Page images

that he has forgotten or an enemy he no understanding, and without under. has missed; and he is frank as day standing you may look in vain for about himself.

Charity. He says horrible things, he says sor- "Ayez pitie, Ayez pitie de moy. did things, and he says beautiful

A tout les moins, si vous plaist mes things; but he says one thing always,

amis!" the truth, and his lamentations are real no less when he is lamenting his

TAX BALLADB. own fate than the fate of the women who have vanished from the world. Villon was born in the year 1431.

Considering the times in which he He died on some date unknown. His lived, he is wonderfully clean-spoken manner of living, how much he drank, and devoid of bruality. Remember, what people he robbed-if he robbed that in the Paris of 1465 they boiled apy, his love affairs, his companions malefactors alive in the cauldron of and their status in life all these the swine market, the graveyards at things are only of interest to us as footnight were the haunts of debauchery,

notes to his literary work, and all priests and nuns helped in the recruit- these things—first verified-should be ing of the army of crime, and the stu

set forth without comment. dents of the University were often re

When a man is living and breathing duced to begging their bread from no other man may dare to attack his door to door. He, in his personal life, reputation, only when he is defenceless has been hardly dealt with. He killed through death may the literary kites Chermoye; and who was Chermoye assemble to dig in his eyes and entrails a priest armed with a dagger. He was

and make profit out of the corpse of a robber, but he was a robber in an

his life and reputation. And a corpse age of robbers. God made him

over four hundred years a corpse may robber, it is true, but at least let us surely be left at peace, even by these. thank God that He did not make him Villon is the greatest and truest of a tradesman.

French poets, and if you doubt my We have no portrait of Villon. It word look at his star, which is only we had I would swear it showed a now in true ascension after nearly better face than the swine face of. half a thousand years. He is the only Rabelais. Rabelais, a great genius French poet who is entirely real; all who rolls in ordure and honor, whilst

the rest are tinged with artifice, and Villon, a greater, walks despised by

his reality is never more vividly appeople who call themselves honest parent than when it is conveyed in the men.

most artificial and difficult form of When Auguste Longron, grubbing amidst the archives of the Chatelet de The Ballade in the hands of this Paris and the Bibliothèque de la Sor- supreme master is capable of producbonne, discovered that Villon had ing the most astonishing results. It many friends who were thieves, he did is now the perfect necklace that fits a great disservice to literature, inas- the throat of Thais, and, now, the much as he incited Robert Louis Ste- noose that swings from the gibbet. venson to write his lamentable article He only requires twenty-eight lines to on Villon. How so great a man could say about women what Zola has prohave put his hand to so mean a work sily said in five volumes, and only, must ever remain one of the myster- twenty-eight lines to write the epitaph ies of life. Without Charity there is


of all the women who have ever lived.


Villon is the most modern of the mod- The sun has burnt us bitterly ye see. erns; his verse, with the gibbets re- The pies and crows that all around us

strive moved, might have been written in the

Leave us of eyes and beard and eyeParis of to-day, and in any civilization

brows free. to follow ours he will hold the same

Never from torment have we sanchigh place; for it is his essential that

tuary, the forms of his genius are the concre

Ever and always driven here and there tions of eternal principles, not the flow- At the winds' will, and every change ery expansions of ephemeral moods.

of air. More pecked by birds than fruit that


O brothers make no mock of what we Which was made by Villon for him.

are, self and his companions whilst waiting But pray to God that He may us abwith them expecting to be hanged.

solve. O brother men who after us shall thrive,

ENVOI. Let not your hearts against us hard

Prince Jesus, lord of all, have us in ened be.

care, For all the pity unto us ye give

And keep from us the fires of Hell God will return in mercy unto ye.

that stare, We five or six all swinging from the

Lest those dread fires our fate and futree,

ture solve. Behold, and all our well-fed flesh once

Men! gaze on us, be warned, and onfair

ward fare Rotted, and eaten by the beaks that

But pray to God that He may us abtear,

solve. Whilst we the bones to dust and ash dissolve.

