Je meurs de seuf auprés de la fontaine,

Today we return to Paris in the 1400s with another poem from Villon, a sort of Vinnie Jones of his time, but always ready to surprise and entertain us with his verse. In this poem, the poet is dying of thirst (seuf=soif) right next to a drinking fountain and goes on to list in almost every line another paradoxical contradiction of his condition. Confusing, but clever…

Je meurs de soif auprés de la fontaine

Je meurs de seuf auprés de la fontaine,
Chault comme feu et tremble dent a dent,
En mon pays suis en terre loingtaine,
Lez ung brasier frisonne tout ardent,
Nu comme ung ver, vestu en president,
Je riz en pleurs et attens sans espoir,
Confort reprens en triste desespoir,
Je m’esjoys et n’ay plasir aucun,
Puissant je suis sans force et sans pouoir,
Bien recueully, debouté de chascun.

Riens ne m’est seur que la chose incertaine,
Obsucur fors ce qui est tout evident,
Doubte ne fais fors en chose certaine,
Scïence tiens a soudain accident,
Je gaigne tout et demeure perdent,
Au point du jour diz “Dieu vous doint bon soir ! “,
Gisant envers j’ay grand paeur de chëoir,
J’ay bien de quoy et si n’en ay pas ung,
Eschoicte actens et d’omme ne suis hoir,
Bien recueully, debouté de chascun.

De rien n’ay soing, si mectz toute m’atayne
D’acquerir biens et n’y suis pretendent,
Qui mieulx me dit, c’est cil qui plus m’actaine,
Et qui plus vray, lors plus me va bourdent,
Mon ami est qui me faict entendent
D’ung cigne blanc que c’est ung corbeau noir,
Et qui me nuyst, croy qu’i m’ayde a pourvoir,
Bourde, verté, au jour d’uy m’est tout ung,
Je retiens tout, rien ne sçay concepvoir,
Bien recueully, debouté de chascun.

Prince clement, or vous plaise sçavoir
Que j’entens moult et n’ay sens ne sçavoir;
Parcïal suis, a toutes loys commun.
Que sais je plus ? Quoy ! les gaiges ravoir,

From <http://www.alalettre.com/villon-oeuvres-quelques-poemes.php#Je%20plains%20le%20temps%20de%20ma%20jeunesse&gt;

Each of the first three stanzas finishes up with the line that he is given a good welcome and rejected by everyone. This sums up all the contradictions which precedes the line in each stanza, and may reflect the turmoil in Villon’s own life as well as being a display of the poet’s inventive wordplay and wit.

Some of the lines I particularly like…

“I laugh in tears and wait with no hope” (line 6 – that could be from a Samuel Beckett play)
“Nothing is sure except uncertainty” (line 11 – straight from a capital investment guide)
“My friend is he who tells me a white swan is a black crow” (lines 25 and 26)

The final four lines are addressed to the mercy of the Prince and declare that the poet supports all the laws. This indeed is a paradox, knowing what we do about Villon’s life. I think the final line is asking the Prince for the return of money paid as a fine or perhaps as a bond for good behaviour. I hope he got it, if only as a reward for the entertainment value of the poem.

The Poetry Dude

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