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A Villonaud: Ballad of the Gibbet
by Ezra Pound
from A Lume Spento (1908)




Or the Song of the Sixth Companion



Scene: “En ce bourdeau où tenons nostre estat”

It being remembered that there were six of us with Master Villon, when
that expecting presently to be hanged he writ a ballad whereof ye know:

“Frères humains qui après nous vivez.”



    Drink ye a skoal for the gallows tree!


François and Margot and thee and me,


Drink we the comrades merrily


That said us, “Till then” for the gallows tree!



    Fat Pierre with the hook gauche-main,


Thomas Larron “Ear-the-less,”


Tybalde and that armouress


Who gave this poignard its premier stain,


Pinning the Guise that had been fain


To make him a mate of the “Haulte Noblesse”


And bade her be out with ill address


As a fool that mocketh his drue’s disdeign.



    Drink we a skoal for the gallows tree!


François and Margot and thee and me,


Drink we to Marienne Ydole,


That hell brenn not her o’er cruelly.



    Drink we the lusty robbers twain,


Black is the pitch o’ their wedding dress,*


Lips shrunk back for the wind’s caress


As lips shrink back when we feel the strain


Of love that loveth in hell’s disdeign,


And sense the teeth through the lips that press


‘Gainst our lips for the soul’s distress


That striveth to ours across the pain.



    Drink we skoal for the gallows tree!


François and Margot and thee and me,


For Jehan and Raoul de Vallerie


Whose frames have the night and its winds in fee.



    Maturin, Guillaume, Jacques d’Allmain,


Culdou lacking a coat to bless


One lean moiety of his nakedness


That plundered St. Hubert back o’ the fane:


Aie! the lean bare tree is widowed again


For Michault le Borgne that would confess


In “faith and troth” to a traitoress,


“Which of his brothers had he slain?”



    But drink we skoal to the gallows tree!


François and Margot and thee and me:



These that we loved shall God love less


And smite alway at their faibleness?



Skoal!! to the gallows! and then pray we:


God damn his hell out speedily


And bring their souls to his “Haulte Citee.”




* Certain gibbeted corpses used to be coated with tar as a preservative; thus
one scarecrow served as warning for considerable time. See Hugo L’Homme qui Rit.


 


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