Car ou soies porteur de bulles,

Francois Villon was a great poet but also a notorious low-life character who got up to all sorts of crime and mischief. He certainly spent time in prison on several occasions and might have ended up being hanged, although I don’t think anyone is really sure about that. By the title, this ballad purports to be trying to give moral guidance to those on the wrong side of the law, although in practice, it seem to be more of a chronicle of the different types of petty crime that must have been common in a mediaeval city, at least in the first two stanzas
Ballade De bonne doctrine a ceux de mauvaise vie.
François Villon (1431–?)

CAR ou soies porteur de bulles,

Pipeur ou hasardeur de dez,

Tailleur de faulx coings, tu te brusles,

Comme ceulx qui sont eschaudez,

Traistres parjurs, de foy vuydez;

Soies larron, ravis ou pilles:

Où en va l’acquest, que cuidez?

Tout aux tavernes et aux filles.
Ryme, raille, cymballe, luttes,

Comme fol, fainctif, eshontez;

Farce, broulle, joue des fleustes;

Fais, es villes et es citez,

Farces, jeux et moralitez;

Gaigne au berlanc, au glic, aux quilles.

Aussi bien va—or escoutez—

Tout aux tavernes et aux filles.
De telz ordures te reculles;

Laboure, fauche champs et prez;

Sers et pense chevaulx et mulles;

S’aucunement tu n’es lettrez;

Assez auras, se prens en grez.

Mais se chanvre broyes ou tilles,

Ne tens ton labour qu’as ouvrez

Tout aux tavernes et aux filles.
Chausses, pourpoins esguilletez,

Robes, et toutes voz drappilles,

Ains que vous fassiez pis, portez

Tout aux tavernes et aux filles.

From <;

As implied, the first two stanzas are really a catalogue of petty crime – sellers of papal bulls, street musicians, dice players, counterfeiters, cheats at all sorts of games and pastimes. Although they risk burning in hell, according to a throw away allusion in the third line of the first stanza, in practice the only thing they care about is spending their winnings in the tavern and on the girls, as repeated at the end of each stanza and in the final section, the Envoi, which I think serves the purpose of summarising what has gone before and underlining the moral lesson of the poem.

The third stanza gives advice to the criminals and swindlers to change their ways and go and earn an honest living by working in the fields, caring for the horses and mules; and then abstain from spending their honest earnings on girls and in the taverns.

So, a taste of street life in the city in the fifteenth century. Not so different from today perhaps if you believe the gangster or mob movies that keep on popping up.

The Poetry Dude


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