BALLADE OF TAE WOMEN OF PARIS. Let no man mock us, or the fate we bear;

Take those famed for language fair: But pray to God that He may us ab. Past or in the present tense, solve.

Each good as Love's messenger,

Florentines, Venetiennes,
O brothers hear us and do not receive Roman girls, Lombardiennes,
Our lamentations in disdain, though Girls whose name Geneva carries,

Piedmont girls, Savoysiennes;
Came here by justice, for all men that No girls speak like those of Paris.

live Are not born into good sense equally. Though for grace of language are Make intercession for us, graciously, Famed the Neapolitans, With Him whose life the Virgin once And in chattering Germans share did share,

Pride of place with Prussians. That His grace comes to us as water Taking Greeks, Egyptians, clear,

Austrians, whom no rhyme marries, Nor Hell's destructions on our heads Spanish girls, Castillians, devolve;

No girls speak like those of Paris. Dead are we, and as dead men leave us here.

Bretonnes-Swiss, their language mar, But pray to God that He may us ab- Gascon girls, Tolousiennes; solve.

Two fish fags would close their jar

On Petit Pont, Lorrainiennes, The rain has washed us as we'd been English girls, Calaisiennes. alive,

All the world my memory harries

Singers who sing without law your

Picard girls, Valenciennes,
No girls speak like those of Paris.


ENVOI. Prince, to fair Parisiennes Give the prize, nor turn where tarries One who saith "Italians." No girls speak like those of Paris.

Laughing and jovial in words and

ways, Feather-brained folk, yet always gay, Who run without coin good or bad

your race, You have left him too long who is

dying apace, Makers of ballads for tongues to reel, Where lightning shews not nor breezes

steal, Too late you will praise him when he

is gone. Around whom the walls are like bands

of steel, Will you leave him like this—the poor

Villon? Come hither and gaze on his disarray, Nobles who know not the tax-man's

face, Who homage to kings nor emperors

pay, Only to God in His Paradise. Behold him who Sundays and holidays Fasts till like rakes his teeth reveal. Who after crusts but never a meal Water must suck till his belly's a tun. With stool nor bed for his back's ap

peal, Will you leave him like this—the poor



RONDEL. Your memory is death to me, My only good the sight of you, I swear by all that I hold true That joy without you cannot be. When I your face no longer view I die of sadness, yea-pardieYour memory is death to me. Alas! sweet sister fair to see, Have pity on me, for with you Evil recoiis, the sky is blue; Without you clouds shade land and

sea. -Your memory is death to me!

RONDEL. True God of Love, turn here thy gaze, Draw death to me through Death's

dark ways More hastily. For I have badly used my days, I die of love through Love's delays, Most certainly. Grief's weariness upon me preys.

LETTER. In form of a Ballade, to his friends. From the pit at Méun sur Loire, in the prison of Thibault d'Ansigny. Have pity ou me, have pity I pray, My friends may I pray you to grant

this grace, For far from the hawthorne trees of

May I am flung in this dungeon in this far

place Of exile, by God and by Fate's dis

grace. New married and young, girls, lovers

that kneel, Dancers and jugglers that turn the

wheel, Needle sharp, quick as a dart each one; Voiced like the bells midst the hills

that peal. Will you leave him like this—the poor


[blocks in formation]

T'he last good duke D'Alençon?
But where is now brave Charlemagne!

And when you leave this earthly way May heavenly joy your heart repay When caught up to the heavenly blue, Where one may find the only true Bliss, without pain or sorrow grey. Good year! good week! good day!

BALLADE OF VANISHED LORDB. And more that Pope the third Calixte Last of his name, where is he gone, Who four years held the Papalist? Where's Alphonse King of Arragon? The gracious lord duke of Bourbon, And Artus duke of broad Bretagne, And Charles the seventh named "Le

Bon"? But where is now brave Charlemagne!

