself down to this over Dante’s nel mezzo of 35.