BALLADB OF VANIBBED LADIES Now tell me in what land is she The Roman Flora, and again, Where Thais fair, and fair as she, Hyppachia, cousins once germane. Where's Echo, heard where rings the

rain On meer, and where the river flows, Whose beauty hath no mortal stain? But where are now the last year's

shows! Where is the most learned Heloise, For whom, cast forth with manhood

slain, Pierre Abellard at Saint Denys Suffered through love such grievous

pain. Also the Queen who in her reign Gave orders Buridan to close Within a sack flung to the Seine ? But where are now the last year's


Also that Scottish king of mist
And rain, with half his face, saith one,
Vermilion like an ametbyst,
Painted from chin right up to crown.
The Cyprian king of old renown,
Alas! and that good king of Spain,
Whose name hath from my memory

flown, But where is now brave Charlemagne!

I say no more let me desist
In useless quest of things undone,
For none may pallid Death resist
Or find in law evasion."
One question more and I have done,
Where's Lancelot ruler of Behaigne,
With Sigismund, beneath what sun?
But where is now brave Charlemagne!

The Queen Blanche like a white lily
Voiced like a syren of the main,
Berthe broad foot, Beatrix, Alys,
And Haremburges who held Mayne;
And Joan the good maid of Lorraine,
At Rouen burnt by English foes,
Queen Virgin! where do these remain ?
But where are now the last year's


[blocks in formation]


the actors the stage. For those who bad eyes to see and ears to hear, trag. edy and comedy were enacted before us from January to December. This single street afforded ample scope for a second Comédie Humaine (tragédie were the more appropriate word) in twenty-five, or another “Pickwick" series in twenty-one, volumes.

The little drama in three acts I am about to relate belongs to what is called the Mid-Victorian period, but remains in my memory fresh as an occurrence of yesterday.

On a certain summer morning, then, our thorou hfare from end to end became infected with mysterious transport, a veritable contagion of rejoicing was in the air. No peals announced a Royal Birth, Wedding, or General Holiday. Every object wore its accustomed aspect; yet, metaphorically speaking, trumpets blared, bands played, bells rang, and flags waved. A meaning look was in the face of our City men as they interchanged a brisk "good day.” One, indeed—Mr. Robinson of Number Ten—who had never been known to close his door five minutes earlier or lçter during the week, actually lingered as if it were Boxing Day or Whit-Monday, and the clock was of no account. Mr. Thomson, of Number Fifteen, pottered in his tiny front garden pretending to trim his two standard roses. Mr. Brown, of Number Twenty-no relation to our former acquaintance, the portly churchwarden-halted to read his newspaper when half-way down the street. Mr. Green, his next-door neighbor, by some contrariety or other, could not get his pipe comfortably alight, and cast away one match after another,

When fairly off, all glanced before and behind them as they sauntered along. Wives and daughters peered discreetly between their white muslin curtains; maids-of-all-work loitered


the daily doorstep cleaning; butchers' boys and other youthful wags interchanged five-fingered sig.' nals; not a soul but was on the alert, taking part in some local jubilation.

The according bells of a dozen churches had just chimed nine when two four-wheeled cabs slowly turned the corner and stopped at Number Thirty-nine, a midway house on the opposite side and well within eye-shot of our own.

Those two shabby vehicles produced a magical effect and were evidently what folks had been looking for. Their appearance seemed to evoke a collective sigh of relief; yet no white favors heralded a wedding, and no police officers suggested mystery.

Of course we knew something of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Jones, who oc-' cupied Number Thirty-nine. Dick and Alfy Jones used to play with our boys and their sisters in the street after' school hours. Our butcher and baker served them, our mangling woman called for their house-linen, our Wesleyan maid accompanied theirs to chapel on Sundays. Our family doctor attended the fragile-looking wife who every year added a member to the household; and although we did not visit, we were on "how-d'ye-doing" terms. Our own City man used to chat with “poor Charley Jones" (as the other was latterly called) on their bus drive to Aldermanbury. The adjective implied an additional struggle in order to keep up appearances, pay the school. ing of four children, and remain solvent on less than three hundred a year. But there had seemed no call for especial sympathy until a few months before.

“A nice surprise that on coming home tired to death,” had said Charley to a fellow-clerk one February morning of this year. "Worse than Emmie being taken unawares and a fellow having to fetch nurse and doctor at

« PreviousContinue »